Gardener’s heartbreak: A storm wiped out our seedlings

Our main garden on June 1.

I’ve wondered,  as our garden has rapidly expanded over the past several years, when G. and I would reach our limit. We have a tendency to fuel each other’s fire. One of us has an idea, the other builds on it and then the first one adds to that in a seemingly never-ending spiral that sucks ever more money and time into each endeavor. G. is only half-kidding when he says his motto is, “There’s no small  project, I can’t make big.”

But then suddenly, last week, we hit the wall. Both of us at the same time.

We had spent the spring germinating tomato, tomatillo, basil and other plants. The Thursday before we left for Atlanta, G. planted them in the garden. While we were gone, there was a severe rain storm. When we got back the following Monday, the surviving plants looked like they had frost damage. Some, such as our Thai basil, had disappeared entirely, as if they never existed. Others died in the following days.

One tiny, damaged tomato plant.

I haven’t posted recently because G. and I have been so busy trying to find replacement plants. By the time we got back on the Monday of Memorial Day weekend, many greenhouses were sold out of the ones we wanted most, such as San Marzano tomatoes. Only with a lot of phone calls and running around have we been able to find replacements for everything. Then we had to plant them.

And, because it was such a cold spring, many of the crops we sowed directly, such as onions and parsnips, never sprouted. I spent hours reseeding all those rows last week.

Then, on Thursday, when we were at a garden center buying tomatillo verdes, the last variety we were missing, G. said to me, “I think next year, we should just buy plants.”

It was such a relief. I had been thinking the same thing but was afraid if I said it, G. would think I was giving up too easily.

“Even with the grow light, our plants don’t look like this,” G. said, gesturing to the big, green, lush-looking tomatillo seedlings lined up on the shelves. “And all that time and work, when we could be dancing, and then they just die.”

“I know,” I said. “If we bought them, and they died, we’d still have to replace them, but all the effort — it just makes me feel even worse.”

We made a deal. Next year, we will sow directly all the things we do now — carrots, onion, peas, lettuce and so on. But we’ll buy tomatoes, peppers and the herbs that have to be put in as plants because our growing season is so short.

“I think we need to do what we can to make our lives easier,” G. said.

And I agreed, and then suddenly, just like that, the limits of the spiral had been established.

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3 responses to “Gardener’s heartbreak: A storm wiped out our seedlings

  1. Oh no! But that does sound like a good plan for next year.

  2. My biggest heartbreak was last year. I always start my tomatoes from seed. I spent a lot of hours researching different varieties & planning everything out, purchasing organic heirloom varieties & such. I hardened them & then planted them on May 15, but we had a late frost 😦 I heard the frost was coming & covered the plants the night before with PLASTIC. And apparently plastic doesn’t work very against frost. I felt silly that I didn’t know that, especially since everyone I told seemed to know not to use plastic. I was very disappointed that I lost all of the heirlooms I grew from seed. I knew I couldn’t get some of those varieties from the greenhouse, so I just bought a few other plants & made do 🙂 And now I know how NOT to protect plants for a frost 😀

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