By this point in your seed starting efforts, you are most likely aware of what is working and what is not.




Perhaps you have a plastic container full of seed packets you were supposed to start and probably won’t, and a large basketful of empty seed packets you were supposed to record and probably didn’t.

You may have a flat of seeds that were supposed to grow and decided they wouldn’t, and three flats more that

[very] inconveniently decided they would.

In fact, I’m going to go out on a limb and theorize that in your darker moments you entertain a desire to trash the lot and head over to a nursery for two tomato plants and a pepper. Or indeed, to let all the 4-packs and 6-packs and 9-packs and why-did-I-plant-12-packs die of ‘accidental’ exposure and wait for the produce to start flowing at the local farmer’s market.


I’m in this maelstrom with you.  I’m aware of what I wrote back in February, but despite my best intentions, I sowed far too many of everything, transplanted even more, and now find myself praying for a swift end to tender lettuce and mustards so I can free up room for 486 tomato plants, 178 peppers, 16 eggplants, 96 summer squash and a tomatillo (fell for it at a home and garden show).

I exaggerate only slightly.  Yesterday, I asked if I could lease bed space at the local community garden just so I could get 12 into a lifeboat with full sun exposure and an absence of groundhogs.  I live on ten acres and I’m now leasing bed space. Ye gods.

Bearing in mind then that my advice on any matter of seed starting or transplanting should probably be ignored for the hypocritical counsel it is, let’s find our way out of this mess shall we?  And we must use as our mantra an aphorism my 18-year-old is hearing much of these days:

One must be cruel to be kind.

First things first: Save the women and children. Which is to say – save the young, the fertile, and, wickedly enough, the beautiful.  Just because a seedling is surviving with four sunburned leaves, aphids and an attitude doesn’t mean it’s going to abundantly fruit. Throw the rejects on the compost pile knowing your soil will be that much richer. If you’re having problems sleeping, consider the hypocrisy of butchering a healthy dandelion or plantain while you cosset a sickly pepper. Gardeners make life or death decisions every day.

Now you’ve got pretty plants. Friends want pretty plants.  They particularly want pretty plants for free.  Shower them with gratuitous beauty. DO NOT take plants in return.

Let your teenager take care of anything you’re not excited about. It will no longer be an issue by Saturday. I promise.

Grab some Ziploc bags and a sharpie and get your packets of used seeds into a cool pantry or refrigerator. If you never managed to organize your seed collection properly, label one bag “used in 2017” and another “not used in 2017.” You’re going to curse yourself next January, but hey, at least your seeds will be alive.

Do something similar with your plant labels.

Starting to see light at the end of the tunnel?  Good.  Let’s continue:

If you’ve got spring vegetables in, edit them for space. It’s starting to get warmer and many of your lettuces and mustards will soon bolt.  Your chard will probably continue, but do you actually need the two rows you put in?  Take out a few strategic plants and replace with baby summer vegetables.  As they begin to mature, the plants around them will age out of the equation.


Time to pull those radishes and free up some space.


After the culling…after the friends… after the editing… after the teenager work ethic…, plant everything left. Start with your favorite varieties first and those for which you gave real money (as opposed to the mercifully invisible $64 you spent to propagate the others over the winter).

If you still have some wonderful plants, but no space left, you can make one more (free) attempt at finding a home for them (food bank, local churches, Facebook, Craig’s List), and then I suggest you get your teenager involved.

Again, it will no longer be an issue by Saturday.

This article reprinted with kind permission by The Frederick News Post