Buying Gardening Supplies: On the way home from the dog park I decide to stop at Home Depot to pick up some things, while an exhausted Charley decided to rest in the back of my Mazda3 hatchback. A friend’s Facebook status had reminded me about gardening and starting seedlings indoors. As a kid my Mom had this huge garden that we would spend hours and hours weeding. I was always excited to make beautiful bouquets from the flowers that bloomed, or help her planting or picking the yummy things she would grow. I was even the one that started and maintained (most of the time) our strawberry patch. When my friend had mentioned she was the gardening chair of one of the graduate student apartment complexes, I jumped at the chance to have a plot in the community garden and help contribute to whatever needed to be done. However, with all that time spent working in my mom’s garden, I had never really spent the time to figure out exactly what was needed and the timeline for what went into growing my own vegetable garden. Reading some stuff online in the morning I determined that I wanted to grow some seedlings indoors. At the store I spent a bit of time looking at all of the seeds and all of the stuff they offered for growing seedlings. I had no idea how many I should do. Should I get containers that have a watering system in them or the cheaper ones that don’t? Which plants should I start indoors as opposed to outdoors? How may seeds come in a packet? After a call to Andrew (my boyfriend) to feel more reassured in my purchases, I ended up getting a tray with 36 cells that had a self-watering thing on the bottom, some seeds, and an all-in-one indoor herb planter.
I knew a little from my morning research that not all plants needed to be started indoors, and my mom would do tomatoes and peppers, so I choose tomatoes (Roma and these smaller patio princess variety), peppers (sweet and hot), and egg-plant (which I am super excited to try, but my friend said hers didn’t turn out last year). I am not a huge fan of raw tomatoes, but I am excited to make an oven version of sun-dried tomatoes and make sauces and salsas. The herb planter came with: parsley, cilantro, oregano, basil, and chives. All of these (except chives) were on the list of herbs I wanted to buy anyway, so getting this with the seeds and some nice containers was worth it. One other purchase at the store was a 100-foot extension cord. For Christmas I had gotten a shop-vac to clean my car, since black interior and light-colored dog do not mix. Not to mention after driving the 1300 miles from NJ to MN and back a few times, the crumbs really start to build up. Eating is one of my favorite parts of long drives (in addition to audio books and exploring new places along the way), and after spending 20-24 hours in the car with some sort of food in my mouth for at least half of that time, things are bound to get messy. In short: My car needed to be vacuumed. And while the cord on my shop-vac was 3 feet long, that was just not going to make the distance from my apartment to the parking area where my car was parked. Hence: 100-foot extension cord.
Planting Herbs: Getting home, I wanted to plant everything right away! But my sensibility kicked in and I decided to do a bit more research on exactly what I was getting into. Thank you, Google. The seeds I bought all suggested that they be planted indoors 6-8 weeks before the last freeze. And reading some tips online, one of the biggest mistakes of beginner growers is to start too early. The average last freeze in NJ is around the end of April/beginning of May, so 8 weeks before that would be the beginning of March. I decided I needed to wait until next week to start them. On the other hand, my indoor herb plants are not on such a schedule, so planting them gave me some relief to the strong planting itch that I had gotten. I followed the directions that came with the package: put the two seed pellets into the pots, pour the right amount of water in and wait for them to expand, plant the seeds according to their packet instructions, and find a nice place to put them. However, somewhere along the line I decided that using a whole packet of seeds is kind of ridiculous since that would be a lot of plants, so I decided to do half of it. However, I didn’t really stop to think that half a packet is still a lot of seeds! So we will just have to see how many of the ~20 seeds I planted in each container actually sprout, and then I may try and move them into separate containers to grow them for friends, or to put outdoors when the weather is nice.
Then came the point where I should place them somewhere. I knew that my apartment does not have the best light, with mostly East and West facing windows, my choices were pretty narrowed down. Downstairs (where my kitchen and living room are) has both, but with trees and other apartments blocking the sun, the plants would definitely get less than 6 hours a day, and plus Charley is confined to this area during the day and I am not sure if I fully trust him with pots of dirt. I used to keep the woodpile for the fireplace downstairs and sometimes I would come home to a log or two in the center of the room with all of the bark stripped off. Woodpile was moved to coat closet. Upstairs, my roommate’s window has the East windows, and I have the West, so it really only made sense to use one of the two windows in mine, the south-most one getting the best direct light, so that is what I had decided. I had a small bookshelf (salvaged from the free furniture pile by the dumpster) that was the same height as the window, so I moved that beneath the window put the plants on it and was set to go. Then I read somewhere that seedlings need heat and not necessarily sun (since that can dry them out), so on a suggestion from a couple of websites, I moved them to above the refrigerator, since that can give off some heat. Still not totally convinced, but I guess I just need to wait and see. Some other website reassured me that if they don’t sprout that is okay, gardening is an experiment. This made me feel better.