Wednesday, March 26, 2008


No matter how much we hover over our garden, Mother Nature will take her course in her own good time. The Roma tomatoes were the first to emerge from the seed tray we've been tending on a heated mat. All four seeds sprouted seemingly in unison. But that just raises the suspense level for our other plantings. We have not seen any activity from our Cherokee Purple tomatoes, for instance, but there are signs of life from Dr. Carolyn, Mortgage Lifter and Green Zebra.

The emerging seedlings are called cotyledons. Plants with two of these "false leaves" are called dicots. Grasses have only one leaf; they're called monocots. These leaves just provide initial nourishment for the tiny plants. The true leaves--the ones that perform photosynthesis--will come later. At that point, these seedlings will need to be placed in a sunny spot to thrive.

Spinach looks a lot like grass when it first sprouts. Planted on March 7, it was the first seed to germinate in the garden, even when temperatures overnight were dipping into the 30s.

Talk about suspense. I have been checking daily for some movement in our bed of fava beans, first planted back on March 4. Favas are supposed to germinate in seven to 14 days, and here we are three weeks later. I had all but given up hope. But lo and behold, this morning the favas are beginning to emerge. They like the cold. And a good thing, because this has been a below-average March, temperature-wise.

Lettuces, arugula, mustard greens--I like to plant these directly in the garden, sprinkling the seeds over the soil then rubbing them under the surface with the palm of my hand. Distribution of the seeds is never perfectly even, but the plants don't seem to mind terribly. By planting them relatively thickly, they crowd out weeds--most of the time. Here are some little bitty Golden Frill mustard plants. They first become visible as tiny green dots as we water the bed. The telephoto lens makes them look much bigger--a tiny pebble turns into a boulder.

Here is one of our first peas of the season. It looks like something from outer space, illuminated by the first light of morning. The peas were also planted March 4, same day as the fava beans, so we have been in a state of high anticipation over them. They have their own schedule, regardless of what it says on the seed packet.

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