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Gardening with the Kids, When the Life Lesson You Thought You Were Teaching Your Kids Is Actually a Life Lesson For You

By: Hal Jones

Starting Plant Seeds Indoors Compared to Starting Seeds In the Garden

It started off as what I thought would be a life lesson, showing the kids that by planning ahead you reap rewards.  So late winter, I purchased the little trays for starting seeds indoors and purchased my seeds. I planted. I watered. I moved the trays to catch the most sun. I hardened off my plants before setting them in the ground.  The plants sprouted in their little greenhouses and we were very proud.  I bought the special fertilizer and  I made sure to check the water every day.  My seedlings were two to three inches tall and were now ready to be transplanted.

Meanwhile, two weeks ago as I was getting ready to leave the lake house, I remembered that I had brought my left over seed with me and I could go ahead and plant them without danger of frost.  For my watermelons and Pumpkins I made some  small mounds and placed a few seeds in each mound hoping at least one plant would survive. If they didn’t I had my plants I had diligently cared for since winter and I could plant them in the mounds.  I didn’t have time to water the seeds when I planted them. Basically these seeds were left up to God for their survival.

On Friday I carefully placed my little plants in containers so that I could transplant them to the garden at the lake.  The plants were fragile and I took my time removing the tiny cubes from their trays and placing them in a larger tray where they could easily be separated and planted.  Arriving at the lake, I excitedly took out my seedlings and  placed the tray down on the garden’s edge so I could choose the best spots to plant them in.  To my surprise, I noticed a watermelon seedling about three times the size of my greenhouse  started seedling, and then I saw another and another. Each mound I had hastily constructed was crowned with several baby melon plants or baby pumpkin plants.  The tomato seeds I had put out had also broken ground and seemed to be thriving much more than  my plants that I had nurtured and cared for during the past two months.

My life lesson I had intended had blown up in my face.  Or had it?  Sometimes we try and manipulate things in ways that give us an advantage over nature.  Starting my plants indoors was meant to provide me with an early harvest, costs savings by starting from seeds and so forth.  Those plants I nurtured in their tiny greenhouses did start, and were ready to plant as I expected them to be. However the plants that I had left up to God to care for were started six weeks later and through the miracle of an unusually warm spring and plenty of rain were much larger and stronger than my seedlings I had started under controlled conditions.  So the score stands at God 1, me zero in the 2012 gardening box score.

A friend of mine’s father was a doctor during the depression of the 1930s.  He practiced in the city and only occasionally would he see country people.  He went out to visit another doctor friend of his that took care of people in the Tennessee Valley before TVA had dammed the rivers and modern hospitals had been built to serve that area.  My friend’s dad asked the old country doctor about not seeing many country people in his practice. The old doctor smiled and told him the story another doctor had told him that seemed to hold true.  It had been observed that the families that had always lived downstream from the populated areas had less sickness. Those who lived upstream seemed to be susceptible to every illness that passed through their community.  Of course now we know that the immune systems of those living downstream had already been tested and their bodies had built up immunities. Those living upstream had pristine water and their immune systems had not been for lack of a better way of saying it, been put through the test.  My greenhouse plants grown in ideal conditions certainly grew. However, the seeds begun six weeks later and started in the garden, were thriving and already larger than their counterparts grown in ideal conditions. Not only did the seeds begun outdoors grow faster and look better, the plants coming from those seeds would not be subject to damage during transplanting.  It’s often true that gardening mimics life, and maybe there is a  lesson here for me as a dad more so than a lesson for my children. I can shelter my kids from all of the bad things, or I can let life play out and try and prepare my children to handle bad situations when they arise.

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