Saturday, June 30, 2012

grow op in the ghetto


Well I'm not rich enough to afford a hyrdoponic setup in my basement, but I also don't need to hide my greenage from the cops. For the first spring in five years I have a place to have a garden even if it's not like a traditional garden. You know the kind, in the ground. forest Since we didn't have time to landscape before winter hit and then we were gone until spring was well under way our yard looks like a jungle [well maybe to a mouse]. I decided that the only way I was going to get a garden this year was if I did a little container gardening. In the last five years we haven't had a yard, no balcony, not even a fire escape. I had tried to fill the green spot in my heart with plants on the window sill but climate control was always a difficulty since we had 80 year old radiators controlled by someone else. Sure, blame radiators you think, perhaps you just don't have a green thumb. Perhaps it is the desperate reasoning of a girl who misses the contryside. My husband has been teasing me about all the plants I have tried to grow and have withered to their death and I had been puzzled by it. I descend from farmers, avid gardeners and dutchmen. Well, a farmer who was a dutch man, and my mother who was a very good gardner. I used to grow things. I used to grow them when I lived in Ontario. But perhaps it is as a friend from the praries used to decry; maybe Ontario is the promised land with milk and honey flowing and my plants grew of their own accord. However I think the farmers would argue that point. So would my mother [who managed to grow her garden with hard work in thick clay soil]. Whatever the case, I am forging forward once again and this time I'm documenting my success. Or lack there of.

Peppers, parsley, basil, mint, sage, tomatoes.
Also added a cucumber plant to the mix but it didn't make it into the photo shoot.

Now that I have the space to garden I have discovered, and I have not missed the irony of it, that I could have been growing a garden on my contertop with little risk of death. This past winter I finally gave in to doing my own sprouting [growing bean sprouts, alfalfa and the like at home with none of the nasty chemical fertilizers]. I had committed halfheartedly a few times in the past. I bought a packet of various sprouts here and there and grew them at home. And then didn't eat them. One kind I tried was a spicy blend and I have discovered there's just something unnatural about my green leafy salad having punch to it. Ikept thinking that I shold just try it on a sandwich, but I don't eat that many sandwiches so it was thrown out before the spicy blend was given a second chance. Also my bean sprouts turned out rather green and very untasty. But rather than give up, I do what I do best. Obsess and analyze until I have figured the problem out. Or to put it more kindly, I researched. I discovered lots of great tips [such as Mung beans need to be grown in the dark to prevent a bitter taste], sprouting equipment and companies that sold higher quality seeds, but none of them sourced in Canada. This meant that either they wouldn't ship to me or they would for more money than this penniless housewife feels is worth paying. Then my mother pointed out Mumm's sprouting; a Canadian based, organic sprouting seed company, with a [these words are always music to my ears] free shipping offer.

Mung Beans and Alfalfa sprouts

As I was reading theirs and other websites I came across micro greens. One of those terms I've heard here and there but didn't stop to look into. Turns out I'd had already had experience with growing micro greens and wasn't aware. When I was in highschool and for a few summers through college I worked in a hydroponic greenhouse. For the most part we grew lettuce. Rows and rows of lettuce. There were times I couldn't eat salad because I was sick of looking at lettuce. However we also grew Argula and Cress and I also remember experimenting with Corn shoots. They taste just like kernels of corn. In any case I think we just called them garnishes which is maybe why I wouldn't have thought to grow them at home. They don't take up a lot of space [unless you want to grow a lot of them], they don't take long to grow [most crops are done in a week]. The greatest thing about micro greens, however,  is that you don't need a lot to grow them. From the websites that I read and youtube videos I watched I saw different ways of doing it, [sprouting was easy, the standard method everyone does is that you need a jar, some netting and an elastic] some demonstrated with supplies specific to growing micro greens, others used other more generic equipment but the supplies were still specific to the gardening world and not often found at home. I really wanted to boil the process down to a bare minimum. Some people showed using sprouting trays [which look so nice and handy, maybe if I keep this up I someday splurge on], others 'just' use the common seeding tray. At the basic level what you need is a tray with drainage holes, and the one thing that most people have at home that fit this description is those plastic clam shells. You know the ones that berries come in. 
The other supply you need [besides the essential seeds] is a growing medium, the more humble of tutorials will tell you to use dirt. So why use the fancy terminology? Because fancy micro gardeners don't like the mess. There are several dirt-less options on the market, a type of growing mat that you cut to size and just plop into your tray. Dirt was out of the question. Having to pull out the potting soil every week to week and half [if I did this on a regular basis] spilling it on the counter and floor in the process just to have little trays of loose dirt sitting around. I'd knock it over in a minute, I'm a target for disaster. Add in that I have a toddler and there's no way those micro greens are living to see their first leaves. However I don't feel like investing in a whole roll of 'Baby Blanket' if this turns out to be a bad idea. A thought sprouted in my brain as I investigated,  why not just a layer of paper towel? The seeds really just need something to keep them hydrated. Since the plants are only alive for a week they don't need the space that a plant in a pot needs and they're also not alive long enough to need nutrients from the soil. So I scouted and 'googled' trying to find someone who had tried it out and I finally found a tiny little tidbit in the midst of a larger article [although if I hadn't found it I probably would've just tried it out], commenting that really you could just use a piece of paper towel. So there it is down to the everyman's level. Clamshell packaging and paper towel. That and a corner of counter space or a window sill is all I needed all these years.

speckled peas, black snflowers, and corn

And now some growing pictures: