Garden, Humor
Comments 5

Thinning seedlings: I think they scream as I tear them out…

A row of baby little marvel shell peas. All unsuspecting.

I think the baby plants scream when I ruthlessly pluck them out of the ground. I know it has to be done. It is my job as a gardener to be a creative, even divine force. The choices I make about which of the little seedlings get to swell into tastiness, into full fruit and seed producing maturity, are irrevocable. My choices shape the future of plants in my garden through pollination and seed harvesting. The lucky ones spaced properly apart for effective growing survive. The particularly lovely, big, and cheery looking guys make it. A lot of not-yet, never-will-be plants will die though, and their unique random genetic mutations die with them. It pains me every time I tug on their little bodies and feel their tiny roots rending.

A pea sprout gets it.

I have already this spring killed baby radishes, peas, tomatoes, carrots, peppers, eggplants….and it isn’t just the vegetables who get it either. Zinnias, poppies, nasturtiums, wild bergamot, calendula: no one is safe. My seedling book says that I am doing no one any favors by letting them live too crowded. The book says unthinned seedlings will be stunted and weak. But thinning. It has such a Malthusian feeling.

The radishes. Screaming as they lay shriveling in the mulch.

Yesterday I thinned the peas. The tiny roots of the rejected seedlings clung desperately to the soil. I thinned the radishes. And I must admit that in an act of god-like absorption, I ate those tiny baby plants (and again, Malthusian!). I hovered over the beets, but they are too small for thinning. I can’t yet determine which are weak, which are unsightly, which are destined for the compost. The whole row of beet sprouts sighed and shivered in relief as I stood and walked away.

Hamish is concerned by all the screaming, and carefully monitors the garden as I work.

I told the spouse about my worries. That I think the little baby plants shriek and fight to live. The spouse patted the dog and looked at me over the garden fence. He reached over and snatched a tiny radish plant from its tidy row. His teeth crunched a little on the tender leaves. “They’re just plants,” he told me, and wandered off with the weed trimmer. I looked at the empty spot where that radish used to be and now was never going to be again. I really thought I heard it scream.


  1. Mom says

    Ya know…. sometimes people think too much. I have two planters of peas (one each of snow and snap) that I just let go…they are thickly planted and crawling over each other and the pea fences but they are healthy and I am awaiting the blossoms that will bring on the the peas. If I was really wanting the best crop I would probably be more attentive to the spacing. I want nothing more than a few pickings from a two-dollar pack of seeds. Peas are full of sugar and we don’t need any of that.

  2. Pingback: Twenty things I could have bought with the $20 I lost yesterday. « wideeyedfunk

  3. mothermi6 says

    I get a sort of panicky feeling when I press buttons which say, ‘Follow me . . .’ But you have such a perfect grasp of grammar, spelling and punctuation – and the font is the perfect aesthetic complement – that I am going to make an exception just this one time. Great description of the roots of the rejected seedlings trying to hang on to water, soil, and life. I am a gardener – rose pruner/general factotum – on a large estate. The other gardener (now departed) used to burn everything; oily, acrid, smoke – not to mention plant nutrients – used to ascend into the sky and waft across the county. I myself am a composter and feeder of the barn cats (two plus a black one with very short legs, who is a part-time consumer of dinner laid down).
    I ought to sign off in character really . ..
    Evangeline Tankful (DCBE) Dame Commander of the British Empire (ho ho)

    • Dear Dame Tankful, You are too kind, Thank you for your compliments. I think you have my dream job. And, I am looking forward to learning how “Mother” endures her isolation – you have brought her to life with such great clarity. Happy Day! WEF

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