The veggie patch: babysitting seedlings


The Veggie Patch seedlings

Call me crazy, but when i awoke at about 3am one morning to hear torrential rain i pelted into the back garden — barefoot and in pajamas — to drag trays of seedlings under shelter. You see, my last seed-planting project resulted in a rather embarrassing yield. Of 12 trays planted with spinach, several varieties of lettuce, spring onions, leeks, chillies, and celery — the seeds of which i’d hand-harvested from the veggie patch in the preceding months — only three lettuce and four leek seedlings survived to be planted in the garden. Pathetic, really.

I had only myself to blame. I’d become a bit blasé about my green thumb. Those hand collected, then stupidly neglected, seeds suffered from Sydney’s searing, late-summer sun, several heavy downpours, and the ravenous pecking of a pair of birds — who also took it in turns to bathe in the cat’s water bowl — as cat and i looked on from the porch, nonchalantly. When green shoots failed to appear and weeds took up root in the trays instead, i silently lambasted my slovenly gardening ways. 

I planted the latest batch of seeds a fortnight ago and have been carefully attending them since. They get a light shower from the watering can daily and are moved around the garden to bask in the mellow autumnal sun. They’ve rewarded my belated diligence. Or perhaps they’ve just warmed to the sun and her seasonal charm.

The spinach seeds were the first to sprout: two wobbly lines of butterfly-winged leaves. Then came the lettuce. Spring onions and leeks fought for third place: bright green, needle-thin shoots pushing through the soil, many  weighed down by the remains of the seed husk, or doubled over in a loop struggling to pull away from the seed — their safe keeper — beneath the soil.

Only the celery and chillies are playing hard to get. I’ve checked on them three times this morning — still no sign. I’ve just been out and snipped off the spring onion seed husks to encourage strong upright growth. I moved the trays so they’ll catch the afternoon rays. While i was there i uttered a few words of encouragement to the celery and chillies. Call me crazy.



Filed under The Veggie Patch

24 responses to “The veggie patch: babysitting seedlings

  1. We have a bugger of a time getting chillies to germinate, particularly when it’s colder. We eventually bought a heated propagation mat, which seems to help a bit. Funny how well plants do in Sydney in the cooler months, isn’t it? 🙂


    • Yes, the seeds hated the aftermath of summer – when the heat dragged on and on and on. They’re coping much better with the kinder autumnal sun. Fingers crossed the chillies come through!


  2. I’m impressed by your seed/seedling prowess! My veggie patch is just new so I went for instant gratification with punnets of seedlings. I also dashed out into torrential rain and thunder to rescue them before they were planted. My green love is unlimited at this stage.


  3. Ah, the satisfaction when things take off and you can reap the rewards, weather, critters and birds permitting. Some people swear by music?? I live on a place in the bush so my vegie seedlings get a daily serving of music which doesn’t disturb the neighbours. Perhaps my seedlings fail because they dont like Bob Dylan or The Who 😦 Joy


  4. I know the feeling Rachel, I anxiously watch every little movement and leaf on my seedlings too! I have recently been caring for celery seedlings for a friend (yes, babysitting) and they were very slow to germinate. They will pop out eventually! Happy gardening.


    • I am quite besotted with the celery, it has to be said. Partly because there is nothing better than having a celery plant in the garden and being able to snap off a stalk whenever you need it. And given i never need more than one stalk of celery at a time, it beats buying (and throwing out) a whole celery from the grocery store!


  5. I stalk my seedlings like a crazy women…I’m surprised they just don’t’ stay in the dirt as they’re sick of the sight of me peering in at them.


  6. Claire @ Claire K Creations

    Nothing crazy about that! My grandma talks to her plants and I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything not flourish. It’s the key!


  7. Babysitting indeed! When I plant my special radicchio (from north-eastern Italy) in my mother’s garden patch, I pray for decent weather, cover it with wet newspaper until the seeds sprout and cover it with thick plastic if the clouds are looming. As it’s planted directly into the ground, it’s so precious! It’s just like raising a child.


  8. Well done you! I have only had luck with carrots! My one tiny baby spinach is floundering. Keep up the great work!


  9. Love the mental image of you in the rain, bed hair, pj’s and all 🙂 Your seeds looks fab so far!! I hope you have great sucess transplanting them too 🙂


  10. a watched bed of celery seeds never sprouts 😉 love your gardening tales – fun to read. for me now, the shorter days are against me, and i have to really remember that i have baby kale, tatsoi and silverbeet seedlings that need watering to survive – even if it is almost dark by the time i get home from work! we’re not getting enough rain so i can’t afford to neglect them.


  11. Oh I love this post! I suppose only another gardener would understand 😉 We’ve had the longest winter ever here in Europe so when spring looked like it had finally arrived, I got a bit excited about the garden and set about planting new seeds and seedlings. Alas, it has snowed twice since the false spring start! Bringing all of the containers inside and babysitting them until the frost had passed was almost on par with looking after our new baby! Thankfully, all has been good so far 🙂


    • I hope your seedlings are going well. Mine are now outgrowing the seedling trays. I was out of town last weekend so couldn’t transplant them to the veggie patch. So i know what Sunday morning has in store for me. Fingers crossed Sydney’s dry, sunny gloriously lovely autumnal weather continues until at least then as these little babies are dying to get their roots into the ground. And the celery shoots have come through! Most excited about that. Happy gardening.


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