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Four-year-old cotton seeds will grow just fine, in case you wanted to know. My Erlene Greens and Nankeen Browns are unfolding their cotyledons now, all wrinkled and lime green. Chloë looked at the seed tray today and said, “They look like butterflies!” And they do, you know.

Currently started: the cotton, Lolla Rossa lettuce, candy onions, scallions, Sherwood leeks, and garden huckleberry in the seed tray. Everything but the huckleberry is up. (Since garden huckleberry is apparently a solanaceae, it was probably too early to start them anyway…and it hasn’t been a terribly long time since we planted, either.) Out on the steps: Siberian Kale, Red Russian kale, Bright Lights chard, komatsuna, choy sum, obedient plant, brown-eyed Susan, safflowers, and a mix of other flowers that Chloe liked the looks of–I know there are some Johnny Jump-Ups and marigolds, and some cosmos, I think, and maybe some Mexican sunflowers.

Next on the plan: prepping the gardens and planting the cold stuff–carrots, parsnips, beets, peas, mustard greens, parsley, potatoes. Then starting the warm stuff. I’ve promised Chloë a corn field, because of a Dora the Explorer episode involving one that she loves. I ‘m hoping a few rows with a path through it will suffice, because I don’t have the room for a full one. Maybe we’ll try a corn maze (for the first time) this year. I have yet to draw up the year’s garden plan. I also have yet to get materials for a pea trellis, but I’m hoping to get both done this weekend. Then, if the weather cooperates, I can have things in the ground next week.

My tomatoes are big and glorious and crowding the windowsill. My peppers aren’t looking bad (which is the best I’ve ever been able to say about home-seeded peppers). My cucurbits and flowers are coming up. And the ten-day forecast suggests that it probably won’t frost, which suggests I’m probably safe to plant, since our last-frost date is in just a little over ten days. (Besides, I have some plastic covers from the Christmas before last. Or birthday? They were a gift, anyway.)

So…I think it’s time to venture into warm-weather gardening. It would be nice if Eric would mow the lawn so I could get to the garden without feeling like I’m on a safari, but I’ll manage. (It’s not really his fault. He got horribly sick and there were several heavy rains while he was out of commission, so everything is overgrown–for one thing, my front bed has sprung into being full-formed, like Athena.)

I haven’t managed to weed, certainly not since all the parsnips started coming up, so that’s first. That and hardening off. And counting my poles to see if I’ve got enough to string up the tomatoes this year. Some break every year, but I’m planting fewer than in previous years, too. Also figuring out where I’m going to plant beans.

This year does seem more ad-lib than previous years. I’m liking it.

I weeded the melon patch yesterday. Man, did it need it. I certainly didn’t pull all the weeds out, but I pulled most and gave the rest a haircut, and as a result was actually able to see some dirt. None of the cantaloupe seeds I planted germinated, and the watermelon ones that did germinate seem to have disappeared, but the plants that I bought are going strong, especially the muskmelon.

After the weeding I sank a few short stakes in the ground and planted Kentucky Wonder beans. I remembered too late that I’d intended to put the Hutterites there, since I don’t want to have to step on melon vines while harvesting green beans. Oh well. I’ll live. Maybe the beans will, too.  By the time they were in I was warm enough that the mosquitos had found me, so I left without watering. Tomorrow, I’ll water and also tie up the tomatoes, which desperately need it.

The Giant Marconi growing is so tall it’s touched the ground, which is probably not good for it. I don’t remember getting peppers this early before–but then, I didn’t do a lot of purchased pepper plants before. I could like this whole early-start thing. Maybe eventually I’ll get good enough at seed-starting to make it happen myself.

We came back from Chicago, tired and footsore but happy, and my first move was of course to check on the plants. The Red Warty Thing seedling sitting on the back porch was starting to wilt, and it’s already too big for its pot. I was hoping to wait for the grass to die, but that thing needs planting soon, so I’m going to have to dig out some space and plant it tomorrow or the next day.

The other plants were doing well, including the flowers I put out in pots on the back deck–Mexican sunflowers, cosmos, and blue sage salvia. And the sunflowers I pushed into the pots of the vegetables that didn’t grow (peppers mostly) almost all sprouted and were stretched toward the sun. I was also planning on planting them out where the grass is (I was going for a three-sisters bed with sunflowers substituted for corn), so I think this week is simply going to have to involve a lot of digging out half-dead grass, as long as the weather cooperates. I was planning on setting myself some weeding tasks–I was thinking that giving myself just one bed at a time to work on might help me be more diligent about keeping up with it–but this is going to have to take precedence. Here’s hoping for clear skies.

Damn, but those tomatoes got big while I was away. I left Saturday and came back today, and good grief. I called Eric Monday and had him water and rotate all my seedlings, and they seem to have survived. I’ve got Mexican sunflowers and tarragon and chamomile and Genovese basil coming up; the rest are still dormant but I’m reasonably hopeful. And the pear tree has flowered! And those tulips that I moved from the crowded spot by the driveway to the front flower bed last year turn out to be yellow! How nice it is to come home in the spring.

Cotyledons are a problem. That is, they are outdoors. Inside, they’re unambiguously delightful: they mean that I’ve managed to keep a pot watered long enough for seeds to sprout. Outside, though, they are (except in a few cases, like brassicas) far too similar to each other to be helpful. Is this the flower I planted or a weed I didn’t? Can I pull it now while it’s young and I’m here, or will I be pulling my precious herbs instead?

It was easy to pull the grass seed in the onion bed because I knew I hadn’t planted the onions that thickly. But the new sprouts in the parsley bed are problematic. There are a lot of them, but then I planted a lot, and by broadcasting, so there are no telltale lines as there are in the beet bed (or would be, if any had come up). I’ll just have to wait. Which is okay, I guess, but it seems a pity that the one time I want to weed I have to stay my hand.

We have achieved…um…some kind of sprout in the garden. Rocket or komatsuna, I think. I partitioned a particular part of the herb garden into four sections, one for each kind of green, and one of the four has started coming up, and I can’t be bothered to run downstairs to get my sketch to figure out which it is.

Yesterday would have been a great day for working in the garden, but my dad was around and we did house repair-type work instead (which turned out to include him stepping on the patch where the sprouts are, but they’re so small they don’t seem to have been damaged). So the potatoes remain unplanted. I’ll try to get to them next weekend; it’s raining and lousy the next few days, plus I won’t be around; I’m on a business trip to Chicago and then to Dallas. (I must go water the plants, since Eric won’t do it while I’m gone.) Maybe by the time I get back more sprouts will have appeared, or at least I’ll have looked up what kind I’ve got.

We have achieved tomato sprouts! Given my severe lack of engagement with seed-starting this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if nothing came up. Luckily, as I keep saying, seeds don’t actually need me to grow. Now I just need to clean the seed rack off and bring it inside so they can get the good sunlight.

We have achieved seedlings! The purple sprouting broccoli has decided it’s not going to be stopped by any stinking mice. I need to plant more, of broccoli and of other things; but right now, I have seedlings in my window again and all’s right with the world.

It sure doesn’t feel like it’s been a week since I last wrote here. How are the days slipping by so fast when winter feels like it’s lasted forever? It’s raining now, which is a marked improvement on the snow, though I’ll probably feel differently when the fall comes around again. It’s not really warm (or dry) enough to start doing things in the yard again, but it’s not-cold enough that I’m tempted.

I did not get my broccoli planted, though only for the want of tape and a decent plumbing system–a lot of the weekend was taken up with figuring out how our house’s waterpipes were connected and how on earth to get to the leaky spigot in the herb garden to replace it.  I didn’t get my plant rack inside either, though I think that was just laziness–not wanting to rip the dead plastic cover off and bring it inside and wipe it down. Laziness is a key characteristic of my gardening style, so this really isn’t a big surprise.

I did get the garlic bulbils and the walking onions into apple cider jugs and they seem to be doing well; the onions are standing tall and the garlic jugs are peppered with slender white spears, a lot that weren’t there a few days ago. I want to put them outside, but since they’ve been coddled all winter (well, as coddled as one can be in a moldy plastic bag) I don’t want to shock them, so I think I’m just going to have to suffer without my counter space for a while.

While investigating the leaky spigot I did determine that both the oregano and the thyme have survived (hurrah!), and that the wormwood and lemon balm seem to have enjoyed the winter. There are a few leftover scallions that I didn’t pick before the snow came, and I’ll probably leave them for seed at this point. I’m not sure whether the kale made it or not, but it’s the dwarf Scotch Blue Curled Vates whatever it’s called, which was my least favorite last year (though by no means bad), so I’ll probably pull it out regardless. I’m going to need that space.

I updated my seed spreadsheet and reluctantly decided that I’m not going to order any seeds this year. I might buy a packet of onion seeds if I don’t get any at the Seed Swap, but otherwise there’s nothing I really need that I can’t supply from my own stores. I’m pretty sure this is exactly the point of seed saving, but it makes me kind of sad anyhow. (Notably, having enough seeds would not have stopped me from ordering more if I weren’t under budget constraints. Onions we use, but motherwort and Lemon Drop peppers we probably won’t, significantly, so I can’t justify buying them.)

This week: plant those broccoli seeds already, decide which seeds I’m planting and which I’m not and draw up my planting schedule. Last year’s is still up on my wall (and the sidebar), which helps, but I need to adjust a few things and add some species. And I can’t properly chastise myself for planting late if I don’t know exactly when I’m supposed to plant.

Flowers and even fruit are only the beginning. In the seed lies the life and the future.

Marion Zimmer Bradley

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