Free Spirited Plants 2/03/08

Grubby hands and dirty feet defined who I was during my childhood. No matter how hard my mother tried, she just couldn’t make a ‘lady’ out of me. I was born with a free spirit and it drove her crazy. I knew my parameters but I was always pushing the envelope. Gardening was a lifesaver for me. I could get my hands in the dirt, get my feet dirty, carry dead worms in the pockets of my pinafores. For those of you who are wondering what the heck a pinafore is, let me explain: That’s what they called sleeveless dresses–or sundresses–when I was a young girl.

My science teacher taught my class how different chemicals in the soil could change a plant, so I decided to experiment to see if it was true.
When I got home that afternon, I took my dad’s toolbox to the north side of the house where my mother grew her prized blue hydrangeas. Then I took a few rusty nails and pounded them into the ground around the plants.

That spring, instead of beautiful blue hydrangeas, she had beautiful delicate pink hydrangeas.  She never figured out what happened to her blue flowers.  I knew, but I wasn’t telling.  The rust in the nails changed the acid in the soil, which changed the color of the flowers. It really doesn’t take much to grow something beautiful and/or tasty. No special skills are necessary. Just choose some seeds, dig the soil, add fertilizer, plant, water and wait. Waiting is probably the hardest part of the growing process.

A few years ago I decided to start my seeds early for my summer garden. I bought the seeds, the little seed starter cups, soil and fertilizer. The Mr. even bought me a large baker’s cooling rack on wheels. I rolled the cart out of the basement so the plants could get some fresh air and sunshine on the warmer days of spring. Things were going great.  I planted, fertilized and water them regularly. They rewarded me by sprouting and growing bigger each day–until one day something went horribly wrong.

I rolled them out into the warm, sunny spot in the driveway and watered them.  I even picked up one of the spray bottles and spritzed the tender leaves to encourage their growth. Much to my surprise, the next day I had a whole cart of seedlings with droopy heads.  I couldn’t imagine what had happened to them. The following day, they were more than droopy.  They had turned yellow and were obviously on their deathbed.

It was then that The Mr. discovered that instead of water I had spritzed them with the bottle containing the fabric-shrink solution is used in upholstering furniture. Bummer!!  We dumped the entire cart of seedlings out and made a trip to the local garden center to purchase our garden plants that year.
I’m looking forward to my spring garden again this year.  In fact, I began my seedlings this week.  You can bet I’ll carefully mark the contents on each spray bottle.  I don’t want any free-spirited seedlings drooping their heads this year.  I’ve discovered that a sense of humor is necessary to being a happy gardener.