The seasons are changing again and the time is right to set in motion the birth of a multitude of wee babies.   The responsibility is huge.   I do it every year and each time I get better and better and the mortality rates are now at a more acceptable level.  They say practice makes perfect.

Now before you reach for the number for nearest authority… stay with me here, my babies are small and green and I give them life and nurture them until they are big and strong enough to cope in the real world.  I keep a watchful eye on them as they mature with the same care that I would if they were tiny, pink and cute!  The only difference is when my gorgeous boys reach a certain age I won’t be eating them.

Even before the tiny wee tendrils emerge from their seeds I go about the all-important nesting.  Their future home needs to be properly prepared to ensure they have a clean and safe environment to grow up in.  I fill the garden with loads of delicious treats for the plants – yummy things like manure and fertilizer and I remove nasty weeds that will steal the food from beneath their roots.  I make the soil all soft and fluffy because I know that is how they like it and I make sure they get the best spot in the whole yard so they can bask in all day sun. I also develop strategies to stop things from hurting my plants.  The frost, the neighbours cats and slugs and snails are no match for the fortress that only an overprotective mother can create!

Once I am satisfied their home will be the perfect place to raise my little green family I turn my attentions to the nursery.  This needs to be really clean.  Hygiene is so import with seedlings as they are so vulnerable to a range of diseases and health issues and I really want to give them the best start. So I scrub everything they will come in contact within an inch of its life.  Only the best for my babies.

Once they emerge, their demands for water are constant.  Little and often is so much better for them than an infrequent deluge.  The temperature of the water is also important, if it is too cold it will shock them, and if it is too hot it will burn them.  So I make sure they receive a lovely tepid watering when they need it.  I find myself checking on them regularly, sometime just to look and marvel at the wonder of them.

Like all babies they grow too fast and before you know it they have outgrown their seed leaves and developed their true leaves.  Their seedy smiles are now looking more like the plant they will grow into.  They begin to look less like babies and more like mini grown-ups.  Oh where does the time go?  They need to move up to the next size pot like a baby moving from a cradle to a cot.  A pot filled with nutritious potting mix, so they are no longer reliant on the sustenance from the seed and water alone.  They have been weaned from the seed raising mix.

Then in the blink of an eye they are standing tall and proud and ready to head out to the ‘big plant’ garden.   Although I do have to hold their hand as they get used to it, leaving them outside during the day and then at night bringing them back inside, into the warmth.  This allows them to harden up.  Like pre-schoolers off to kindy, learning what a life is like outside the safe place that is home and getting used to it.

Finally I find them out there in the real world on their own, and doing just fine.  I raised them from seed and kept them healthy and although they are still under my watchful care and I still feed them and tend to their needs, they don’t need me as much.  They are all grown up

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Sarah O’Neil lives on a small 3 acre lifestyle block. The family moved from the big city to the country in 2007. Sarah has published 3 books, including The Good Life, four glorious seasons in my country garden. She's also an award-winning blogger, winning a Yates Vegie Growing Challenge and still writes regularly. Visit Sarah’s website at sarahthegardener.co.nz.

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