Confessions of an overzealous gardener

Some of you may remember my earlier entry on Sweet Alyssum. Remember that photo of all the little happy seedlings in four rows of a square flat? Those seedlings are a lot bigger now. All of them have at least two additional leaves, some more. They’re about two inches tall, and hopelessly crowded.

Yesterday and today, I started gently teasing tangled roots apart and transplanting individual seedlings into their own roomy 4-pack cells. Before I started, I watered them with a dilute solution of fish emulsion/seaweed extract in the hopes of reducing their transplant shock. I fed them this solution a week earlier too, which is probably why they grew so enthusiastically.

My methodology for transplanting to the cell packs is straightforward. I start by filling the cells about a third of a way with potting mix. I then add a tiny sprinkling of all-purpose organic fertilizer, and stir it into the soil. As I gently hold a tender seedling with two fingers, I pour potting mix around it with the other hand, firming the soil as I go.

After all four cells contain transplants, I water the pack thoroughly. This is a slow process. Water must be added very gently, or the dry potting mix sloshes out of the cells and the transplants get knocked over and buried. Slowly, slowly I add water, wait until it disappears, add more, wait, prop up any flopping seedlings, add a little more water, until water is coming out of the bottom and the soil in the cells seems thoroughly wet.

I did this for an hour yesterday and another hour today. As I type, 85 — yes, that’s eighty-five — transplanted seedlings are adjusting to their new locales. That’s the good news — if we agree that it’s good that these poor little crowded seedlings now have a chance to grow properly.

The bad news? Actually that’s two-fold. I’m going to have EIGHTY-FIVE Sweet Alyssums to plant among the vegetables (and anywhere else I can find open spots). The second bit of bad news: I only transplanted one and one-third of the four rows in the original flat. I estimate that approximately — ahem — 250-300 more overcrowded seedlings are impatiently waiting their transplanting turn.

What was I thinking? In my defense, I don’t think I’ve ever grown this flower from seed before. I usually buy a few packs at the local garden store. But they weren’t there yet when I asked for them a few weeks ago, and the salesperson couldn’t tell me when they might arrive. So I bought a package of seeds instead, and, well, I went a little nuts with the sowing.

It’s especially easy for me to get carried away like this in late winter/early spring. The allure of a humid greenhouse, rich soil, and green baby plants is irresistible, I confess.

You may wonder what I plan to do with those hundreds of crowded and untransplanted seedlings. For now, while I still have room in the greenhouse, I’m going to leave them as they are. If they are still alive after my already-transplanted seedlings have all found homes, and if I think I might still have a few free spots for more alyssums, I’ll try to gently separate more of them and directly plunk them into the ground. If they live — fabulous! If they don’t, their little plant bodies will contribute to the organic material in the soil.

Any remaining untransplanted seedlings will become compost — a bit of an ignoble end for innocent victims of my excess enthusiasm. But, in one form or another, they will all eventually make it into my garden.


  1. Brrr! And Greenhouse Updates « Piedmont Gardener

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