June 1, 2015

Small Wonders

Each year I plant vegetable seeds in the garden at their optimum times, preparing the soil for good growth. Each year I watch the bare ground for signs of germination, and each year without fail I get excited by the bits of green emerging. This loop of green is characteristic of beans when they germinate......

....and the seed itself rises above the soil, soon to show young leaves, while a root pushes into the ground.

Corn sends up furled green points that enlarge and become complex.

Parsnips have just germinated so are not showing their true frilled leaves yet....


....while carrots are farther along, so have some true leaves showing....

....as do the beets. But they are always recognizable by their red shoots.

This emergence, this growth, is all quite ordinary, but sometimes I stop to think about it and it truly amazes me: how is it that this tiny seed (Wikipedia has a wonderful article on the history and character of seeds) carries the information to become a particular large plant? (oh, I know it's DNA, but how remarkable!); how is it that a large plant begins here and with just water and the nutrients in the soil grows and grows, and in turn produces seed? Looked at it this way, life is a miracle, for animals as well as plants, each with their reproductive strategy. Sometimes I just can't comprehend it; it's too vast. It's no wonder that over millennia so much magic has surrounded life and growth.

Life is so persistent that plants come up unexpectedly, like this volunteer tomato plant. Its seed came from last year's tomatoes, fallen on the ground. It will never mature in time, so I weed out the volunteers. A weed is simply an unwanted plant, usually wild.

This dill seedling is another volunteer, but I'll allow this one to grow since it's in a convenient spot.

In a cultivated garden, we are always challenged by abundant life where we don't want it: here weeds and flowers––annual poppies, purslane, some kind of grass––growing alongside the leek. Their seeds were scattered last summer and fall, and with the spring warmth they've germinated. I allow some poppies to grow in other parts of the garden; their papery red blossoms are a joy. And I never have to plant their seeds, since they return each year, self-seeded time and time again. Some seeds have to be nursed along, others will burst forth robustly; all have small, undistinguished beginnings, but grow determinedly into their own plant character. How marvelous!


  1. Marvelous, hopeful post that grounds us square amidst Nature's miraculous cycles!

  2. Incredible miracles.
    A friend's wife's "special" plants are blooming right now...the huge foot-tall flowers put out a horrendous smell of rotting flesh, which attracts flies, which dissolve down in the well of the flower, as food.
    Takes all kinds.

  3. Thank you for your responses, all.