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Transplanting: The beauty and strain of change

written by

Melissa Barth

posted on

April 23, 2024

With Spring fully underway, the seeds that some of us planted several weeks ago are now ready to be transplanted into their summer soil homes. 

Just as with starting seeds, I found the process of tending and transplanting baby plants held many parallels to everyday life. 

Let's start by reflecting on the tending of the seedlings in preparation for transplanting them. 

In full disclosure, this process was painfully educational for me. About midway through caring for my seedlings, I noticed they began to display signs of distress. 

While I was faithfully and plentifully watering them, they began to look dehydrated and I was at a total loss as to know why. (All of you experienced gardeners likely know where my error was.) Unfortunately, I didn't realize it until it was too late. It turns out that, while I was watering my baby plants from the top, they needed to be watered from beneath - by placing them in trays of water so that their root structures could be fully hydrated.

It was a novice mistake, but this gardening lesson made me think about my own life habits. I thought my plants were well watered because their soil moistened easily. Yet this moisture was only surface deep because at their roots my plants were drying out and dying.

It made me wonder if I ever do things to keep up a superficial facade which gives the appearance that I am thriving but in reality, my watering is only surface deep and my roots are drying out. Am I putting in the hard work to be truly strong and healthy at my "root" level? Or, are my convictions only skin deep in that I say I believe in things and would stand for them but when life gets hard (when the sun comes out and the temperatures rise), I lack the root nourishment and subsequent strength to walk consistently with my values.


Yet another life lesson from tending seedlings is to stop and ponder our actions when we do not get the results we desire
. When my plants started to die, I should have stopped to consider, sought counsel, and made a change. But I continued doing what was familiar - what was easy and comfortable. The way I was watering gave me the false sense that I was taking care of my plants. It checked the box and eased my mind, but it was not entirely what the plants needed. I am not a parent, so I want to be cautious about saying anything related to child-rearing, but perhaps it is easy to "top water" children (so that they look healthy in our social circles) while their roots are really drying up. It takes time, energy, and intentionality to know how to properly nourish young roots so that they can be prepared and strong enough to be transplanted into the next stage of life. 

Now for the transplanting! Transitions are hard. However, seedlings that have been properly cared for make the change just fine. And as many of us have experienced, even if they pout (wilt) for a short time they soon revive and flourish as their roots reach deeper and spread further. Is there a change in your life that you are apprehensive about? I get it. Change is hard. We get comfortable with where we are. But our tiny planter-cells will never allow us to live the life we were created to live. We will never reach our full potential unless we go through being transplanted (often multiple times throughout our lives). Most of us know what happens to baby plants when they stay in the tiny starter cells - they become root-bound and eventually die. Almost all analogies are imperfect, but perhaps some of us have experienced a type of "death" because we have not risked stepping into a new role, moving to a new area, or saying "yes" to a new opportunity. 

Tending Transplants
Photo credit - Joseph Tidwell, Polyface apprentice 2024

In closing, I hope you were blessed in some way by reading the confessions and reflections of a novice gardener. My hope is that you gleaned either practical advice or personal insights that you can apply to your current life.    

- Melissa

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