City Slicker Seed Starting Mistakes

We've all made our fair share of seed starting mistakes, but this one is too good to let go without a story.

Seed starting mistakes. If you grow anything from seed, you’ve almost certainly made a few. In my case, I’ve started seeds too early, too late, outdoors when they should have been indoors and vise versa, and I’ve overwatered them. I’ve made some mistakes with moving the seedlings outside too soon. And I’ve made the mistake of thinking I had a few days before the rabbits discovered my freshly sprouted vegetables.

You can’t really garden without a few seed starting mistakes here and there. It happens. And most of the time, those mistakes are little more than a point of commiseration with a fellow gardener. Some mistakes, though, are just too good to let go. That’s the case with Janet R. Sady’s story, Where Are the Beets? 

Janet, who grew up in a family that always had a large vegetable garden, begins the story by introducing us to her “city-slicker-turned-country-boy husband.” As you might imagine, her husband has the best of intentions when it comes to helping out in the garden. He even has a favorite vegetable: red beets. As you also might imagine, a successful garden requires a bit more than just good intentions.

This story gave me a good laugh. And I learned something about starting seeds that definitely falls into the “what not to do” category. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Enjoy More Laughs From Gardening and Seed Starting Mistakes

This story comes from our archive that spans over 30 years, and includes more than 130 magazine issues of GreenPrints. Pieces like these that turn stories of gardening mishaps and mistakes into everyday life lessons always brighten up my day, and I hope this story does for you as well. Enjoy!

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Where Are the Beets?

By Janet R. Sady

My city-slicker-turned-country-boy husband tilled the Spring soil, and I planted the garden. We had just moved from Washington, D.C. to rural Pennsylvania so we could raise our family in a more secure environment.

We saved a row for one of my husband’s favorite vegetables—red beets. But I had forgotten to buy beet seeds. I asked him to pick up a packet at the local garden supply store on his way home from work. Then, since it looked like it was going to rain, he volunteered to plant the seeds while I fixed dinner.

When I was a child, my family always had a huge garden. My siblings and I had done a lot of weeding, so I had no trouble telling our sprouting vegetables from sprouting weeds. I began looking for the red beets and, sure enough, soon found green leaves with red veins pushing through the soil. The leaves were lighter green than I remembered—perhaps he had bought a new variety.

A few weeks later, I pulled up one of the plants, but didn’t find a little beet. I reasoned that I’d pulled it too soon.

After several weeks of watching the beautiful glossy beet leaves grow, I pulled another one. Again, no beets. I went to the garden shed and looked for the seed packet my husband had bought—it was Swiss chard!

The next year, I bought the beet seeds.

By Janet R. Sady, published originally in 2019, in GreenPrints Issue #117. Illustrated by Marilynne Roach

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What kind of seed starting mistakes have you made that you got a good chuckle from?


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