A few months ago, while we were starting pepper, eggplant, and tomato seeds, my 6-year old really wanted to plant an apple seed. She said she wanted to grow an apple tree to plant in our community garden so she could eat apples anytime she wanted. I delayed her a few times, because I knew that 1) the seed wouldn’t germinate and 2) it wouldn’t just sprout a tree that would produce apples within six months.
Well, when we were starting a second round of plants this winter, she found an apple seed she had covertly saved from a few days back and asked if I could save a seed-starting cell for her apple tree. So she stuck it in some seed starting mix. And whaddayaknow, it sprouted within a week. I was shocked. Everything I’ve read about starting apples from seed says it’s not the best idea because 1) you don’t know what type of apples it will actually produce and 2) there is an elaborate process of scoring the seed, cold storage for several weeks or months, then planting in specific conditions.
She doesn't care which apple variety she produces, and did none of the horticultural requirements for success.
But it sprouted!
Her little apple seedling did great under the grow lights, and has since been transplanted to a magenta pot outside. The plan is to let it get bigger this year, and then plant it in a family member’s orchard next spring. If the apple tree survives long enough to produce apples – we know nothing of tending apple seedlings – it will be nothing short of a miracle.
Why was I so hesitant to plant the apple seed? A seed failing to germinate wasn’t going to send my kid into a tailspin of disappointment. And we could always try again.
I like to think that I encourage my kids to take reasonable risks. Usually I think of this as physical risks – jumping from stumps, hanging upside down on the monkey bars, or learning to use a carving knife. But taking educational risks are maybe even more important (and less likely to require stitches). This was a time where I failed at encouraging reasonable risk taking. (Luckily I was saved by my child’s persistence.) It’s ok to fail. It’s ok to have a science experiment fizzle instead of pop. It’s ok to have a vegetable fail to produce in the garden. Sometimes you can follow all of the rules and advice, and still not be successful. It's ok to have it be about the journey rather than the destination.