Thursday, May 2, 2013

How Does Your Garden Grow?



It has long been a dream of mine to have an awesome vegetable garden. Unfortunately, it has also long been a reality that I don’t actually have a yard. So, instead of vegetables I’ve kept house plants, and compromised by going to the local farmer’s market often during the summer months to stock up on fresh produce.

This winter, I approached my landlord and asked if I could dig up a part of the yard for a small garden. He was hesitant to say yes (for good reason, I know), but instead provided me with several containers I could use for growing plants. So I went to the library to look for books on how to grow vegetables in pots. Unfortunately, all I found were books about how to make your plants look good in various containers, and very little about having your indoor/porch garden be functional. Honestly, I don’t care how it looks, I just want to be able to eat it.

D and I spent several months reading gardening books (me), searching for advice on the internet (him), and discussing our dream garden. We made several lists of what grows well in pots. For my birthday, he gave me several new containers to use to start our garden. And then, the entire month of April came and went, and I still hadn’t started anything. So last weekend, armed with my lists, I headed out to Lowe’s to see about getting started.

Now, here is where all of my best intentions fly out the window. I will spend days/weeks/months researching something and coming up with a game plan, but when it’s time to act on it, I tend to just wing it. This is exactly what happened when I got to Lowe’s. After a leisurely stroll down the lighting aisle (Samantha’s favorite), and the countertop aisle (daydreaming about having my own cupcake kitchen), we headed out to see what seedlings were available. My list, incidentally, was tucked into my back pocket. It might be no surprise to you that it stayed there the entire time.

The selection was absolutely amazing… if you wanted tomatoes. I had no idea there were so many varieties of tomatoes! Over one third of the vegetable selection was tomatoes (okay, I know, tomatoes are a fruit, thanks for pointing that out.) The other third was varieties of cabbage. This narrowed down the selection rather quickly. So, without consulting anyone, or asking for advice, I randomly picked a tomato seedling that looked healthy, and also grabbed two bell pepper plants. I debated for a while about various herbs – especially the “chocolate mint” – but decided pot space was too limited.

I wandered around for a while looking for the seed packets. And, again, without consulting my list, I bought things that I am rather positive will not grow well in containers (carrots, spinach, onions). I even splurged and spent the extra sixty cents on “organic” seeds, only to realize once I got home that I am not using organic potting soil and the effort was therefore wasted.

Oh yes, the potting soil. Usually, when I repot my houseplants, I run out of soil and have to keep running back to the store to get more. I didn’t want to bother with that, so I decided to buy two of the largest bags I could find. The problem? I couldn’t lift them. So I wandered around for about twenty minutes trying to find someone burly to help me, to no avail. The only employee in sight was a 16 year old the size of a pencil, and she was swamped with the long line at check out. I tried to muscle it out. With Samantha sitting in the cart watching with great amusement, I attempted to wrestle the first bag onto the bottom of the cart. The soil inside was all broken up, so it was like trying to manhandle an ornery marshmallow. I got it halfway on the cart before it became stuck. I then went in search of one of the low, flat trolleys to put the soil on. After several more embarrassing attempts, I finally managed to get the first bag of potting soil loaded up onto the trolley. I went to reach for the second, and found it oddly much lighter than the first. At this point, I was really frustrated and didn’t stop to think about why two bags of the same size might have such a drastic weight variance. Samantha started to get antsy, so I finally managed to push her and my seedlings in the cart with one hand, while pulling the soil-laden trolley with the other, to the long check out line. We passed the time with Samantha trying to eat the seed packets, and then trying to climb out of the cart to play with the handle of the trolley, and then finally made it to the cashier. We doled out enough money to have just bought fresh veggies at the market all summer long, and headed to the car. I opened up the back only to discover that it still contained the large jogging stroller, the pack n play, and the pack n play mattress, and therefore had no room for the soil. So I wrestled the soil marshmallows into the passenger seat and went home angry and frustrated.

The next day was beautiful and sunny and perfect for gardening.  All of my previous frustrations were gone, and I took Samantha down to the yard to sit happily on a blanket while I worked. She was quite amused with the watering can for a few minutes.


I started by breaking every gardening rule about gently transferring plants, and immediately took all of my houseplants out of their containers and laid them on the ground. This helped me see what space I had available.

Various spider plants
My pathetic aloe plant

I then ordered the houseplant potting arrangement and opened the first bag of soil to begin repotting. The first bag – the incredible heavy one – turned out to be soaking wet. This, of course, explains the extra burden of lifting it (it originally only weighed 30 lbs or so).

While I worked on the houseplants, Samantha decided that she didn’t like wearing a hat or staying on the blanket. Instead, she wanted to play with a dandelion.


 And then, she wanted to eat it. But apparently it didn’t taste very good.



The neighborhood cat Twilite came around, despite my best attempts to get it to go away. Twilite wanted to lounge on the blanket and play with Samantha’s toys. Samantha got so excited she whacked the cat in the face with the dandelion a couple dozen times. Twilite left shortly thereafter.


I finished potting my houseplants in their new containers and we took a short break. When we came back outside, I started tackling the vegetables that may or may not ever grow. Samantha decided to explore the yard.


Then she sat for a while, conducting the music of nature while singing to herself.


After a few songs, she went back to doing what she does best – eating nature.

Do you like my lilac leaf goatee?
I distracted her from eating all the lilacs in the yard long enough to get her interested in what I was doing. She then wanted to help. First, she had to inspect the containers.

They look sturdy...

Next, she wanted to help with the annoyingly wet potting soil.

Carefully reading the directions...
Approved
I quickly tossed my seedlings and seeds into pots, filled them with soil, and tried to avoid any further baby interruptions. Unfortunately, I was not fast enough:

What's this?
Can I eat it?
Mmmm… potting soil…

Anyway, I finished all of the plants and set them out on the front and back porches, (hopefully) ready to grow!

Tomato plant, carrots, peppers
Onions & more carrots (spinach not pictured)
I am thinking of this year as a big experiment. If things don’t grow, I’ll be disappointed but not too dismayed (afterall, I completely ignored almost every rule about proper gardening). If they do, it will be a pleasant surprise. I have marked on my summer calendar in big, bold letters the expected harvesting time for each plant (SPINACH! CARROTS! etc.) so I’ll know for sure if this adventure was all for naught.

As for Samantha, she took the longest bath of her life, and so far seems to have no lasting effects from ingesting the various flowers, bugs, and potting soil. All in all, the day was a success.


2 comments:

  1. Too fun! I remember when we had a garden patch in Greenfield and how much fun you had digging for worms or whatever (you were 2ish).

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