The Root

One gardener’s quest to get to the bottom of it all.

Growing Again December 16, 2008

Playing with dirt

Almost eating dirt

This weekend I pulled out the dirt and the seeds and I started some lettuce, arugula, chard, spinach. It was very rewarding to have a tiny helper who was all too willing to get her hands dirty with the project. And it was wonderful to smell soil again.

It’s the heart of winter — cold blue outdoors until 7:30 am, on overcast days, and this town just shook off an ice storm that slicked every last twig and lasted for days.

But we might just (knocking on wood, not counting any chickens) have homegrown salad soon. I have had the urge for several weeks to grow greens right here at home — maybe on the balcony in some elaborate miniature hothouse contraption, maybe under the dreaded, sap- and soul-sucking fake lights…or maybe, as it turns out, on the living room windowsill. That might do just fine.

Midwinter lettuce sprouts

Sprinting to the head of the class is some red leaf lettuce, which sprouted in three days and earned a place on said windowsill. This is pretty exciting stuff. The arugula and chard are sending up spindly shoots, over on a top shelf of the media center.

This is all it takes. I am already imagining a pea plant on the windowsill, sending tendrils all the way up to the curtain rod. Freya and I will eat snap peas for breakfast. I will just keep trying until it works, until some vegetable grows green enough to eat. Dude. Nothing like optimism on a sub-freezing day.


Rosemary Flowers December 5, 2008

Filed under: Container Gardening,Houseplants,Winter — Kate @ 8:44 pm

Rosemary flowers


Confessions July 29, 2008

So, you guys, I have a dirty little secret: My balcony garden sux. Yes, I’m guilty of selective blogging. Week in and week out I post photos of my plot garden and hope that no one will notice the sad lack of updates on the homefront. I promise I will post photos when the sun shines again, in the morrow — or perhaps in the midst of a downpour, which would really set off its miserable state. I usually try to frame the best shot, but this time, there will be no best shot. Nothing grows past adolescence out there.

In brief: The carrots seedlings, such as they are, one centimeter tall, are yellowing, the chard has somehow mummified into tough little inch-long shoots, the lavender I had such high hopes for seems to think it has fall foliage, Freya’s little primrose plant is suffering through yet another cycle of flood and drought, and my Brandywine tomato is straining to produce its 20th leaf. It’s nothing good.

I remember reading that container gardening is difficult, but I moved on pretty quickly from that. Extreme conditions, microclimates, special handling required. Huh. You don’t say. Where’s that sub-standard potting soil? I’m just going to try it out, here. And I don’t know what possessed me to try to raise a windowbox of chard in seed-starting mix, but it’s just not happening.

It’s because, at this stage of baby-raising and life-muddling, I can only care for the type of garden that requires like two hours a week of maintenance, tops. So it’s working out in my plot because that stuff is growing in almost pure compost and seems to appreciate it. And because the plots are so jam-packed, the weeds just stay out of sight in the shady undergrowth. All I’ve been doing for the past couple weeks is just harvesting and ogling it. That’s my kind of garden, right there. There might be drawbacks to a jam-crammed veggie plot that I’m not yet aware of, but I just hope it stays that way.

So, maybe in a couple years, with the container garden. Maybe when Freya toddles and can play in dirt without putting it into her mouth (all the time) and it will be our thing.

To be continued.


State of the Sprouts, May 9th, 2008 May 9, 2008

We ate our first “salad” of romaine and basil fresh from the deck. Wow, it tasted so good, just because I knew it when, when it was nothing but a pack of itty grains, way back in March. I’m a fan of “Last Restaurant Standing” on BBC America, where this week they showed the “kitchen garden” at Raymond Blanc’s country restaurant: acres of greens, potatoes, and who knows what other delicacies. Fresh, never-been-refrigerated goodness. This shot is of the produce from my miniature kitchen garden…

The Red Sails lettuce that I scattered around the romaine has been popping up, all freckly. It looks unhealthy and rashy, to my untrained eyes. But, hey, this girl knows freckles, so I should be squarely in the corner of freckled sprouts…

The Jack-O’-Lantern pumpkin has arrived. Having decided that it would be threatened if guerrilla-planted by the CVS store, it’s destined for the bottom of the yard at my folks’ house, instead. Lord knows, then it will be at the mercy of the woodchucks and the deer and the slugs…

And with that, I’m off to buy some copper slug and snail tape — an ingenious-sounding repellent, a roll of adhesive copper, sold with the lore that slugs and snails do not cross copper. Who knew.


Propagating Isn’t Pretty May 6, 2008

This contraption is really ugly, but garshdarnit, I’m going to blog about it. There’s just so much cute around here, anyway, that it’s about time that homely had its day. The photo is of a propagation vessel based on something called a Forsyth pot, something that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen but that I gather is a specialized container with a slow-watering component and well-suited to propagating plants by stem cuttings. I hope I don’t sound pedantic, but I am pretty psyched that I’m retaining more information more readily than I have since I was 10 and mad-crazy about ponies.

So, I read about making this Forsyth-on-the-fly in one of my gardening books and subsequently raided my mother’s pot stockpile for the appropriate pieces: a wide, flat pot and any old terra-cotta pot. I spent a couple days (!) figuring out how to plug up the drainage hole more or less successfully (that’s aluminum foil). Then I put in vermiculite and cuttings from plants I’m either (a) champing at the bit to have more of (lavender), or (b) just kind of daring to make themselves anew (coleus, prostrate rosemary). I am more or less fervently hoping that these things will form roots and become viable on their own.

I tried propagating lavender a week or so ago by layering, but then read that that’s not the best way — this is. Dunno. I just want a lot of lavender that I can guerrilla-plant along the back access door of the local CVS. Don’t worry, Ma, it’s a project of beautification!


Loose Ends: Deck Garden May 3, 2008

Having yearned for rain, I’m feeling pretty fine that it has rained for days on end, so much so that I want to revise the adage to, “Late April and May showers bring flowers eventually.” The weather comes at a good time, too, since I’ve been feeling really under-the-weather. Would’ve been supremely frustrating to be confined to the condo while the sun shone. As it is, I’ve managed to get on top of some projects on my deck garden.

In between (or before?) rainstorms, I managed to waterproof this tile-sample plant stand. Now it’s out there beading away the rain. Wish I had a pot of strawberries to plunk down on top of it.

The faux-copper planters are standing up to the rain, too, and I’m pleased as punch. I filled the second and planted it with spinach and carrots.

The herbs out there have resisted frost damage really well. The lily lost a bud and is looking a little sickly, so I brought it back indoors full time. I have no idea if these extreme temperature changes will be even worse for it than the frost? Poor ting.

I haven’t been back to the plot to check on growth there. Tomorrow, maybe. I’m all excited to put down copper strips as a slug deterrent — it’s rumored to work better than beer traps. And: How swanky.


State of the Sprouts, 5/2/’08: High School Dance May 2, 2008

Mount Duckling Oriental lilies

The exclusive set.


The basketball team.

Natural beauties.

Granola and the hippies.

The freshman.

Really just trying to define himself right now.

Class clowns.

The geeks.

Has a garage band.