Adventures in Gardening

A few years back, my husband claimed that, when I hit my 30s, I would find a hobby. He pointed out that my mother did — she had some land, and some plants, and she put them to work — and that I would as well. He said I’d bake, or I’d sew, or I’d garden.

I laughed in his face.

I’m not laughing anymore.

I hate it when he’s right.

For three years, we lived in a cramped, two-bedroom basement apartment. We didn’t have a balcony, let alone a yard of any stripe. Then, in December, we lucked into a four-bedroom row house with a yard. A concrete yard, granted, but a yard nevertheless. It was room for the kids to play, to ride bikes, for a dog, maybe.

And room for growing things.

There was no grass, so I had to get creative. Living in an urban environment, especially a cold one, presents challenges that, at first glance, seem insurmountable. “No grass? Not even a dirt patch? How the hell are you going to grow anything in concrete?” (Let’s forget for a moment that, without proper, regular maintenance, concrete will be destroyed by vegetation in less than 20 years.) The answer was simple enough: container gardening.

Folks have been growing flowers in pots, miniature trees in huge buckets, and herbs in window planters for hundreds of years. Surely I, a novice to gardening, could figure out how to put some soil and seeds in a bucket, and water them regularly. Surely I could grow stuff.

Not really as hard as it seems.

My first go-round with purchasing, I simply bought potting soil. While I understand now it’s not the very best kind of soil to grow in, it worked just fine for starting seedlings. I also purchased one window box style planter, and a self-watering pot. (That would be the tan runner box, and the black pot in the first image.) I also bought cucumber seeds (Spacemaster, which supposedly best for containers), cherry tomato seeds, dill seed, parsley seed and seed onions for chives.

I left the stuff alone for a while, watering as necessary. Sometimes draining the soil out as necessary, since the onions in the runner box were swimming after a torrential downpour. They survived, even seemed to thrive despite nearly drowning. I”m harvesting a couple of chives every other day. It’s awesome.

We have uncertain summers in Newfoundland. Last summer, we had less than two weeks of full sunshine. That’s less than 14 days over the course of a few months. So far this year, the weather’s behaving itself, but there’s always the possibility that it will change on a dime. There’s a saying here (which other places in the world also use): if you don’t like the weather, wait five minutes. Those three shoots in the above photo were cucumbers. Notice my use of the word “were”. Currently, they’re mulch, because I put them out to soak up some sun, and there was a cold snap that dropped the temperature to single digits (mid-30s to low 40s for my American friends). I went out the next morning to find that the stems had gone white and fallen over.

Dead cucumbers.

No matter. I have other seeds. So I planted more.

I was leerier with my tomato shoots. I planted about 14 seeds, seven came up. I sheltered them in a yogurt cup, fed them sunlight from my kitchen windowsill, and made sure they never went outside until I was certain the sun would be out the next day.

A couple of days of sun and warm nights, and boom. The temperature drops overnight again. I went out this morning to water the garden (as it’s my day off), and found five of my tomato shoots have shriveled and fallen over, despite a clear plastic bag over the seeding boxes. Two survived, proving hardier than the rest. I think I might move them back inside, until I can fashion some sort of rudimentary lathe… I mean, cold frame. I hear clear plastic Tupperware of varying sizes is both cheap and effective.

But the rest of the garden is doing great. My onions are thriving, my dill is coming up, and I purchased some flowers and herbs from the local flower market. I even went and got some herbs to make a pot.

No weed here, officer.

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