Diagnosis Confirmed: Thinning Problem

Before you call Rogaine or sign me up for the Hair Club for Men as a special exception, let me clarify.

I knew this diagnosis was coming.  It was just a matter of time before I would display any symptoms.  When they finally showed up, they were more painful than I could have ever expected.

You see, I’ve found that I have a problem with ‘thinning’ the seedlings that have just sprouted in my vegetable garden.  To date, I have followed the instructions on the seed packets very carefully.  I diligently planted the seeds evenly (spaced with almost ruler precision if instructed), covered them with ¼” of fine soil and tamped it down carefully.  Just as the seed packets had instructed.

My beautiful (albeit DENSE) row of newly sprouted radishes!

However, now they are instructing me to ‘thin’ my seedlings as they reach 1” in height.

And it is painful.  I almost can’t bring myself to pull their little green sprouts from the rows.  They lived too, you know.  They worked hard and sprouted just like the others, why do they have to lose their hard-earned spot in my row of vegetables?

Why can’t they all just live and produce beautiful vegetables in my garden?   I know the obvious answer to that.  If I want my radishes to have any sort of radish root, I understand why it is I need to be thinning them out.  But that doesn’t make this task any easier.

Peas!

As I knelt down to carefully inspect them, I found myself comparing them like a judge at the county fair:

“This one has a notched leaf.  This one is smaller.  This one lacks uniformity.  This one isn’t quite as strong and green.  This one is not in the straight line of my row.” 

It worked for awhile, this thinning by what I’ll call “Natural Selection according to KT.”  But soon, I couldn’t see any differences in my beloved little sprouts.  They were all equally strong and equally green with equally perfect leaves.  I was quickly left with only the strong, and the picking became decidedly more difficult.  And I had made it about an eighth of the way across one row.

This ‘thinning’ project was definitely going to take longer than I had expected.

I also have to admit that it felt a little disconcerting to be that deciding hand, the final authority judging my poor little surviving sprouts, the ones I had so lovingly planted.  The ones that had made my heart skip with joy when I saw them first sprout delicately out of the garden soil.  Having the ability to grant life, and decide death wound up being a little harder than I expected.  And we’re just talking about radish seedlings here, folks.

Are there things in your life that need to be thinned, like my row of multiplying radish sprouts?  Sometimes it’s not easy to part with things.  Especially those things that you’ve toiled with, that you’ve fought for, that you’ve grown, encouraged and protected.  Emotions like pride and a sense of accomplishment can hold us back from the ‘thinning’ that’s necessary.  Without a little ‘thinning’ here and there, we are allowing those things to take over, pushing the other things in our lives aside.  By letting them sprout and prosper are we allowing them to eventually take over in the gardens of our lives?

‘Thinning’ is difficult, tedious work.  But just like my baby radishes that will swell and thrive with the new room for their roots, you may find that you are granting a little more space for the good in your life.  You might be giving your hopes and dreams just the room they need to take root and provide you with a bountiful harvest.

My darling row of radishes: BEFORE.

My darling row of radishes: AFTER (I think I made a little progress, don’t you? Now just another inch to go between them!)

Needless to say, my first attempt at thinning, didn’t go as easily as instructed on the seed packets.

Maybe it will just take a few more attempts by this amateur vegetable gardener.  Pulling a few more spry sprouts out at a time, until one day, my row will look like it has finally been thinned to perfection.  Let’s just hope I get the job done by July.  In the meantime, I’ll be poring over their little forms, looking for any slight bend, weak leaf, or yellowing stem.

The Place Where One Thing Leads to Another

It started with just the seed of an idea.  The mere thought that maybe I would like to try my hand at vegetable gardening – this being inspired by just recently discovering the tastiness of fresh kale. And an inspirational article in Country Gardens about a young lady who began a garden basket program that provides fresh, heirloom produce for her community.

The wheels were turning, albeit slowly and unpersuasively.  I just wasn’t sure.  My “friends”, the deer, would no doubt appreciate my efforts, enjoying my newly sprouted delicacies in the dark of night.  I’m crushed when I wake up to rose buds sheared off, imagine how I’d feel if I lost an entire row of ruffled lettuce, or worse . . . a just-ripening squash with a single deer bite taken right out of its perfect middle?

More than just these fears was the bigger question:   Was I even CAPABLE of growing vegetables?  Indoor houseplants have long been banned from within my house.   I can hear your gasps now.  Somehow, I fall victim to the over-watering trap, I preen on them too much, water too frequently and apparently drown them in my overzealousness.  So the question remains there in the back of my mind, will I even be able to get these tiny seeds to grow and eventually produce things I can eat?

As these questions circled around my mind, and as I was still “researching” (and by researching, I mean: attempting to talk myself into just trying a vegetable garden) my father showed up at my house with six heavy planks of wood and a plan.  Thank goodness for dads and plans.  Before I even had another minute to talk myself OUT of it, we were measuring and cutting, the sawdust was flying.

What had started as simply an idea to buy a pre-fabricated raised bed cheaply online, had now turned into a full-fledged DIY, Pinterest-worthy project.  There were ninety degree metal plates to measure, cut, and then grind.  Then there were holes to drill in the metal pieces with a drill press. (And YES, I do know what a drill press is now and how to properly use one!)

There was even concrete to pour!  Suddenly my little idea had become a little disconcertingly permanent!  There were holes to be drilled in the wood, bolts to be tightened, and even a level was making frequent appearances.  Heck, it’s probably a good thing my Dad DIDN’T know the very un-perfectionistic plan I had in my mind to begin with!  Believe me, it probably wasn’t going to be level, I know that!

After my now-perfectly-constructed raised beds took shape, there was topsoil and compost to bring in.  And then gravel to lay in next to them.  And a fence to construct to keep my “friends”, the deer, out.

But I can’t blame all this on my Dad.  I started adding things to the once-little, raised garden bed idea too.  Suddenly, a few vintage, rusted culverts seemed like they would be the perfect spots for herbs.  And the side of the old shed, seemed like the perfect canvas for a little artistic creativity.

Our lives sometimes lead from one project to another, without much time in between to relish in the blessings of the here and now.  But isn’t life really about a series of do-it-yourself improvement projects both within and around ourselves?  There’s not always a professional to call.  Sometimes it just takes sweat, a little elbow grease and a small spark of an idea to prompt a change.  Every day is a new chance to embark upon a DIY project in our lives.  To do what we want to do, to give what we can give, to help how we can help and to change those things that need to be changed.  There’s still time to transform your life, to create something new while having the powerful ability to remember the “before” pictures.  As difficult as they may be to look at, they will be there always, telling us where we’ve been and reminding us just how far we’ve come.

In your life, too, one thing will probably lead to another and another.  Each day will probably give you something new to work on.  But with the hope of the “after” picture in our minds, these daily, internal DIY makeovers are possible.

Finally, a few days ago, I stood looking proudly over our hard work and feeling excited about the possibilities (and being finished.)  That’s when my Dad showed up.

Next on the to-do list?  Trenching a brand new water line to my garden area.   My mind instantly began swirling with future calls for line locates, trenching machines, a dug up driveway, orange water pipe and the dream that I could have a water faucet right there IN my garden, no green, kinked hoses necessary!

And so, this is the story of how one thing led to another, and another, until I ended up with something that perfectly completed my backyard.

Now, for the hard part . . .getting these veggies to grow.