READING BETWEEN TWO LANES - Notes From The World of Two-Lane Livin'


By Lisa Hayes-Minney

Pardon the Plants Since we started sprouting our own plants for our garden and don't have a greenhouse, our home goes through a period in late winter, early spring when it is overcome by plant trays. Any flat surface near a window is likely to be covered in flat black trays of soil. Counters, shelves, tables - even the spare bed is blanketed with a heavy plastic tablecloth before being covered end to end in plastic trays of dirt.

Every morning, the trays need to be misted and watered, rotated around the light sources, and coddled. When the process first begins, this is a fairly easy process. But once we get close to 20 trays in four different locations, it becomes a rather time-consuming concept.

By the end of March, the days get warm enough to set the trays outside for some real sunlight and some exposure to outdoor elements. This extends the time consumed by these early sprouts and seeds. In addition to watering and coddling, each tray gets moved outside into the warmth in late morning, and moved back inside in early evening - one by one. In this phase, the trays consume space inside the porch door as well, moved that far inside the house, in assembly line fashion, at the end of each day.

Seed sprouts, even in such controlled conditions, are not guaranteed to survive. Dampening is a common problem, where the sprouts look healthy and fine one day, and fall over dying the next. Dampening is even more of a problem if you recycle seed trays and soil, as we do. But I learned this year that watering newly-planted seeds with strong, tepid Chamomile tea will help prevent it from happening.

In addition, without air movement to strengthen the new little stems, the sprouts can grow weak, and fall over. A fan blowing on them, and the daily rotation to face the light source a different way helps keep the stems sturdy and strong. Low levels of light will cause them to stretch high and lanky, desperate for light, which also makes them top heavy and tall also making them prone to fall over.

Some weak sprouts don't survive the introduction to outside elements. Too much sun exposure right off the bat can shock them; too much chill can shock them as well. The little seedlings are delicate, fragile new shoots of life, and they have to be eased into the world.

On average, we manage about an 85% success rate with our seeds. It's my fault really. After having trays all over the house and under foot for several weeks, I'm anxious to push the seedlings outside. I've wiped out entire trays with this one mistake. We cannot rush the growth of new life any more than we can rush the coming of spring.

Let's hope I have the patience this year to let both happen in their own sweet time.

Lisa Minney is publisher and editor of Two-Lane Livin' Magazine and updates regularly at

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