If I were a ‘Game of Thrones’ character and had a long list of names, “Killer of Plants” would definitely be one of them. I’ve got the best intentions, but it’s a pretty regular occurrence that I bring a plant home, start to slowly kill it, and then take to the interwebs and plead with my more experienced pals to help me save it.
I’m bad at plants.
I blame it on moving house a bunch, but I suspect that my overzealous attentions coupled with my lack of patience definitely contribute to the somewhat regular occurrence of plant funerals by way of compost bucket.
This year though, I am quite determined to turn things around!
It all started with a packet of heirloom tomato seeds a coworker had given BP. I was already in possession of hydroponic setup from a failed indoor herb garden experiment back in MN and therefore up to the task of starting this little project. I gathered a few supplies and got some starter cells set up. To my delight, they started grow!
Once they started to grow a bit bigger, I picked the strongest three of the bunch, and moved them to larger pots to encourage them to keep going!
I wasn’t ready for how quickly they would grow. Getting about 16 hours of light and living in a temperature range of 68-71°F, they took off. Around this time, we experienced the last frost, and the seedlings were reaching the top of the indoor grow setup. With great hesitation, I moved them outside.
And when I say great hesitation, I mean that I was totally worried that the small amount of effort I’d put forth so far was about to be all for nothing! I tried to prepare myself for casualties, knowing that, in just a few weeks, I could purchase starters from any outdoor garden store and I wouldn’t be so far behind.
Here’s how that mental conversation went: Will they thrive? Will they get ravaged by pests and drowned or dehydrated due to my learning how to keep plants watered and happy? Should I get cages, do you think? I should. I should get cages that appear to be far too large then wait almost a week to get the right size, only to realize a few weeks later that I could potentially grow massive plants and maybe those larger cages were the right size. I should google this. Nah, I’ll just go with my intuition. Wait, that’s stupid. There are so many resources online. I’m gonna get the small cages. It’ll be fine. And hey, Orchard will have starters soon, so really if it goes poorly, we can always get those and try again.
I’m happy to report that, for the most part, the tomatoes are thriving. The middle plant (St. Vincent), who has since been moved, is still lagging a bit. She’s also a bit yellow. The far left plant (Luke) is thriving quite a bit and is my variable plant; I’m trying out an alternative fertilizing method that I may write about here. And the far right plant, Agatha? She’s my darling dame. She’s just taken off and is looking so strong and pretty robust. Check this most recent photo of her and the others.
I am so excited to see if they bear fruit this summer. To encourage this, I’ve set up pollinator-friendly plants and have brushed the blossoms with a soft toothbrush, transferring some of the pollen from one to another. I also just learned about pruning—who knew this whole gardening thing could get so involved? (Did you know pruning is a thing that you can do to almost all plants? The more you learn…)
I legitimately thought all I really had to do was keep them watered and make sure they got enough sunlight. Silly me. I also had grand delusions about saving money in the long run and growing enough to keep our freezer well stocked with soups and veggies for the wet, rainy winter (which I will, but I don’t think I’m going to grow $100 worth of food). Even with trying to use recycled containers, the cost is pretty steep to set up a garden. When shopping for gardening supplies, my eyes pretty much glaze over in the outdoor planting section. I answer the siren’s call to construct more and more planting areas. I start pricing DIY raised bed kits. Then I snap back to reality as the cashier says, “That’ll be $100.00 please.” Yikes.
This is really the first time I’ve put in tremendous effort, not just in setting up a garden, but endeavoring to learn more. I’ve joined forums, scoured through old message boards, asked friends and family and other plant-wizards-and-goddesses for advice. I’m determined to keep these suckers alive! My shears arrive this weekend, and I’ll be doing some pruning on all of the fruit-and-vegetable-bearing plants. I’m so excited! Things have gone mostly smoothly with the tomatoes so far…
…but that’s not the whole gardening story. Stay tuned next week for Part II and the Saga of the Squash, Pepper, and Herb Plants.
Constructing a container garden isn’t cheap! And APFE is now a two-person operation. Love what we do? Hate big corporate ads? Show us some love and click here!