Don't be fooled. Inside this thin coating of sweetness is a fiery core of total insanity.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Leggy Seedlings, Frustration and Hope

One of my plans for my garden this year was to create an area where annual California/West Coast wildflowers would grow and self-sow and renew themselves each year. I was originally going to sow them under milk bottle cloches, like the coneflowers, liatris, lupines, coreopsis and fleabane that I sowed early in the spring/late winter. I started out one day over a month ago, sowing some Nemophila seeds under cloches, but ran into problems with my rocky soil. It looks like good soil, but that is because there is about 2 or 3 inches of compost covering a much thicker layer of rocky, sandy soil. In order to hold the cloches to the ground I need to put earth staples in each side to keep them from blowing away in the wind. But I ran into problems trying to get them in deep enough to hold, with all those rocks underneath.

So...I decided, after doing several packets of Nemophila,  to sow the rest of the seeds in cups and put them into my little portable greenhouses. That works really well for my perennials, which often start out as little more than a bit of foliage their first year. But the annuals just got leggier and leggier, till they started to look like they were trying to climb right out of the greenhouse. They reminded me of the sprouts that you eat, long and white and unhealthy.

This past weekend we finally had some nice dry sunny weather, so I thought it was time to try planting them.

Sad leggy Phacelia seedlings

Sad leggy Tidytips seedlings

I was so frustrated by the prospects of success from these sickly seedlings, for a plan that I had such high hopes for back in the winter when I first thought of it. I got halfway through planting these out, and decided to jack it in. The rest of the seedlings ended up in the yard waste bin.
Partially planted wildflower bed

Nemophila that sprouted under the cloches (thick and lush and not leggy)

Pitiful Nemophila from the greenhouse

Not to mention the fact that I planted tall plants in front of shorter ones. Tidytips gets 1 to 1 1/2 feet tall. Meadow foam only gets about 6 to 12 inches tall. And because I wasn't really paying attention, I planted the tidytips in front of the meadow foam. They're also both flowers with yellow centers and white outer edges. Planted right next to each other. Did you ever want to rip something out of the ground the same day you planted it?

Anyway....I had lots of seeds left over. So in a last-ditch effort to save my vision of California wildflowers, I sprinkled the rest of the seed packets in all the areas where I had planned to plant the cups of leggy seedlings.

What epitomizes hope more than a seed?

We'll see in a month or so whether my last-ditch effort was a success. If not, there's always next year. My husband keeps telling me I don't have to plant the entire garden at once.

And, even though I'm late to the party, I'm going to link this post to the Hope Grows meme, hosted by the blog Sweet Bean Gardening. Hope Grows is a recurring meme posted on the 5th of each month, to show off what you are hoping to see/accomplish in your garden over the next month.


  1. I imagine that they got leggy looking for more light, and now will do just fine. Hopefully the seeds will sprout where they land - that will look lovely. Sometimes when you plant things too perfectly it doesn't look natural, so I have a feeling that in the end this garden bed might work out perfectly.

  2. Planting seeds is always a crapshoot in my mind. I do well with direct sow poppies and columbine, but others....not so much. Good luck!!

  3. I hope the seedlings will pull through. Many of the seeds I started inside this winter withered and went into the yard waste. I had hoped they would be nice and strong seedlings and go in around our new fence. Instead I direct sowed lots of seeds. I planted things yesterday that I already want to move. I guess it's all part of gardening. I think your wildflower garden is going to be very pretty. I saw poppy seedlings in there.

  4. Oh, how I remember. I know EXACTLY how you feel, Alison. I've been there/done that. I think your transplants will be fine. And direct sowing is really the best way for some seeds. They actually do better with poor, rocky soil. One thing I would suggest is slug bait. I've learned the hard way that lots of times seeds will sprout but you'll never see them because the slugs get to them first. Good luck and please post photos. :)

  5. Yes, I know that feeling! Usually what happens to me is that I get something planted, then want to move it about 6 inches away. :)

    Hoping your seedling will perk up once they are in the ground! Have you ever tried wintersowing? I've had great success with that - otherwise I'm seed inept.

  6. I feel for you!
    I've been experimenting with light floating row covers & direct seeding a lot of things. With this cool coastal weather, they are taking their time in sprouting, but the row cover protects them from the birds.
    You'll find there are certain 'wild' flowers that do well seeded indoors early & other that do what they want, no matter what you do. I'm still having issues getting California & Oriental poppies to gain a foot-hold in my wilder sections.
    I have better results with foxglove & goldenrod.

  7. Alison, you have my sympathies. Every year I try to start something new and many times I end up ditching the entire flat because nothing came up. This year I tried nemophila for the first time and only one came up and then promptly laid down and died. I can't wait to see yours bloom. The only time I've ever seen one in bloom was on the seed packet and in the catalog.

    I started about 2000 seeds this year and the old, tried and true ones came through fine, but there's always the duds in the bunch too. I'm going to try direct seeding with some poppies, but with our very short growing season it's hard to say what will happen. Cloches are a great idea...Carl has a bunch of glass light shades in his SOS building and one was sitting outside the shop door and the dandelion inside of it grew to be humongous way back in April! Hmmmm...a new use for some of his junk....I can grow tremendous dandelions!

    Thank you for your comment on my BMW for you, I'm still giggling.

  8. Don't give up! It's early yet. I am trying to grow some Shirley Poppies from seed, for the first time. The seeds were so darn tiny, I've ended up having to thin them out like crazy.

  9. I hear you, I always have such high hopes, and then reality bites, LOL.

    So then I end up just dumping the seeds into the garden, and something always comes up. So in it's own way, it's a win win situation.

    Mixing them with some sand, or soil will help them stay on the ground a little longer.

    One day we might all have the garden of our dreams....

    Jen @ Muddy Boot Dreams

  10. I hope your plants take off and do well. The plants I had in my garden window did very well until their roots filled in the little pots they were in. I meant to put them into larger ones, but didn't get to it. They got stunted and leggy. I hardened them off best I could, and planted them. They just sat there awhile, then started growing, and are now doing quite well. I didn't get all the tomatoes planted, though, and they are still alive, but looking pretty bad. I need to get them on the compost pile.


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