Do I get brownie or greenie points for starting small in the garden?

Starting small. Photo: Rashmee Roshan Lall

I’ve always thought it the height of luxury to be able to buy a slim paper packet with pretty pictures of deep red tomatoes, green striped cucamelons, yellow bursts of sunflowers. Inside, lie the seeds that might actually produce those beautiful fruit and flowers.


If you’re a good gardener.

Or lucky.

Or venturesome.

In the comforting words of Maggie Lee, long-time gardener in a big town in the American south, “I’ve killed more seeds than I’ve ever grown, but I buy a packet or two anyway. Maybe those tall red poppies will grow on my latest try?”

When sprouts appear – what you see in my photograph are the results from a sowing six days ago – the miracle of life is renewed.

Do I earn extra brownie points (in this case, greenie points) because many of those seedlings come from seeds  I saved myself, drying and popping them into a paper envelope to store in a cool, dry place?

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What you’re seeing are seedlings from home-dried seeds of American heritage tomatoes – Cherokee Purple and Yellow Pear – as well as Russian Giant sunflowers.

The Russians simply towered over everything in the garden, after which I left the flower heads to dry on the stem so the birds could peck off the seeds, while I saved a few myself. When the birds had finished with the huge circles of spent flower, they fell to the ground like valorous vanquished knights on a mediaeval battlefield. There, the squirrels and other small rodents found them, taking what they could or needed.

It’s in the garden every year that one truly realises the riches of starting small, with that product of the ripened ovule called a seed.

Seasons past in my garden. A yellow flower starts to turn into a Cherokee Purple tomato. Photo: Rashmee Roshan Lall

The first Cherokee Purple heritage tomato in my garden a couple years ago. Photo: Rashmee Roshan Lall