GROW O'ahu

Island Style Gardening and Plant-Based Living

What Seedlings Are Teaching Me


They had outgrown the plastic apple box.  It was a great mini-greenhouse to start them off in, but they needed more depth as they were getting too tall.

“They just seem too confined and restricted,”I had thought to myself.

So I carefully chose some small pots, cleaned them thoroughly and lined the bottom with cinder rock to provide the excellent drainage needed.

“If I take care to make sure their pots are good, they will thrive,”I thought confidently.

I mixed some good compost with cinders and perlite to lighten it up a bit so the little darlings would be able to move their roots about happily.

“This is like parenting”, I reflected.  “Make the right mix of structure, good stuff and love and everything will turn out alright.”

My little Garden Helper provided assistance with the mixing and pot-filling.  It took about 30 minutes to carefully replant these little tomato and kale seedlings into 6-in pots.

“Our happy, positive energy will help them grow!” I was so optimistic.

They look happy right?


Less than 24 hours later they were dead. And not just wilted and sad dead, but not even worth taking a photo of because there was no green left- dead.

So what happened?

No matter what care I took to plant them in the right stuff, they couldn’t survive without constant protection.  They weren’t ready for the big world yet.

The sun was too hot. The wind and rain were too much.  My seedlings in the garden, however, under the picnic-dome, are doing great.

And this gardening lesson made me think about our son, and how many questions we parents of young children field on a given day about when they might go to school, when are they going to get potty-trained, when are you going to wean, when  are you moving them to their own room, when are you pushing them to the next phase?

The impulse is to think they are confined and restricted, they need more space.  Because culturally and socially, we place a high value on independence, self-sufficiency and freedom.

But what if they instead need the constant picnic-dome protection for a while longer, until they are ready to face the Big World?  What if the wind, sun and rain might just be too much for their little roots to handle?

And how might they thrive if I protect them for a bit longer?



Author: Carmen

Things I love: justice in all forms; flowers; locally grown food; cloth-diapering; breastfeeding; feminist theory; outdoor play; beaches; wine; Divine interventions; 4-H and coffee. Things I loathe: racism; homophobia; toxic crap; misogyny; litterbugs; the zombie apocalypse and pitbull-haters. My formal education is in sociology, gender studies, and public policy. I'm also a Lactation Educator; 4-H Youth Development coordinator a Certified Master Gardener and a graduate of a Permaculture Design Course. I've been blogging for several years on dozens of topics- everything from women's health to breed-specific legislation. But the thing I like to write about most is my gardening, food adventures and my kids. So there you have it. Please be kind. Thanks.

7 thoughts on “What Seedlings Are Teaching Me

  1. What a fantastic post! I love how you relate gardening experiences to child-raising; So very true!

  2. This is so thought provoking. I feel like I’m in the “hardening off” phase with my kids as they get older – much like your picnic dome – they are outside in the elements, preparing for the world, but still there is a layer of protection. It’s a tough balance to be sure.

  3. One thing i like about attachment parenting is the emphasis on following your instincts. If you are paying attention, you KNOW when they are ready for the next step, if they need to be protected a bit longer, if they need to be nudged a bit toward independence. Feeling that confidence makes it a bit easier to answer people’s questions with a smile and “Oh, I don’t think he’s quite ready yet.” Course, he changes every day, the answer might be different tomorrow.

  4. And sorry about your tomatoes.

    • Thank you! And yes, I completely agree- I have uttered those very words to somewhat-diapproving- I know-better-than-you-looks. I’m in the attachment parenting camp for sure. I’m just thankful I have tomatoes to mess up instead of my kid. 🙂 Because my seedling loss was a garden lesson for him, who was also so sad to see the sad looking pots.


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