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tough love with seedlings (and chaos management)

I, girl who loves to talk about compost and hike in the mountains, just spent nearly two days at work in an all-day seminar on product management.  The seminar was as interesting as a corporate meeting can be, but as the minutes ticked by I panicked about all of the things building up.  I could almost see giant pop-up email notifications in my peripheral vision.

VP of foolishness:
At one point during the day, I found myself mentally starting a to-do list, responding to an email request from one my colleagues on my Blackberry, tweeting out a review that had just gone live, and looking up the new address for my doctor’s office on my iPhone–all at the same time (and I’m not kidding).  I was simultaniously handling two phones, one social media site, email, a power point in front of me, and a guy using phrases like “perceived value” and “‘win/loss analysis.”  

When I realized what I was doing, I had to actually laugh at myself.  I’m so important that the office can’t function without me?  Hardly. 

I caught myself before it could get any worse and I put the phoneS down. Then I channeled my inner Zen, remembering that I should be in the present.  What was the point of being in this seminar if I was letting myself concentrate on what was going on outside of that room?  What drove me to pull my Blackberry out of my bag during a meeting when I firmly believe this action is incredibly rude (and I detest owning a Blackberry)? 

Market validation
My epiphany was reinforced when I went to my doctor’s appointment (the one I was looking up during the meeting to find the quickest way there) and heard the words, “You have to find a way to reduce your stress.” 


Employee help line
I do know that gardening reduces stress for all of us that have a love affair with nature and growing.  I feel it.  It is like my own yoga class in my back yard.  Squatting over a raised bed to weed is my “frog,” using the little push-mower we have is my “airplane,” and reaching behind the dahlias to plant sunflower seeds while trying not to damage the marigolds–hey, that is my “warrior II.”    

Increased productivity
I craved order among the craziness.

I decided to thin out the remaining seedlings I have growing heartily under grow lights.  I have avoided this because it is so hard to do!  What I have let happen is pure chaos.  I have five broccoli seedlings growing in a peet pot that is no bigger than two inches and celery root seedlings growing together and tangled. This is not OK. Yet how does one devoted plant momma decide which seedlings should be cut and which ones stay?  Someone once shared with me a crucial tip pertaining to work: “surgical is merciful.”  I used that phrase today with my plants, scissor in hand.

Cucumber. tomato, broccoli, and kohlrabi seedlings...I'm so sorry.

Some rules for thinning
-Start to thin when the seedlings have the second (or “true”) set of leaves and not before. You want to see which seedlings are the strongest before you thin.
-Do not pull a seedling out to try to save it because you may damage the root systems of those around it.  You have to use a scissor and cut the stem close to the dirt.
-If you have to touch any of the seedlings to maneuver between them, touch them from a leaf and not the stem.  A plant can survive with a damaged leaf but it is game over if you damage the stem.
-Regarding spacing, a good rule of thumb is to give each seedling at least an inch (two inches would be better) of growing space on each side.   If the plants are already in their own pod, keep only one plant per pod.
-Brace yourself.  You may have to go back and thin even more when the seedlings get a little bigger.

When the painful process is all over, you’ll have the strongest seedlings growing without having to compete for real estate.  Further, you will have restored order in at least one aspect of your life.

Position statement
We can’t make the chaotic tornado around us stop, but we can find a way to lay low in the calm center of it more often AND be more present in the moment.

Here is a great article about being more present.


  1. we are the same person. i wish i had time to plant seeds this spring. instead, i’m going to BUY seedlings this weekend. it’s been eating at me in between conference travel, trainings, meetings, school, homework, and finals. i miss the dirt.

  2. Hang in there. There is no shame in buying seedlings. You’ll still get to play in the dirt and it will sooth you. You have SO much going on!!

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