Last week I attended a seed-starting workshop for home gardeners, and last night I helped a friend plant a couple flats of tomatoes for a community garden. At the workshop, a great deal of useful information was shared, much of it about methods and techniques. Seasoned gardeners shared their various (and sometime contradictory) experiences and perspectives, and the convener repeatedly emphasized that “the only truly right way to start seeds is whatever works for you.” I left with the bemused feeling that the whole exercise was something of a tempest in a teapot. Seeds will sprout, given even the most hostile conditions; it’s their nature, their very purpose. Efficiency and economy are merely trappings we humans bring to the process to make us feel useful while we wait for the seeds to perform their inevitable and mysterious function.
I was reminded of this while helping my friend put tomato seeds into tiny cell packs last night. My friend is capable of marvelous organization and attention to detail, and this comes through in his seed-starting preparations. He gave me a tool marked to show the depth at which the seeds were to be planted, and I made shallow holes with the tool, placed the designated number of seeds in each hole, then covered the holes and lightly tamped the soil with the tool. I felt so meticulous and scientific, working with a precision-marked tool and carefully labeled seed packets and cell packs! At the end of the evening he thanked me for my help, noting that it had gone faster than he expected because I didn’t agonize over the placement of each seed as he would have. He voiced no complaints about my performance of the task, and I marveled that it was nevertheless possible to approach it with even greater care and deliberation. I couldn’t help but think that the seeds have us right where they want us.