Survival of the Fittest

I’ve done it again – both my plastic greenhouses and the conservatory are full of seedlings. The likes of Monty, Carol and Alan use words like “cathartic“, “therapeutic” and “relaxing” when showing us how to prick out our seedlings. They use various instruments to help with this task – Carol favours a chop stick. This week I decided to prick out my Laurentia seedlings. These are grown from minute seeds so it’s not possible to give each one its own little starter home. They have to be sprinkled as thinly as possible on the surface of compost in a seed tray. This results in a mass of tiny seedlings popping up very close together.

Our TV gardening experts are full of advice when it comes to handling seedlings – “disturb the roots as little as possible“, “don’t hold them by their delicate stems” and “only hold them by their leaves“. Funny, I’ve never seen them prick out any seedlings as small as Laurentia. Not to be deterred I began to attempt to separate the seedlings with an old orchid support. I realised very quickly there was no way I wasn’t going to disturb the roots – they were all intertwined with no substance to them – like gossamer.

I quickly lost patience – this was winding me up rather than helping me unwind. As I tugged them apart there seemed to be more roots left in the discarded compost than attached to the stems! There were some casualties but I ended up with over 30 seedlings, and despite enduring ill-treatment they’re looking remarkably happy in their new homes. These are not their forever homes of course – in a few weeks’ time, when Jack Frost has run out of energy, I’ll be able to plant them outside in my patio pots.

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  1. Hmmm. Full of admiration. I need to develop the patience for seeds and cuttings. I’m trying sweet peas for the first time and that’s about as fragile as I can handle.


  2. It really is a labour of love…like having many tiny charges to care for. I am always so amazed at how fragile they are but that they can survive being pulled up, pulled apart, and repotted. I’m going to look up the Laurentia plant now…


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