Thursday, April 28, 2005

Lesson learned (maybe)

This year’s tomato seedlings presented a baffling problem. Varieties planted at the same time and under the same conditions exhibited widely variable vigor. Some grew large and healthy while others failed to thrive, some looking stunted and chlorotic.

Isis seedlings

I posted a query to the Gardenweb tomato forum (that wonderfully enabling gathering place for tomato fanatics) and was answered quickly by Craig, tomato grower extraordinaire. He had experienced similar size variability and said that the smaller plants would catch up. And some did seem to be growing but others stayed small and sickly.

At my wits end (tomato planting time was right around the corner), I removed a few weak plants from their pots and discovered what I think was the problem.

When I transplant seedlings I prepare a mix of commercial potting mix and coir, usually 4 or 5 to 1. The coir improves texture, making it more wettable and giving it a loamy consistency. The commercial organic mix provides a variety of nutrients necessary to get the seedlings off to a good start. It appeared that I mixed one batch of potting mix with a much higher proportion of coir. The seedlings planted in this batch were not getting the same amount of necessary nutrients; coir is essentially nutrient free.

I have since transplanted all the seedlings into new and carefully prepared potting mix and they have leapt back to life.

It seems to me that there are some life lessons that we are doomed to repeat, in one guise or another, until we get them right or move beyond these earthly coils. This tomato experience illustrates one of mine. Working quickly and efficiently is not the same as hurrying. Hurrying has a frenetic, anxious component that clouds the mind and increases the chance of mistakes. I was in a hurry when I made that batch of mix and transplanted my seedlings. Had I taken a moment to breathe and focus I would have noticed the error and saved myself a lot of grief.

Lesson learned? I really hope so. I’m so ready to move on to the next assignment!

Saturday, April 09, 2005

A Promise Kept (Narcissus)

Planting bulbs in the fall may be a leap of faith for me but the first tender sprouts continuing to grow through snow, rain by the bucketload and fierce March winds is a promise kept. Last November I put my faith in the bulbs. Plump, squat, tiny or as big as an egg, covered with papery brown skin, they rustled dryly when I reached in the bag. The life inside was a mere promise.

Whatever botanical alchemy transformed the dry nubs is now complete and the results are everything the garden faithful could hope for.

Narcissus cyclamineus 'Jetfire'
These were stunning! The colors were almost fluorescent against rainy April skies.

Narcissus bulbocodium conspicuus ‘Hoop Petticoat’
This one was a surprise. The 'hoop' is dainty and much smaller than I expected, tiny and delicate with grassy foliage.

Narcissus triandrus 'Hawera'
These are so sweet. The petals recurve slightly on multiple blossoms. I hope they naturalize as well as I read.