The Well-Traveled Tomato Seeds

toms!By Patricia Zick @PCZick

We recently flew to Florida for a working vacation. When I put my large suitcase on the scales, it weighed in at sixty-one pounds.

“Either lighten the load or pay $90,” the airline agent said.

My husband went for the zipper of my suitcase. He pulled out four ping-pong paddles.

“Why are you taking those?” I asked.

“Because there’s a ping-pong table at the conference, but they have lousy paddles,” he said. He put the paddles in his briefcase — work-related materials. He lost at ping-pong last year when he played with a colleague, and for an entire year, blamed it on the hotel’s paddles.

Next, he pulled out a bulky plastic bag I hadn’t packed.

“My golf shoes wouldn’t fit in my suitcase,” he said. Those he squeezed into my briefcase. Another work-related item because his boss asked him to play golf. “You can rent clubs, but not shoes,” he told me as the scales announced we’d removed six pounds.

“Got to get rid of a few more things,” the agent said as I wondered how I’d manage to haul my now bulging briefcase.

My husband wasn’t finished. He pulled out a Tupperware container filled with packages of seeds and folded paper towels. Then he fished around some more and found Lleweylln’s 2013 Moon Sign Book, which contains a gardening guide for “conscious living by the cycles of the moon.”

“I need to start tomato seeds while we’re gone,” he said.

Even while traveling, the garden manages to come with us.

During the second quarter of February’s moon on February 22, 2013, my husband went into the bathroom of our hotel room  and layered damp paper towel sheets (the thinnest and cheapest kind of paper towel — that’s why he travels with them) over sprinklings of tomato seeds.

tomato seeds sprouting - from Florida to Colorado to Pennsylvania
tomato seeds sprouting – from Florida to Colorado to Pennsylvania

He usually starts them closer to March 1, but he believes in following the cycle of the moon for all phases of the planting stage, and this year that occurred in the third week of February. Who’s to argue with him? He’s been gardening for forty years with great success.

Robert's Garden 2012
Robert’s Garden 2012

“I like to start fruits with seeds during the second quarter,” he told me. “I’ll start some more during March’s second quarter so they’re not all coming in at once.”


The Moon Sign Book quotes Lao Tzu for the week of February 17-23: “He who knows others is wise; he who knows himself is enlightened.” My husband knows himself, as well as knowing all he grows.

I remained in Florida when he flew to Denver for another conference. Guess what he took with him? That’s right, the container with tomato seeds beginning to sprout. A few days ago, he flew home to Pittsburgh where the container now rests in our bedroom on a dresser.

Maybe we can enter this year’s crop of tomatoes in the “Most Traveled Vegetable Seed” contest, if there is one. Let’s hope the tomatoes win because the golf and ping-pong matches didn’t fare so well, despite my husband’s best smuggling efforts, using my suitcase.

The seedlings went into small pots on March 2 and sit under grow lights along with onions, parsley, and lettuce.

Real Local Food - tomatoes ripening on the vine
Real Local Food – tomatoes ripening on the vine

Soon he’ll start spinach seeds. They only take three weeks to a month before they’re ready to go into the ground. He likes to start those seeds during the first quarter, which begins March 11. Again, he’ll start them in batches so we have spinach until the summer heat makes them bolt. I love having extra spinach to freeze (see my post on preserving spinach). We’re still eating it once a week and have enough to last until we can eat it fresh again.

Spinach 2012
Spinach 2012




That’s the gardening news from western Pennsylvania. What’s going on with your garden right now?


Published by P. C. Zick

I write. It's as simple and as complicated as that. Storytelling creates our cultural legacy.

15 thoughts on “The Well-Traveled Tomato Seeds

  1. That is hilarious! I can only imagine what was going through the airline agent’s head (though I’m sure they’ve seen stranger things come out of suitcases!) I’m a little more haphazard with my seed starting schedule, but you’re right, you can’t argue with 40 years of gardening experience.


    1. Hi Kate, Last year they pulled them out of his carry-on bag and they just looked at them oddly. And put them back in bag without question. I was holding my breath!


  2. This is a funny post – I got a few good laughs. Spring must be on everybody’s mind because I’ve got a tomato post coming up shortly too! I already started looking through seeds at Menards. They didn’t have any artichoke seeds. The only ones I’ve seen so far are online and have shipping fees that are too expensive. I might do it anyway but I just have the feeling that the seeds won’t be successful for whatever reason. Maybe I need to take them on a trip. It seems that seeds perform better when given a “vacation.” I give a lot of credit to your husband for his seed starting diligence! Bravo!


    1. It’s always great when I can make someone laugh. You’re the second person today so I must be on a roll. I look forward to the tomato post and to your experiment with artichokes. I don’t even know how to cook them. I have to admit, Robert amazed and shocked me in the beginning of our marriage with his dedication, but now I’m beginning to see the the benefits – good food and fodder for my blog.


      1. The only thing that stops me from writing a post about artichokes is that I can’t find the tender artichokes that I used to buy. They’re all tough! Even the heart of the artichoke is sometimes not tender as it should be. It’s very disappointing to me because I am a huge artichoke lover and have cooked them many ways although my favorite way is stuffed with breadcrumbs. I will do a search online to see if I can find a strain of artichokes that say tender or something like that. I used to be able to buy the thornless ones too. Now, good luck finding those too. Thanks for reminding me about the artichokes. Life is too short to go without them, at least in my world! : – )


  3. Hi P.C.,
    I am behind on my tomato seed planting. Opened my package of seeds and found nothing. My new seeds are being shipped to me, but they still won’t be as well traveled as your husband’s seeds.


  4. I start my first seeds tomorrow, but we still have snow on the ground here in Idaho. I am so excited, though, I have been wanting to start seeds for a month now but I made myself wait — we still have 3 months to last frost date as it is!

    Artichokes — I love them, and they are so tough from the store, I agree. I grew my own 2 years ago, and they were all tiny, but so yummy and tender. I didn’t grow them last year (last year was crazy and I had a really small garden) and I really missed them. I’m looking forward to growing them this year!

    And the post was hilarious!


    1. Lizbeth – three months to last frost! Wow – I thought it was bad here. I’m very curious about the artichokes so I hope you ‘ll keep us posted. We are going to try fennel for the first time this year. I hope it tastes like the fennel I had in Italy – we roasted it with chicken and carrots. Yum. Thanks for sharing your gardening status. And my husband is dedicated to his plants and sometimes it takes some pretty funny turns.


      1. I’ll keep you updated on the artichokes — they’re tricky here because they grow fairly quickly but they can’t go outside then because it is so cold — I’m trying a new system for putting plants outside early this year so we’ll see how it goes.


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