January 27, 2009

Gardening Freedom?

I would really like to grow my own seedlings. For a while now I've put growing seedlings on a pedestal, thinking of it as an "advanced" gardening skill that is "out of my league," but that's some seriously pessimistic thinking and I need to get past it.

Let's face it, I'm getting to the point in my gardening career where I am no longer a complete beginner. I know a thing or two and it's time to try (again or for the first time) things that I have considered to be out of my reach. Growing my own seedlings is definitely one of these things. I did try this once before.... but all the seedlings died. That was 3 years ago though.

In my mind, I feel that If I can master the whole seedling thing I can pretty much grow whatever I want on whatever time-line makes sense. That's real freedom.

What I do now is spend a lot of time planning when I'll go to Allandale farm. I go with a vague sense of what I want to grow, but then I always find that some things aren't there so I end up making decisions on the spot. I find the whole thing a little bit stressful, in part because I don't own a car so dropping by the farm whenever I get the urge is not an option. I can't to go to the farm too late in May because a lot of the plants will be snatched up so I usually end up making two trips, one for "early" stuff like greens and one for "later" plants like tomatoes and eggplant. Similarly, when I've ordered from Re-Vision House, the plant pick-up is in the middle of May which is a little bit too early for most things to go in the ground. You see my predicament. I'm beholden to the whims and caprices of others. I want gardening independence!

Towards this end, the 2 ideas I've been toying with are as follows:

1) Soda Bottle Greenhouse.
I got this idea from a post by Mr. Brown Thumb. The basic gist is you take a regular 2 liter soda bottle, cut it in half and then plant the seeds in the bottom half. Terrific right? He seems like a very competent gardener and suggested just "trying it out" on my porch so I think that's what I'll do. I find it hard to believe that a greenhouse could really be that warm, but I know this is an old and tested way to grow things and people do it all the time.

2) Figure out how to set up a good indoor growing system in my apartment.
I live in the city. I don't have a ton of space and the space I do have is shared with animals and a roommate. I think my set up last time was ok. I purchased little soil pellets in a plastic container with a removable clear top and stuck the seeds in there. The idea is to stick the whole contraption in a sunny spot, water occasionally and watch your future garden grow. My future garden struggled and eventually died but I think the problems boiled down to heat and light.

I spent a lot of time moving the seedlings to spots far from my plant-munching cats. My best windows in terms of sunlight happen to be in places they love to go. But how expensive could it be to get a little lamp for a few seedlings? I've got to really think about this, but I would love growing my own seedlings so much that the idea of getting a "sun" lamp for them seems completely reasonable. I do have a bit of an outlet shortage too, but I think I can make it work.

Oh and I've recently learned that usually the pellets in these seedling kits are made of peat which, as it turns out, is not a very sustainable soil. This time I'll need to look for coir pellets or something similar.

Come to think of it, maybe I should try the soda bottle greenhouses INDOORS. The cats might still try to get to them, but it would be a lot harder.

January 16, 2009

Escaping the cold

The current temperature here in Boston is -8 degrees Farenheit. That's pretty cold. I haven't actually looked at my garden in a few months even though it's just on my corner. It's been freezing all week and I'm finding that my response to the cold is to think about my garden a lot. In the past few days I have thought about or done the following:

1) Drawn a little map of how I might lay out the plot this year - I'm ready for a change!
2) Talked or e mailed with no less than 4 people (including my Dad!) about whether or not I should try brussel sprouts again, make room for asparagus or order from the women's shelter that is also a farm with a seedling coop this year. Answers: maybe, probably not, yes, but I'll order only things I can plant right on the pick-up day.
3) Searched on the internet for designs for cucumber trellises and even bookmarked a few.
4) Contemplated the fact that this cold weather is probably good for the garden in that it may be killing some of the bad bugs that I hate. I also wondered what it does to the good bugs like worms and lacewings. Relatedly...
5) Will I plant dill again to attrack parasitic wasps to kill the leafminers? Still not sure on this one.
6) Thought about a few garden gadgets I might like to splurge on this year like a soil thermometer, better/sharper garden shears and a weeding tool like a friend has.

The colder it gets the more my mind wanders to warmth and the day when I'll first be able to turn over all the soil. By September the garden can seem like a chore, but in the middle of January, when I know I have at least 3 more months of winter, it seems like heaven.

January 9, 2009

A New Leaf for 2009

In the past I've paused this blog because I felt too busy or because I had nothing new to say.The reason I put a stop to my "mostly weekly" garden updates back in August was my discovery that my little anonymous haven was in fact, not so anonymous.

I was in the garden back on that fateful day in the middle of the summer. My lovely garden plot neighbor and I were chatting, when she said, in a tone that I interpreted as a mix of apologetic and disappointed -- with a hint of quietness like that reserved for talking about other people's terrible misfortunes as in "divorce" or "cancer" -- something along the lines of:

"You know you could have told me that our tomatoes were growing too close to yours." She then went on to describe that she and her husband were new to gardening and would have appreciated the advice about needing to corral their tomatoes and that another gardener had found my blog and mentioned my concerns to her. I was caught. I had in fact blogged about her tomato plants creeping over to my side.

It is hard to describe my feelings in that moment. Horror, shame, embarrassment. The pit in my stomach lasted at least 2 weeks and I still feel kind of ill when I think of it. I walked around, scanning people's faces, trying to figure out if they knew about my blog when I talked to them. I mean, I am also pretty new to gardening and I would have loved to help them instead of make them feel like crap, not to mention make myself look like a petty, two-faced gossiper. Dammit!

She then went on to say that she had noticed that some of her tomato plants had been pushed way over (back towards her side) and that the stakes really looked as if someone had physically pushed them. She mentioned this to another gardener who told her about my blog. Oy vey! I told her that I really really hadn't done it and that all I had done was walk through between our two plots and try to push the branches that had grown over to my side over to hers. My stakes had been moving around a lot too actually. I didn't expect her to believe me. After all, I'm the kind of person who, rather than directly and maturely speaking to this lovely person about the issue I had with her tomato plants, just complained to the entire world on the INTERNET! This blog established motive.

I honestly never imagined that anyone in my neighborhood would find this blog. Somehow, thinking that no one would find it made me think of it as a sort of diary or at least a private conversation that I was having mostly with myself. Myself and a bunch of other gardeners I didn't know plus a few friends that I have mentioned this blog to and with whom I am comfortable telling my inner feelings (about gardening.)

I apologized right away and have probably apologized since then about 5 times everytime I see her. I'd also like to take this moment to apologize to anyone and everyone in my little neighborhood for anything I have expressed in this blog that was the slightest bit hurtful in any way to anyone. It's not what I intended and really not who I am most of the time. In fact, I think the thing that bothers me most is when I think of the kind of person I might seem like to my neighbors after all of this. It makes me cringe.

I do realize that this is also funny. Most of my friends have laughed heartily at the whole thing. I mean, who in this day and age actually thinks their blogs are really anonymous?! Come on!!

The long and the short of it is that I seriously considered taking the whole thing down, but I decided it was better to come clean. In fact, I was encouraged NOT to take it down first by the same lovely woman who I blabbed about and then a few friends who also garden and actually like my blog for the tips. Special thanks to my friend in Vermont who grows excellent brussel sprouts and whose asparagus I hope survived all the construction.

I'm not quite to the point where I'm ready to make it easier for people to figure out who I am, but I'll just be writing now with the knowledge and assumption that anyone I might have hoped isn't reading this probably is and I should get comfortable with that and act accordingly. I might loosen up a little bit on the code names and other "masking" tactics, but maybe I won't.

Thanks to all for reading and feel free to forward to anyone you want!