Planting Instructions

"Planting Instructions" was selected as a finalist in Money Chronicles: A Story Initiative, a national short story contest supported by Principal Foundation.

Image of Principal - 2023
Dig a hole the depth of your open palm. The hole needs to be this deep because coins are shiny, and crows like shiny things. Holes should be placed at least 12 inches apart, with three coins per hole. Fill the hole with soil and pack the earth down. Again, the crows. They are relentless and clever. If you had been either of those things, you would not have to try to grow your own money at home.
Plant at the first full moon in the fall, or any time you have money leftover after paying the rent. So, the full moon, then. Water that night, then water again in the morning. If you have a silver thumb, water and sunlight might be all you need. That and patience. If you have a gold thumb, cut your thumb off and use it for rent instead. You won't need any patience, just a high tolerance for pain.
Winters can be long. Even the crows fly away. Still, maintain your watering schedule.
With any luck, by the time spring comes, small shoots that look like antique knives will begin to break through the dirt. It works the same way as the bean you planted in kindergarten: the root goes down and the shoot goes up. The first leaves of those bean plant were the cotyledons, or seed leaves. They provided food and nutrients to the growing bean. The first leaves that come from your planted coins will emerge on an April afternoon. They will be the color of smoke and should feel like hope between your fingers.
Then, harvest more patience. It will be several months until your plant begins to blossom and bear fruit. To pass the time, whistle. Compare notes with your friends who are growing money in their backyards. Compare the notes you're whistling. Are you a little sharp? Are the growing seedlings demanding Mozart's "Queen of the Night" aria, or can they make do with "Don't Worry, Be Happy"?
Check your soil pH. Read books about how to grow your money, and watch documentaries on the gardening channel. In the afternoons, they show the time lapse ones with inspiring soundtracks, where the soft first leaves unfurl into dollar bills, the cloudlike blossoms break out of their buds. Pollinators flicker across the screen so quickly that it is almost as if you've imagined them.
Late at night is when the gardening channel broadcasts the shows that leave you feeling defeated. Gardens decimated by unseasonable rainstorms, withered by drought. There are greedy deer, greedy snails, greedy neighbors. Locusts—you hadn't even considered those. All of these pests are interspersed with shots of people with their hands on their foreheads, their palms covering their eyes. Crouched over on the ground and wailing.
Things always look better in the morning. It's not that you've slept well, but it's the angle of the sun and the dew on your growing plant and the way a spider has built its web on a small hedge just next to your garden plot, as if it wants to help. But what about the pollinators? Brush down the spider web with a broom, and then apologize to the spider: it doesn't realize how important this is. Spiders don't need money. At least, no one knows if they do.
The shoots grow up, the roots grow down. You will see more leaves appear, but don't pick them yet. At first, the plant will only produce ones and fives. A rare few will sprout two-dollar bills. While not worth much on their own, these are collectors' items. Once the plant fruits, you can save the seeds and propagate for trade shows. Seeding crops at intervals of two weeks or more can allow the patient gardener to collect some leaves if needed while waiting for other plants to reach their peak.
Let the plant mature through summer at least. The blossoms will slowly be replaced by hard green marbles of fruit. In the fall, the plant will come into its full fruiting. Again, patience is key. While some appreciate the value of the early fruits, subsequent fruitings are more plentiful, and the mature fruit takes on a sunset hue. You've seen it in the documentaries: fruits as big as softballs that crack open to reveal gleaming seeds in platinum and rose gold. 
Save a few seeds from your most productive plants for the next season. Compare notes with your friends. Whistle together as you harvest your money. Pay your landlord. If your friends' plants haven't grown as well, slip a few seeds into their garden when they're not looking. Watch out for the crows.

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