(Host) Commentator Ron Krupp reflects on seeds and the season of renewal.
(Krupp) We’ve all heard of Johnny Appleseed born in 1774 in Leominster, Massachusetts. His real name was John Chapman. For 50 of his 75 years, he planted apple trees through the pioneer wilderness. He got the seeds from cider presses in Pennsylvania and carried them in canoes down the Ohio River and on his back to clearings in Ohio and Indiana. Most of the apples were pressed for cider, at the time our national drink.
In 1857, Wendelin Grimn emigrated from his home in Baden Germany to Carver County in Minnesota. He brought with him as a prized possession a few pounds of alfalfa seeds, which he planted on his 137-acre farm. Each year, Grimn saved and planted the seeds that survived and thrived in the cold climate. It did not occur to him that his work had scientific importance – he was just being a good farmer.
These two Americans experimented with the science of seeds. They played around with life itself. I also perform the annual ritual of sewing seeds right in my own home. I love to start many of my plants from seeds because it’s my way of taking part in the cycle of the year. I launch the new gardening season by rummaging through seeds saved from previous years. The tradition of perusing garden catalogs already took place in early winter. New seeds were ordered and arrived in the mail.
Seeds are alive but sleeping during the winter months. With moisture, light, warmth and a germinating mix, garden seeds awaken after a long rest. A seed is a miracle: it comes pre-packaged with a food supply and the vital genetic information it needs to grow properly. If you soak a bean seed in water for a day or two, then carefully open it up, you can see the young plant at one end of the seed. It will be tiny and delicate. You might notice the first few leaves as well as the small round pointed root. The rest of the seed contains stored food for the young plant.
C.P. Estes put it well in her poem, The Faithful Gardener:
“New Seed is faithful.
Its roots deepest
in the places
that are most empty.”
And Bill Cleary of Burlington writes in The Lively Garden Book:
“Yes, I will prepare the earth.
Yes, I will study its mysteries and test its possibilities.
Then, yes, I will choose seed,
set it on a promising place and its environs,
watering it above all, opening a way to the sun.
But only a midwife shall I be.
“It is the seed that grows,
it is the earth and sun that urge on
and feed its growing forces,
it is you, Divine Gardener, who gives it its purpose
And then ultimately draws it toward its fulfillment.
“Take these hands then, and put them to use
so that in the process of gardening
I myself may blossom anew.”
This is Ron Krupp, the Northern Gardener.
Ron Krupp is a gardener and author who lives near Lake Champlain on Shelburne Bay.