A Tiny Seed: Nature’s Miracle of Packaging



From left to right: brocolli, cabbage, tomatillo

It’s always been a marvel to me that inside each tiny seed lies the plant it will become. It’s an act of faith to place such a tiny dot of nothing in soil in a seed flat and expect that something will happen. Every time I plant seed, I experience a twinge of doubt, a small fear: “What if they don’t come up?” I needn’t worry. They always do. To witness season after season, the inexorable drive of a tiny seed to grow into a plant, is one of the many small miracles that makes me love being a farmer.

Back in March, the seeds came  in a large box filled to the brim with colored packets whose contents will become a bountiful harvest to feed: the families we’re growing for this year, (including a late season root crop share;) two farmer’s markets; our families; and plenty to can and freeze for the coming winter. “Look everybody! Here’s the garden!” I said, as I proudly showed it off to my family. 

Technically, a seed is made up of three basic parts: an embryo, nutrients for the embryo, and a seed coat. As long as it stays dry and in a dark place, seed remains inert, and can be stored for up to three years.  Just adding a little water, soil, and warmth begins a journey toward the sun, the source of all life.

Now comes about 6 more weeks of tending and hovering in the greenhouse like nervous mothers to ensure the survival of our tender shoots. It’s a balancing act between just right and cooking them in a too-hot greenhouse, or freezing them at night. There’s daily rounds to water, sometimes twice a day when sunny. We vent when temps climb, and check weather reports for frost warnings so we can protect the tender shoots from freezing overnight by making sure the heater is plugged in so that it’s ready to kick on when temps hover just above freezing.

 In the greenhouse there are now nearly 90 flats filled with only the plants that need an early start. There will be about 20 or 25 more flats planted with brocolli, cauliflower, more cabbage, and a several flower varieties. Waiting in the wings are the thousands more seeds that go directly into the ground between now and June.

Soon to come: Dave has mounted Olivia’s time elapsed birdwatching camera in the greenhouse and set it up to snap time-lapsed video of the growth. We can’t wait to publish the resulting video!

Tomatoes, herbs, flowers, you name it!
Celery's up!

The celery is up!

The leeks are up!
  The melons are up!

But the zinnias win the prize. They pop up within 48 hours!

There’s still lots to do… Twenty yards each of manure and compost are set to be delivered next week. We’ll begin harrowing and preparing the garden beds. In two weeks, peas go in the ground, and by May 1, the potatoes. Twenty-five pounds of Kennebec and 10 lbs of Red Pontiac seed potatoes, and three types of fingerlings. Even though they’re called “seed potatoes,” they don’t really grow from seed, but from the “eyes” that sprout right out of last year’s potatoes. Each spud is cut, one or two eyes per piece, and dropped into a shallow trench. Yesterday,the fingerling seed potatoes arrived via UPS: three varieties this year from Seeds of Change, an organic seed company in Oregon: Banana Fingerlings, a customer favorite at last summer’s farmer’s market in Gloucester. And then two new ones we’re trying, French Fingerlings, and Red Thumb. Both look delicious!

We’ll have a only a small strawberry harvest this year from last year’s plants, but yet another box has arrived that contains 150 strawberry plants! They’ll go in this year, for harvest next year.  


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