According to my mother, the last words uttered prior to me emerging into this world were “Oh shit.â€ As the story goes, my mother had been in labor for near 24 hours. The doctor and nurses where bamboozled. Â Â I was right there and I should have come out by now and, while my mother pushed and pushed and pushed and I did not appear to be showing any signs of life threatening stress, my mother was reaching the stage of complete exhaustion and talk of an emergency c-section was being considered. As a last measure, the doctor took another peek up my mother’s yoohoo and that was when he uttered the now family legendary famous words of “Oh shit.â€
The doctor had missed a very important detail. I was upside down. Babies ideally should be born head first and face down. The birth canal is designed to allow to slide a baby out when it is in this position. I was head first but face up, so all that time I had been hitting my head on my mother’s pelvis bone (which probably explains a lot about me today). The doctor immediately grabbed a pair or forceps (which according to my mother were HUGE) and gently popped me loose.
The point of this story is that sometimes a baby needs a little help to get into this world safely and it is no different for baby plants. Sometimes seedlings need a little extra TLC too to make it safely into our garden world.
As usual, I have planted several dozen cups of seedlings but this spring, I seem to have a pervasive issue among my seedlings and that is helmet head (which is very different from helmet hair, although aesthetically they look the same.) A high percentage of my seedlings this year have the seed coats stuck to the cotyledon leaves.
A quick search on the internet revealed a few different causes for this condition. Some people felt that the seeds had not been planted deep enough, others thought the seedlings had not been kept in high enough humidity, some people thought that this was caused by using old seeds while still others felt that this was a sign that the seedling was weak and should just be mercilessly thinned out.
In my case, I think the cause was a lack of humidity. This year I decided to try using a radiator as a source of bottom heat and had set the seedlings on a frame over the radiator. The seedlings came up quickly, but I do now wonder if the heat from the radiator dried out the air too much around them.
But whatever the reason, my little seedlings are in need of a little extra TLC. Interestingly enough, the most often suggested solution to this problem was spit. Apparently the enzymes in saliva help to break down the seed coatÂ and the sliminess of spit helps to lubricate it off.
Prior to learning this, I was gently pinching the seed coats and sliding them off. It works well enough but occasionally I pinch too hard and end up crushing the poor little seedling, which creates my own personal “oh shitâ€ moment. So, I will give the spit method a try.
Seedlings and babies all sometimes need a little extra care when making their way into the world. The trick is to pay attention to any potential problems, which saves everyone involved a whole lot of pain and labor.