Real Men Sow

Looking after other people’s seedlings, and that point where you ‘know what you’re doing’

seedlingsI didn’t try very hard at school. Especially in maths and science (this is not clever kids). I used to get kicked out of maths quite a lot by Mrs Blackman.

Now, 17 odd years on and by the quirk of fate that comes from growing up in a small town, Mrs Blackman is my step-gran-in-law, and asking me to look after her tomato seedlings. If only I had known all those years ago that I’d be babysitting Mrs B’s seedlings, she might have just moved me to the front of the class, instead of making me stand in the corridor.

However, something far more significant is happening than crossing paths with old maths teachers in later life. Someone – a very wise, clued up and intelligent someone – is asking me to look after their seedlings.

Do I ‘Know What I’m Doing’?
Someone thinks I am capable of this important job. Like I might actually know what I’m doing.

I’ve never been trusted like this. I do sort of know what I’m doing. I grow things with reasonable success, but these are my own vegetables. I’ve never received confirmation that I might know what I’m doing.

This is a very odd feeling as well as a nice one. To be thought of as good at something is always agreeable, but truth be told, I’m only really coming to terms with vegetable growing myself. Then again, there is a confident boost to be had from another grower having enough faith in you to trust you with their precious seedlings.

Deciding at what stage you progressed from clueless beginner to knowing what you’re doing is also an interesting point. Growing in the garden, with my own greenhouse, I’m not relying on my mum to start seeds off so I reckon if I can get a decent crop this year I might well have made that step.

Still Scared…
However, I’ll level with you. I’m still scared about these seedlings.

It’s one thing killing your own seedlings because most of the things you do are guesswork, but trying not to kill someone else’s? That’s pressure.

Oh yes, I forgot to say that these seedlings are being grown by Mrs Blackman, for her friend, who says she can’t ever get them to grow. So if I mess up, there’s a whole disappointment chain.

Adding to this stressful situation is not really having anywhere suitable to put the plants. My windowsills are full up and the greenhouse nowhere near warm enough for these infant seedlings.

Little Examinations
For now, the seedlings are in my kitchen, on the side board next to our patio doors. They’ve been there a day now and seem comfortable. I’ll be keeping a hawk like eye on them for any complications.

As growers, we’re always facing little examinations of skill, experience and judgement and I always thought that veg growing tests would come in the form of things like combatting changing weather, new pests, poor soils, or finally getting that annually problematic crop to finally grow.

I never thought that the one I’d worry about most would be set by my old maths teacher!


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  1. NikkiMarch 30, 2013 at 8:54 pmReply

    That’s a very responsible job – its funny how things come round and paths recross! Fingers crossed but we know that won’t be necessary as you will step up to the mark and do a great job ! Happy Easter ! Ps I’m very envious of he prospect of all those seedlings waiting on the window sills. The cold has put me off sewing so far!

  2. AnonymousMarch 31, 2013 at 12:04 pmReply

    Oh I know how you feel! I’m looking after my neighbours seedlings for two weeks and the fear! He’s placed all his trust in me, the ‘expert’ and I have to deliver them all back in one piece! Already I’ve caught the dog walking over them when she snuck into the polytunnel and we’ve experienced sub zero night temps and soaring sunny days while he lounges in Tenerife. I’ll be so glad to hand them back!

  3. AdamMarch 31, 2013 at 7:22 pmReply

    I look forward to the day that ‘I know what I’m doing’. Not having to grab the veg growing book when any info is needed would pretty handy!

  4. Helen/patientgardenerApril 1, 2013 at 8:10 amReply

    Oh dear what a worry. I remember having to look after a friends hamster and it was a very stressful week. I feel I have enough responsibility in my life without having to worry about others seedlings, although my mother is going away soon and has already muttered about watering etc – gulp!

  5. EmmaApril 1, 2013 at 8:46 amReply

    I share your concern – I have two little chilli seedlings on my windowsill, which were left with me accidentally. I am not sure when I will be able to return them to their rightful owner! In the meantime, they are my responsibility! ;)

  6. elaineApril 2, 2013 at 7:22 amReply

    Oh dear – what a dilemma – just think positive – I am sure it will all turn out ok. If not you’ll just have to stand in the corner with a dunce’s cap on and take your punishment like a man!

  7. wellywomanApril 3, 2013 at 8:45 amReply

    :) I haven’t had to look after anyone else’s plants so far but I have asked others with much trepidation. It’s not something I like doing because I know there is a pressure that comes with it. The first time a friend has his dad staying who is very much of the spray plants with chemicals even if there aren’t any bugs on them. I had to leave instructions that no chemicals were to be used even if they spotted a greenfly. The second time another friend found some seedlings had been knobbled by slugs so doused them so liberally in slug pellets it was like a carpet of blue around each plant. I can understand how she felt though. I try not to give people the problem any more and would rather take my plants away with me. ;)

  8. Jono

    JonoApril 3, 2013 at 12:49 pmReplyAuthor

    Thanks for all your comments – they’ve both reassured and entertained me!

    Adam, from your blog you sound like you’re almost there already. :)

    I think I’d actually be more comfortable looking after someone’s pet rather than their seedlings!

    I have seen someone with a boot full of seedlings once, because they didn’t want to leave them for the week. I wasn’t into gardening at the point, so thought them nuts. I know different now. :)

  9. juliaJune 3, 2013 at 6:55 pmReply

    I once took a tray of globe artichoke seedlings with me on holiday – tomato seedlings too. I got some funny looks when unloading the car, but people were quite friendly about it!

    • Jono

      JonoJune 3, 2013 at 6:58 pmReplyAuthor

      haha, brilliant. A few years ago I remember seeing someone turn up at a friend’s house with a boot full of seedlings. Its only now I’m in to growing veg that I understand. :)

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About Real Men Sow

meIn 2007, I took on a redundant allotment plot with my gardening-mad mum Jan. As all good mums do, she went along with it, but I don’t think she held out much hope.

However, three years on, and she now lets me do stuff without watching over my shoulder, so I must be doing something right. [ read more ]

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