Instant Vegetable Garden, or What To Do When The Seeds Don’t Sprout

Remember all those seeds I planted in May? OK, you weren’t there, you don’t remember, but I do. When I put them in the ground, I was struck by how the earth I covered them with looked just a bit like a fresh grave, and how the wooden tongue depressor garden tags I used looked like mini-tombstones.

Unfortunately, the grave analogy was super accurate. Out of three raised beds packed with vegetable seeds, one basil plant and one lettuce sprouted. Two tiny plants from all those seeds.

One measly basil plant.
One measly basil plant.

I also planted about a dozen squash seeds, zucchini as well as yellow squash. Only half of them came up, but it was enough. We should be swimming in zucchini this time next week.

Zucchini and yellow squash: the one thing I can't kill.
Zucchini and yellow squash: the one thing I can’t kill.

Since everything else failed to sprout, we did our usual 4th of July thing: bought plants from the nursery and filled up the beds. We can only hope that the tomatoes and peppers will be mature before the first frost hits.

Instant garden! Thank God for nurseries.
Instant garden! Thank God for nurseries.

If you haven’t tried buying plants at the nursery, I highly recommend it. Not because it’s better than starting with seeds. (Well, in my case it is. A plant that is already underway has a much better chance of surviving in my garden than a true seedling does.) Not because it stimulates the economy and keeps people who actually know how to grow plants employed (although it does that, too.)

The best part about buying plants at the nursery is that the label can be wrong. You think you bought basil, but it turns out to be peppermint. Or the cucumber you got is not the usual green pickle variety but a weird round melon-looking thing called a lemon cucumber. (Those were one of our surprise plants last year, and we actually loved them. It’s a cucumber, but it has a mild citrus flavor that is really nice in a salad.)

So far I’ve only found one surprise in this year’s batch: a hot pepper that was supposed to be sweet.

I don't think this is a sweet pepper...
I don’t think this is a sweet pepper… Oops.

I keep hoping something else will be a surprise, that one of our watermelons or cucumbers will turn out to be a winter squash or something equally unexpected. But mostly I’m just grateful that we are getting lots of rain and things are growing.

In the meantime, I’m having to come to grips with the fact that I do not have a black thumb or a green one. I think it’s zucchini colored.

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Kit Dunsmore

Kit Dunsmore has believed in the magic underlying the muggle world since she was a child searching for the Shetland pony pooka she was sure was hiding in her back yard. She learned early on that books were magic doors into other worlds, and that she could revisit a beloved character or place by opening the right book. As she grew, she decided she wanted to make magic with words, too. Today Kit writes about things she loves: poodles and dragons, witches and artists, quirky underdogs and loyal friends. Whether her setting is 6th-century England, the imaginary Twelve Kingdoms, or an art-obsessed version of modern America, magic always finds its way into her story. She enjoys turning fairy tales inside out and watching characters sacrifice everything to reach their goal, but she also believes in happy endings. When she isn't writing, Kit experiences magic by making things with her hands. Over the years, she's made quilts, fabric sculptures, collages, sweaters, and blank books. Her newest interest is learning how to spin her own yarn, a skill guaranteed to strengthen one of her many delusions: that she is a self-sufficient pioneer woman. She also thinks she is a hobbit, a witch, an artist, and a good cook. Living in the foothills of Colorado, Kit enjoys the giant skies and prairie landscapes which suit her need for wide open spaces. In addition to hiking through glorious scenery with her husband or imagining herself living in the Middle Ages, Kit works as a pillow for her miniature poodle and polishes the next small piece of her handmade life.

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