Saturday, April 20, 2013

What Do Chamomile Tea, Spinach Containers, Toilet Paper Rolls and Mason Jars Have in Common?

What do these things have in common? Well, they are all a part of my improvised, gleaned from Pinterest and work, what-can-I-dig-out-of-the-recycling method of gardening. 

Yes, gardening. 

It's true, I have trouble keeping house plants alive (even when those house plants are cacti and succulents...). But gardening has intrigued me for a while. Last year when I had considerably more time and space on my hands (and a much warmer climate!) I was thinking about, and even planning, a garden. Then, of course, I decided to go on an extended trip to Thailand and Laos with a friend during planting season, and that was that. 

This year, trying to escape a winter that won't end (more snow coming this week!), and working at a place that espouses the many benefits of urban gardening, I decided I'm going to give it a go. 

I signed up to receive free seeds and transplants from an organization called Denver Urban Gardens. At EarthLinks we collected the applications for our participants and dropped them off for them. Since I was the one to drop them off, I just filled one out myself. I mostly asked for transplants (thinking if the plants were already in adolescence when I got them I would have a better chance of keeping them alive). I was surprised though at what seeds I had ordered when I went back a couple months later to pick them up: 

Kale, cantaloup, and lettuce. Kind of random, but whatever. Making stuff up as I went along I decided to imbibe my seeds. (Not with alcohol mind you.) My supervisor had passed along an article about a gardener who tried soaking his seeds for a day or so and how they grew a lot faster. I figured, why not?

I poured half the packets into some random jars I had on my shelves. I planned on planting them the next day...but didn't get around to it. In my memory the article had said to soak them for 3-5 days. After  a couple of days I reread the article and realized, no, they said 12-24 hours. Oops. I figured I better get some stuff and get them planted soon...

After church I wandered around Lowes looking lost for organic potting soil and seed starting mix. I finally found what I hoped was the right stuff and hauled it out to my car, quite proud of myself (for no reason really). Then, I waited a couple more days...Finally on what seemed an appropriate evening (by which I mean there was a blizzard blowing outside), I sat at my desk in my pajamas with the spoon from my coffee cup, some toilet paper rolls, and the soil and got to work planting. 

At work participants usually carefully place three seeds in a triangle formation 1/4 of an inch into the dirt with tweezers (or something like that). My wet seeds were clumpy (and I soaked way too many) (seriously, how many kale plants was I going for?) so I just kinda spooned them in here and there. 

Making it up as we go along, folks.

The seeds all planted and cosy in their spinach container green house!

Then miracle of miracles, 2 and a half days later: 

A baby lettuce plant!

I really couldn't believe it! They were sprouting already. Two rows of happy little plants. It's so amazing and surprising that I keep forcing David and housemates (and anyone else I have any kind of sway over) to come look at them every day or so. It feels like magic. 

This is my little set up in the sun in one of our front rooms. I water them with a mason jar with holes punched in the top. I had seen someone water the seedlings at work this way--and seriously, it's mesmerizing how the water falls out of there in little lines as you shake it. I've also got a couple of tulips that were free give-aways, and a mason jar full of camomile tea. Apparently you can treat your seedlings for root rot (?) or something moldy sounding, by spraying them with camomile tea. I don't really understand that, but, again, why not? I couldn't find a spray bottle so I just squeeze the tea bag over the seedlings and sprinkle it on there. Good enough for me. 

Look at them go! I even have two little kale plants coming up now. Who knows what those cantaloupe seeds are doing under the soil (but honestly I didn't have much hope for them from the beginning). I did open my seeds the other day to find lots of fuzzy mold growing on the side of the TP rolls though. Hopefully that's not too bad of a thing. I've been leaving the lid off and giving them a good dose of chamomile--so we will see. Who knows how this experiment will turn out!

I have another batch of seedlings soaking in water (...for probably about a week now...): okra and bluebonnet seeds. It's my Texas batch. I'll hopefully get them in soil by the end of the weekend. But, we will see...

Anyway, that's my new little project. I felt a little hesitant about it in the beginning, but then I decided, hey if I kill them all--it's ok. Gotta take some risks, right? Even if it's just with free seeds. 

Finally, this week in workshop we used a TED talk for our "reflection" time. It's got me even more jazzed for gardening. We all enjoyed it, so I'll share it here too: