My mom and I spent the warmest part of a day that only peaked at -5 surrounded by plants, kind of inside but not fully, kind of outside but not really. We were learning about fall seeding in a workshop presented by Sage Gardens, an all natural greenhouse at the South end of the city.
She was late and then I was late, which put us at not-making-very-good-time and hustling hard across town while trying hard not to spill coffee on ourselves. We were fine, really, and were offered warm honeyed tea in a calm, greenery-filled environment when we arrived.
It felt kind of counter-intuitive to be talking about gardening today, when I woke up to see snowflakes dancing outside the window, when I stepped outside to survey the yard and came to the same conclusive appraisal: Nothing left to do.
Well, maybe that’s not so true.
The idea of fall seeding is to get a start on the spring, to have less little indoor seedlings, and to have plants that are sturdier and more adjusted to the climate. Plants that have hardened up. But it doesn’t work for all of them.
Some seeds actually need the cold to germinate, we learned. And gardeners have tried to simulate this by keeping the seeds in the freezer, but it’s not the same. They don’t need an even, steady cold, they need a bit of fluctuation. Seeds are finicky, or perhaps more accurately, seeds are responsive.
Beyond the tricks of fall seeding, the underlying theme of today’s workshop was working with nature, taking clues from the environment, and then adapting your practices to that, rather than trying to control the vagaries of our (fairly extreme) climate. The things we can learn from watching the plants in our garden, watching the plants around us, and by talking to other people who are watching plants.
I took home seeds packets with names I’ve never heard of (and only just learned how to pronounce), some marking sticks, a little tray, and a bag of earth.
In a few days, I’ll assemble this little kit and put it outside, on the side that it prefers (not that oh-so-sunny South side, believe it or not), and prepare for growth. I’ll watch it for critters who may come to eat the seeds. Once the earth in the tray is frozen-ish, I’ll put a little blanket of leaves on it, just a thin liner before it’s covered by a welcome layer of snow (welcome to the seeds, at least.)
And then, ideally, in the spring, the seeds will know what’s up. When the conditions are right, they’ll poke their hardy heads up and look up at the window, where they’ll see a smaller variety of more tentative indoor plants, and me, with my watering can, waiting.