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May 25, 2011
And so it begins
Erin Etheridge  Burpee Home Gardens Guest Blogger

My plants arrived in a soggy box, thanks to one of those infamous April downpours. I took them to the kitchen, opened up the box, and let my precious seedlings absorb a little light through the glass sliding door. I may have also whispered a pep talk to them, like a football coach in a rebuilding year, talking to a roomful of rookies.

See, last year was a disaster of epic proportions. Well maybe not epic, but when I lost my tomatoes to late blight, I did everything in my power to overdramatize the situation, including officiating a funeral service and singing a Madonna song with a few key words changed to make it topical.

I figured my 3-year-old would be interested in the box o’ green since he enjoyed our short-lived season as gardeners last summer, but the dogs turned out to be more curious about the contents.

Ethan would get excited the next morning when we got to the transplanting stage—the part with the dirt and the earthworms from the compost heap. I’m not much of a critter person, but I accept the necessity and benefits of our underground brethren. We have a mutual-respect relationship, in other words, but I leave the touchy-feely aspect of compost retrieval to my kid and my husband, Noah.

The Garden Guide that came with the seedlings was a significant help. As an inexperienced gardener, I would have stressed about drainage issues (throw a couple layers of rock in the bottom of the containers), fertilization (mix a little bonemeal in with the soil for the peppers; acidic tomato feed can actually be used for all veggies), and watering (it’s best to water deeply—2 or 3 gallons at a time—but less frequently—every few days; a little too dry is better than a little too wet).

I’m a classic over-researcher when it comes to subjects I don’t know much about. As a result, I end up with an overabundance of information and little clue how to sift through it and come out with the gold. The Garden Guide gave me the gold and put me at ease.

Another smart tip? Top the containers with some hardwood mulch to protect the roots and regulate soil dampness. Oh! And I had no idea that you can plant a tomato seedling deeply—only leaving the top few leaves aboveground—and the plant will sprout an even stronger root system from the stems.

So far, so good.

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