January and February are two of my favorite months. It’s not that I like walking on icy sidewalks or shoveling snow all that much. I just love that it’s time to order seeds, and begin starting them indoors.
At the garden center, later in spring, people will ask me if we have carrot or pole bean plants. “No,” I’ll answer, “those are best planted from seed.” As they’ve done in previous seasons, the customers will undoubtedly shake their heads and say, “I can’t plant seeds.”
As I try to convince them to give seeds a try, I often wonder what these people are really saying. Have they not had success with seeds in the past? Have they not kept them moist so the newly germinated plants have withered and died? Have they started them inside the house in front of a north-facing window where there is too little light? Or perhaps they just want that instant gratification that plants afford the gardener. Never mind that you could almost buy a packet of dozens of seeds for the price of a six-pack of seedlings.
It isn’t just the price that can make starting seeds preferable to buying seedlings. Seeds are good training for life. They are good for practicing optimism and patience. Seeds remind us that things take time, and that occasionally starting small will eventually lead to something very large.
I think of seed starting as I work on a local foundation for the public schools that our kids attended. My boys are grown and gone, but I have chosen to be part of this charity’s startup for the sake of future children in this school district. Although the foundation has been in operation for only a year, some of the funds raised have already been awarded as grants to teachers and staff. A good amount of the money the foundation raises and receives will be put into an endowment; seed money to help future projects germinate and grow.
Gardeners are always planting for the future, aren’t they? The tree or shrub that we put into the landscape this spring will grow and change. If we’ve planted sensibly, putting them in the correct location, they will continue to delight us for years to come.
Nelson Henderson wrote, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees, under whose shade you do not expect to sit.”
I want to be a wise gardener, in my landscapes and in my life. And I know that to grow something valuable, I might need to start in the winter, with a very small seed.