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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