LAST NIGHT I ASKED Mimi if our new seed rack had come into the garden center. I am ready to plant carrots and some other fall and winter leafy greens. For the last 60 years Green Oak and Garden Works has received our seed racks from Ferry Morse Seed Company twice a year. After that long it has just become so regular it’s part of our annual change of seasons. The spring seed display full of seed packets that are grown in the spring and summer months shows up in February and the fall and winter seeds show up around July or August.
All we have to do is fold the display rack at the hinges with the unsold seeds inside, tape it shut and notify UPS that we have a pick-up. When the box arrives at Ferry Morse, they count the seed packs and charge us only for what has been sold out of there. Soon after that our new box arrives with the new season's seeds. We cut the tape, unfold the box and set it on its handy wire rack made specifically for that box display. Pretty smart business model, anything that a company can do to make it easy on the buyer of that department is much appreciated.
We buy and sell seeds from other compa- nies that are harder to find or have cool packaging or attention-grabbing displays. Most of the other seed companies don’t offer that easy order system but we don’t always get exactly what we wish for from
Ferry Morse, just the basics.
It turns out that far more people are interested in the basics when it comes to seeds; plus, they are less expensive than the bou- tique seed companies. Sowing seeds has made a comeback over the last few years. I can remember over the years seeing seed sales go way down to way up as trends change. When just about anything in the basic category became available in the form of starter plants gardeners went for that route since the hard part has been done. The gardener can wait for the perfect planting dates to arrive and for the weekend they have carved out some time to get their garden planted.
Planting your garden using seeds is fun and usually more varied but takes some very careful planning. The seeds have to be planted in a snug and warm, well-lit place usually weeks before the last frost date and there is not much leeway as far as planting them as soon as they are ready to come out of their cell trays. If we have an unusually late frost date the seedlings have to be held back until things get right, a lot of work and worry and care can go down the drain really quickly. I don’t mean to dissuade anyone from growing seedlings, I’m pointing out that some homework and some preparedness has to be done to be successful. I plant some seeds in cell trays if I know there is no way I’ll find those plants in a garden center or if there are certain plants I want for a specific date.
I also plant seeds that can be planted directly in the ground instead of in a cell tray in a greenhouse. Those plants that come from seeds planted directly in the ground and have been properly thinned out and spaced out so they can grow to their potential are usually the strongest plants in the garden.
When I was in the 10th grade I called Ferry Morse to see what kind of jobs they had available. I took a job that sounded like a great way to work a summer away doing what I love. Their headquarters is in Kentucky. I got myself up there and met the other 12 people around my age, mostly a little older who would be the people I would be working and traveling with for the next few months. We got briefed on our
jobs then we were handed our keys to our vans we each drove. From Kentucky we caravanned to South Carolina.
Our job was to go to every place in the state that carried the seed racks. We would introduce our- selves to the manager of the garden center or drug store or hardware store and tell them what we were there to do then hurry off to get it done.
At each seed rack we would physically count each packet under each category and fill out a form that the manager would sign and keep as an invoice and the duplicate would go inside the folded seed rack. We had a way to tie the box off and the materiAl’s to prepare it for shipping. The better we got at it the speedier we got. We learned to count the packets super-fast, get it packaged right there in the store and boogie out of there as fast as we could. The faster we got at it the more money we made. At the end of the day we would go to a shipping place and send our 10 -12 boxes each back to Kentucky where they would sort things out.
THE REAL FUN PART was that Ferry Morse gave us each $22 a day per diem. That was to handle hotel and food for each day. This group of people who I was working with were all into saving as much per diem money that we could. We were not allowed to work on weekends since those were usually the busiest days for those stores and they didn’t want us in there blocking things up. That meant the more money we saved the bigger our weekends could be.
We would get two hotel rooms and take shifts sleeping in a bed or on the floor. We would buy loaves of bread and sandwich meat for our meals. The best part was that we didn’t have one person in the group who wasn’t into saving up as much as possible for the weekend. I would have expected there to be at least one who refused to play musical beds for a few months, but we got lucky to have everyone play along. We had a blast. We would try to maneuver ourselves towards the coastal regions for the weekends whenever we could.
I remember how beautiful South Carolina was. I never went back until it
was time to help Mia move up there decades later. When we got finished with South Carolina we still had plenty of summer left, so we were told to go knock out the state of Florida, I thought I was dreaming. Twelve of us travelling the entire coastline of Florida including Miami and being told that it was against the rules to work on weekends. We went into deep money-saving mode and had some great times every day, but the weekends were special. We didn’t try to hang on to any of the per diem money from each week's savings. We blew it all in a new town every night.
Our pay was accumulating in a bank account back in Kentucky. We couldn’t get our hands on it until the summer job was over or if you quit. I had to pinch myself sometimes. At that age there’s not many ways to spend a summer job money. When we finished Florida, we had enough time to do parts of Georgia before it was time to get our vans and ourselves back to Kentucky to turn our keys in and pick up our paychecks. At the end of the summer I had accumulated more than I would have if I would have had a chance to spend it on a weekly basis.
That was a fun summer and I will always remember the countless places I got to go into. I saw a lot of garden centers. I don’t think at the time it made much of a difference to me but, as usual, later in life the things I saw and experienced were influential in the way we have run our garden center. It goes to show, you don’t ever know, the things that you allow yourself to do going outside the norms of today and your own comfort zone can be very valuable in ways that you just can’t guess.
Just me asking Mimi if the carrot seeds came in last night led to me having yet one more weekly article to bore you with. I had forgotten about that summer job. It is fun to reach down deep and remember some of the things and places I have blindly sauntered right into. It helped to have supportive parents who trusted in the wind we would all make it home safely from some of the non-traditional escapades that me and my siblings lived. Hope everyone is loving this wonderful fall that Mississippi is handing us this year.