Claudia MacTeer's narration recounts a time in the fall of 1941. Her tone is trusting and warm as she takes us into her confidence. "Quiet as it's kept" means "Nobody talks about this — it's sort of a secret between us . . ." She seems to be confiding to us what was whispered about years ago.
Claudia remembers that no marigolds bloomed that fall, and she and her sister were consumed with worry about the safe delivery of Pecola's baby. In retrospect, nothing came from all their worries and hopes: No flowers bloomed, the baby died, and their innocence was lost forever.
The seeds and earth mentioned in this section are elements of nature that usually symbolize promise and hope, yet here they symbolize barrenness and hopelessness. The season when no marigolds bloomed parallels the deflowering of Pecola, who was raped by her father. His seed withered and died, as did Pecola's hungry soul as it became a mad, barren wasteland.
When Claudia says that Pecola's father dropped his seeds "in his own plot of black dirt," she exposes the very heart of Pecola's anguish. To the white world, Pecola is a "plot of black dirt," inferior because she is black. The figure of speech is darkly ironic, for black dirt is usually the richest of all, but the figurative "black dirt" of Pecola yields nothing.