Sunday, January 25, 2009

Failure is No Excuse

I should have known better than to start seeds in the dead of winter. Cosmos, no less, which are heat lovers. But I needed pictures of the seed-starting process to accompany a PowerPoint presentation I'm prepping for my lecture catalogue.

I really thought it'd work. My large bay window faces west, and over the years has successfully launched a thousand seedlings. (though never in midwinter, admittedly) I gathered my favorite apparatus for germinating and growing. They include:

a) commercial seed-starting mixture (to exclude pathogens)

b) a clean plastic 6-pack leftover from pansies purchased in a previous spring

c) watering tray (a jelly-roll pan), Saran wrap (to serve as mini-greenhouse cover until germination)

d) a package of seeds from last year, stored in a Ziploc bag in the refrigerator

I moistened the soil with warm water, and packed it gently into the plastic tray. I sowed the cosmos seeds and lightly covered them with dry mixture. I covered the entire tray with Saran wrap, and placed the setup on a floor heat register. As anticipated, germination took only 3 days. Then I placed the tray on the windowsill.

Big mistake.

As the days wore on, not only did the growing process abruptly slow; my little plants leaned and leaned toward the meager winter sun. They were starved for light, though I tried to tell myself that cosmos are leggy anyway. Not that leggy!

Then came one of our 5-degree nights. Even sheltered from the windowpane by honeycomb blinds, the temperature on the windowsill the next morning was 45 degrees. Half the seedlings had surrendured their souls to the inevitable. Prostrate they lay on the soil.

I gave up. I'll try again when the days are longer and the nights are warmer. The PowerPoint will have to wait on Mother Nature's largess.

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