Hands in the dirt, strands of hair falling across my eyes… the smell of loam.
Yes, I am getting excited about the gardening season. The earth is still too hard and cold to work in this time of year. So the best thing one can do in the PNW is plan. And on airplane flights for work this week, I decided for some really dirty reading- the Territorial Seed Company spring catalogue.
And here I sit at SMF my flight 2 hours delayed, pondering what to write in my blog, and I decide on seeds.
I don’t remember gardening from seeds very much when I was a child. Maybe the random Mixed Spring Flower packet strewn around the yard, or some peas. Mainly I remember buying starts at nurseries, and my father teaching me how to handle them delicately and place them in the ground. That is for another story.
But now, I find myself so excited about those tiny seeds. About growing green from these miniscule hard nuggets. Maybe it is something maternal- after having grown something from nothing in myself and experienced that mystery, I find even more joy in perpetuating something from virtually nothing and tenderly nourshing it. I have also found more fulfillment in patience, care, and tending in recent years. Thus, the prospect of setting up grow lights, watering, and carefully thinning little starts so that they may survive sounds joyful albeit tedious.
In my dirty reading, I have probably been overly-ambitious in my circling of varieties. Rubine brussels, Hopi Blue corn, Winterbor kale. Wild garden lettuce, Violetta pac choy, and Minnesota Midget orange fleshy melon. And the list goes on. Of course, my mind floats and colors pictures of the spaces these little seeds will fill in their garden beds. I have precisely no concept of what space a “sampler”, “packet”, or 1/2 oz. of seeds will ultimately fill in my yard with lush growth and produce. This year will be an experiment. Of new varieties, of the soil quality in my yard, of the time and care I can dedicate to tending these plants. I am hoping to expand to growing in other venues as well- friends’ yards, guerilla gardening in abandoned neighborhood pockets. I also hope to impart the joy of gardening and harvest to my young son. The opportunities are endless.
But back to seeds. The start of it all. If we are to make an analogy with humans, the seeds are somewhat like the embryo and the uterus all tied up in one, ready to expand and experience the world. In fact, part of the anatomy of a seed is called the embryo. This is where the new plant will start from. Spatially, the embryo only takes up a small part of the entire seed. Without it, the seed would be nothing. Outside of the embryo, the endosperm of the seed contains energy for the seed to germinate and grow. It often makes up the bulk of the seed, at least for grains. We could think of it as the placenta. Finally, there is generally an outer, harder covering to the seed, to protect it from the elements until it encounters conditions favourable to growth. This is called the seed coat.
above image of a cereal seed from Organic Agriculture Center of Canada Website, 2008. Drawing by Margaret Savard.
Seeds may seem dainty, but they are tough. They are the part of the cycle of plants most reponsible for perpetuating future generations. They must be thrown from trees, trailed along by animal fur, popped out of exploding calyces, pooped out of birds, or generally mistreated in order to find new space for growth of the coming young. They must be patient, waiting for proper moisture and light to come out of their coats and explore and taste their surroundings. Seeds are often overlooked and unappreciated- seen as little boondoggles. But they are the next generation.
And thus, I look forward to receiving my box of seeds from Territorial. To comparing their sizes and colors and feeling their shapes. To placing them at their proper depths and spacings in starter containers or directly to my garden beds. To watching them sprout, grow, encounter their environment, and ultimately produce themselves. Ultimately, providing myself and mine sustenance. For the love of seeds, I will get dirty.