Faith in a Seed

“I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders.”

Henry David Thoreau

Just as Thoreau had faith in a seed, so do we here at New Moon Nursery. Each year, and many times throughout the year, we sow seeds. Millions of them, knowing full well that some of them will take more than a year in our care to go from dormant seed to thriving plant we are willing to send to you. We sow these seeds for plants that have already been ordered, we sow these seeds for plants we anticipate being ordered, and some seeds we sow just because they are pretty amazing and we want to see them grow.

Seed trays ready to be filled.

Seed trays ready to be filled.

When these seeds emerge, we wait a bit and transplant them into their final homes at New Moon, the deep plugs. These are eventually what will be sent out to you…if everything goes as planned.

We can all the faith in our seeds in the world, but sometimes things just don’t go as planned.

If only every seed would germinate.

If only every seed would germinate.

Besides faith we put a lot of effort into making sure our seeds grow so we have the plants you ordered:

  • We spend endless hours collecting seed locally ensuring freshness and knowing the source and handling intimately.
  • We monitor for pests taking appropriate actions when we notice a harmful insect or pesky rodent trying to undermine our seed growing efforts.
  • We pre-treat our seeds to simulate what would have happened to them were they left in nature… providing them cool damp conditions to replicate winter, or scoring the seed coat to mimic the path the seed may have take through a bird’s belly.
  • We monitor soil moisture, greenhouse humidity and soil temperature as the seeds germinate, adjusting daily and sometimes hourly to give these young plants the best start.
  • We provide proper soil mixtures customized to the growing conditions needed for the plants to thrive.

Maybe we even talk to them a little, sometimes we say “Grow Faster”, sometimes it’s “Slow Down!” and sometimes it’s “What happened?”

It is this “What happened?” that may have an influence on what ultimately ends up being shipped to you.

When growing seeds in this quantity, in this many greenhouses, in this climate we are presented with any number of challenges. The answer to “What Happened?” may include:

  • Mechanical failure allowed temperatures got too cold in the greenhouse overnight
  • Mice raided the seed trays at night, sprouts are health food for us and mice seem to like them too (not to mention how they like to invade the seed storage areas!)
  • A clog in an irrigation nozzle prohibited a tray (or few) from getting the proper amount of water at the proper time.
  • The winter was warmer than normal, or colder than normal, or cloudier than normal causing timing of the seed growing, maintenance and transplanting processes to be just a little off.
  • Plants we have overwintered in the greenhouses may experience many of the same problems, we often don’t know how much of a crop will be available until they start to show their green sprouts late winter, after many orders have already been placed.
Not all of these Phlox subulata plugs made it through the winter.

Not all of these Phlox subulata plugs made it through the winter.

For these reason and many more we haven’t even thought of yet, sometimes we do not have on hand the plants you have ordered. Sometimes we will substitute a suitable replacement expertly selected by our staff to meet the cultural and aesthetic requirements you may have. Sometimes we will have to ship a few flats later than anticipated.

When you call to inquire about the changes in your order, sometimes we are not available to answer the phone. Because we are a small family business we are often trying to be in many places at one time. We are trying to water flats, be in the right place at the right time to collect seeds, manage staff, pull orders, pack orders, maintain equipment, and sell plants all at the same time.

Sometimes we are trying to make room for orders that have been pushed back by the buyer. For many of the same reasons that may mean a delayed or absent crop in our greenhouse, sometimes a buyer cannot receive a shipment as planned. When a buyer pushes back their purchase our production must slow down. We do not have endless space (wouldn’t that be nice!), and plants are not able to be stored on shelves like so many ‘widgets’ in inventory. Until those deep plugs leave our property they are in our care and require constant monitoring, feeding and watering. In the meantime, until there is room for the next crop, we are in a holding pattern, until the buyer is ready to take their order.

A full greenhouse doesn't have much space for the next generation of plants.

The wonder of horticulture and the ecosystems in which our plants ultimately end up is their interdependence between climate, humans, animals and yes, even a little faith. We have faith in the seeds we grow and we have faith that you will provide a good home to these little plants we have put so much work into. We hope you have faith that the substitutions we have provided will work for your needs, that the plants you ordered that didn’t make into the first shipment will make it into the next and, yes, that we will return your phone call.

Despite all this, more often than not, plants like these Phlox stolonifera thrive.

Despite all the challenges, more often than not, everything, like these Phlox stolonifera, turns out just fine.

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