I’ve tried to establish a zen-like level of low expectations for my garden. Of course, I work hard and hope for it to be successful. But I’ve also come to realize that gardening has its risks, especially organic gardening. Sometimes seeds don’t sprout, bugs eat your fruit, or plants die mysteriously. All of which is to say that it’s lovely when things turn out much better than planned.
For once, my indoor seed starting appears to be a roaring success. Although I worried at the beginning that none of my seeds would sprout, everything but some very old pepper seeds came through. Even the broccoli, which I used just because the seed package was three years old, had a surprising rate of germination. Being very generous with the number of seeds I planted really paid off, especially with older seeds that I can’t use next year anyway.
On top of the sprouting, the extra effort and money to build our own seed starting set-up seems to be paying off. The tomatoes are huge and stocky, far heartier than they’ve ever been in the past. The peppers look better than the ones offered at the farmers’ market, with large, shiny green leaves. The plants for both were getting so crowded that I split up most of the tomatoes and peppers into new containers. Despite that change, now even the transplants are yearning for more space. The broccoli grew so much that when I gave them a long overdue transplant on Monday, they were totally root-bound. The eggplant are the slowest growing, but even they look strong enough to survive outside. We’ve been hardening them off on the deck for a couple hours a day, so they should be ready to transplant this weekend.
On the other hand, my outdoor seed starting has followed the pattern of previous years – unfulfilling. I planted carrots, spinach, and parsnips a few weeks ago, after our ridiculously hot and cold spells passed. I used a wet mix of my precious worm castings, seed starting mix, and Leaf-Gro. Despite this potent combination, the results haven’t been promising. Much like years past, my spinach seems to have done absolutely nothing so far. In fact, I can’t even tell where I planted. (This would make sense in a normal garden, which is all dirt. In mine, where I plant on top of a layer of leaves, I should be able to see the mix.) I found one place I planted parsnips, crumbled the soil a little, and saw loads of unsprouted seeds doing absolutely nothing. My carrots seem to be a little better, but I honestly can’t tell the difference right now between carrot sprouts and weeds, so my hopes may be all for naught. I replanted the spinach using more soil and am crossing my fingers.
This past weekend, I just planted corn and basil. I planted about 10 spots of corn, which still might not be enough to pollinate. Because corn doesn’t self-pollinate and has male and female flowers in different locations, you need a lot more corn plants to get fruit than you do any other type of vegetable. As it looks like my sweet potato starts may have gotten lost in the mail, I’ll probably plant a few more corn plants in their place. I’ve also started sprouting beans, so those will be inter-planted with the corn once they’re ready.
I’m hoping I can have all of the parts of my garden in place over the the next week or two. It’s getting increasingly difficult to lean over and sit on my knees enough to plant and transplant. Also, it’s just exhausting. Chris is helping me, but there’s just so much that needs to be done that it’s difficult to find the time. But I know it will be worth it when next winter, I’ll be able to feed my child carrots I’ve grown myself and stored.