The Absentee Gardeners

By Lise Jenkins and Kit Flynn - For The Tribune
Basil with healthy roots grown in Click and Grow. - Lise Jenkins

There are two gardening feats that defeat me: I cannot grow echinacea and I’ve had horrible experiences trying to turn seeds into usable plants. When the echinacea genes were passed out, I was overlooked — my scraggly plants bear no resemblance to the lovely, thick clumps most gardeners produce. As for germinating seeds, I can get them to germinate but I always manage to lose them between the baby and teenage stages.

All this is very frustrating because every spring I search in vain for the wonderful African marigold known as “Whopper.” Before you say, “Ho hum, marigolds, really?,” let me assure you that this annual is an eye stopper. It’s an annual that lives boldly up to its name.

The only way to get “Whopper” is by ordering the seeds from Parks Seeds, who holds the copyright, patent, or whatever it is that prevents other vendors from growing it and selling it on their own. Last year I managed to have 12 seeds germinate and they grew two inches in the course of three months — and then stopped. They didn’t exactly die, but they didn’t exactly live either.

However, help is on the way. I’ve been introduced to Click and Grow ( This Estonian designed, seed sprouting gadget is the answer to my seed dreams. It’s tidy, it’s idiot proof, and it’s a handsome addition to my kitchen window.

When it arrives, it will contain three seed plugs: Mine consisted of basil but I could have chosen other herbs and even tomatoes. All you have to do is to fill the container with water (a bouncing bar will inform you when it’s full), and plug it in to the wall socket. Automatically, a light set for 16 hours will come on. You don’t like these particular 16 hours? Never fear, pull out the plug and put it back in when you want the 16 hours to begin. This is the one timed appliance that won’t drive you crazy when we go back on Daylight Saving Time.

Once the seedlings have touched the top of the small domes on top of the plugs, remove them and watch your babies grow. The arm holding the light comes with two extensions to cope with your gawky teenagers.

Growing plants from seeds is so basic to life — and it’s a thrill when it happens before your very eyes. It brings out the mother hen in me. In fact, when a friend mentioned casually that it will come in handy to have some basil available for the plucking, I looked at her in horror. The simple truth is this: I don’t eat my children.

So where does that aforementioned marigold “Whopper” come into play here? I have purchased nine seedless plugs and will gently add a “Whopper” seed to each of them. I plan to do this in February, figuring it will take about three months to get the plants to the size where I can transplant them outside. With the two Click and Grows (one holding three plugs, the other six), I figure nine “Whoppers” will sate my thirst for this African marigold.

I know some of you reading this article are shaking your heads because you can easily grow 24, 50, or even 75 seedlings into sturdy plants. And, I bet you can grow echinacea. This article, dear reader, is for those who lack the seed-germinating gene. As for growing echinacea, I’m sorry but I cannot be of any help.

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Basil with healthy roots grown in Click and Grow. with healthy roots grown in Click and Grow. Lise Jenkins
Conquering the seed problem

By Lise Jenkins and Kit Flynn

For The Tribune