Confession of a Cold Frame Gardener

Approximately two weeks ago, I planted carrots, radishes, spinach, and several varieties of lettuce in my cold frames. Everything is coming along nicely, except the lettuce.

I’m no stranger to gardening. When I was a little girl, I eagerly helped my parents plant the family garden… or as my siblings and I called it by the end a summer of toiling in it, The Back Forty. It was huge! A family of seven needs a large garden, especially if they want to can, freeze, and preserve food – which we did. By the time spring rolled around and we had just about depleted our stores, our beast of a tiller came out of hibernation. We gathered the seed packets, grabbed a ball of twine and a couple of stakes, and headed out to the freshly turned garden. The first thing my mom did was string a length of twine from one end of the garden to the other to use as a planting guide. Rogue seeds were not allowed. My father was the same way about the cornfields. He took pride in the straight lines he created. I have no idea where my OCD originated. Just a fluke, I guess.

Did I mention that I’m no stranger to gardening? When we planted the garden, I paid extra close attention to the spacing and depth of the seeds. I thought that if I did not adhere to the rules on the seed packet, my seeds would not turn into vegetables. Fortunately, seeds are quite forgiving… mostly.

That leads me to my confession. The lettuce that I planted a few weeks ago failed to germinate and sprout. My guess is that the seeds were old and had lost their spark. I used stray lettuce seeds that had fallen to the bottom of a Ziploc bag – random seeds from packets that could have been from as long ago as 2002. I knew the seeds were well past their prime, but I thought I’d try them anyway. (It worked for Tony Randall, after all.) Not a single seed sprouted! Surprised? So, last week, I planted more lettuce. Some of it has sprouted and I hope that the rest is close behind. In the past, I’ve used seeds that had technically expired, but always had good luck. However, I don’t think I’ve ever planted seeds that were NINE years old. That’s pushing it, huh? Lesson learned. My first fresh salad will be two weeks later than originally planned.


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2 thoughts on “Confession of a Cold Frame Gardener

  1. This is a great story, Julie. I used to be quite meticulous when I planted my vegetable garden, using two stakes and string as my guide. I’d measure the width of every row and carefully sow each and every seed. But these days I’m so desperate just to get things in before the end of planting season that I use my finger to trench and eyeball every row. It’s funny that the stuff grows no matter what. I am leery of carrying seed over from year to year though. Maybe it’s because of the short growing season we have here in Wisconsin.

    • I’ve given up on some of those details, too. I now use my finger, a stick, or the edge of a hoe to make a line from one end to the other. You’re right about how the seeds/plants don’t care. I will always be meticulous about my graphic design/illustration work, but I’ve learned to “let go” when it comes to gardening.

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