The penultimate move. The tomatoes and the tomatillos were beginning to look like redwoods, towering out of their 4" pots, dusting the bulbs of the gro-lights suspended above them. Healthy, by all appearance, and aching skyward, the conclusion was unavoidable that the time had arrived for one last staging move. Steve had alerted me weeks ago to the need for multiple moves. It wouldn't be so easy as to poke a seed into some potting soil, water every now and then, and wait for the eventual day the weather permitted their relocation to the garden. There would be stages, each of which would require its own particular attention and intervention. Like any childhood, I suppose, each phase has its own work to accomplish -- crawling, walking, speaking, exploring, rebelling, until finally, if those prior phases have been worked well, thriving in maturity and bearing some kind of fruit. At this stage of my horticultural parenting, I can yet still only dream about the fruit. And I suspect I still have some rebellion to which I can look forward. But the little stems that once were tiny seeds are steadily growing up. They may not yet have reached adulthood, but are well into adolescence. "Sunrise; sunset..."
It was that "up" part that was preoccupying me. Having transplanted them once already, and with a few weeks still before the actual garden, it was time to make that penultimate move. To maximize root development, they needed more soil, which meant they needed a deeper setting, which meant they needed a taller nest. Large drinking cups were the appropriate solution, but a pass through Costco and Target left us empty handed. What we needed, it suddenly dawned on us, were some of those "generous" drinking cups that convenience stores offer. But we needed something like a dozen of the cups, and on this particular Sunday afternoon we weren't really quite that thirsty. Nevertheless, we pulled into a parking space at the nearest Kum and Go and, with our best "the worst they can do is say no" lack of inhibition, we scouted out the options near the beverage fountain, and approached the cashier. Wisely, I let Lori do the talking. "We are working on this gardening project," she began, "and we need to transplant our tomato seedlings into something larger. What would it cost to buy a dozen or so of these empty cups?"
"Well," the obviously flummoxed, but customer-centered employee responded, "probably nothing." With that, he proceeded to the beverage area, opened a cabinet and counted out 12 empty cups. Twelve 44 oz cups. Now we are talking "root capacity!" We positively giggled all the way home.
Now successfully rearranged and no doubt curiously getting acquainted with their new digs, the seedlings -- along with the rest of us -- are anxiously awaiting bona fide spring when roots can sink themselves into genuine soil, and reach legitimately toward the sky and not merely toward the ceiling. Maybe it is only natural that garden planting and graduations happen around the same time of year.
In the meantime, grow little roots. There are yet a few weeks to go. Eventually and surely the storms will come and the winds will blow and the predators will come and nibble at your leaves -- and worse. So grow -- grow deep. Soon enough you are going to need all the strength and nourishment you can provide.