|An ad in the Yonkers Herald Statesman [PDF], March 30, 1961|
1962-3 was a stressful year for our family, full of upsets and changes. We’d moved again. Ten times in my ten (and Sarah’s seven and a half) years. But somehow, that spring, this pair of rootless sisters became owners of a Punch ‘n Gro.
Shaped like an ice cube tray, each Punch ‘n Gro came pre-filled with soil, with seeds stuck to the lid. Sarah’s were marigold; mine, tomato. She remembers how we punched the seeds into the soil with a pencil. The clear lid then flipped to become a dome.
We watered and waited, our trays set on bright windowsills in our flat’s always-chilly sunporch.
And slowly the magic began.
Out of the dirt in each tray, like slow-motion synchronized swimmers breaking the surface and spreading arms wide, came the twin leaves of tiny plants.
|Ten-year-old Helen, seed starter|
How quickly they reached the tops of the lids! And never failed to lean towards the light, even when we turned the trays to keep the stems straight. A new set of leaves would unfold from the tips as the plants built themselves, layer by layer. When brushed, the leaves would smell like green.
Whether tomatoes were harvested or flowers picked, I can’t recall. Our parents did have a huge vegetable garden that year, and I assume took over when our plantlets got to the stage for potting-on.
Yet, to this day, seeing new leaves push through the soil to open in a ta-da! of fresh green seems like something of a miracle. Even baby weeds inspire a twinge of admiration – before I yank them out.
Can one experience turn you into a gardener? I only know, in my life, this was one of the seeds sown.