Enduring the Winter Doldrums

January 29, 2009 at 9:13 am

Brad Moldofsky

A recent Associated Press story threatens rising California lettuce prices this year due to the Western drought, which is encouraging farmers to abandon their fields. Coincidentally, I buried some lettuce and spinach seeds in my plastic water container. Despite my last post, I couldn’t find sprout seeds apart from a kit that included a set of moisture-retention growing trays. So in three day’s time, I grew a few mouthfuls of broccoli, radish and cress sprouts in clear plastic bins that required twice daily rinsing. It ain’t farming. It isn’t quite gardening. It’s more like a second grade science experiment, but they’re fresh, home-grown vegetables and I’ll take ‘em.

To be brutally honest, I’m getting antsy waiting for the snow to melt. It’s not just the cold and the unemployment. It’s the looking out the window at the lawn, visualizing building a garden on top of it, pressing my forlorn face on the glass like a boy outside a pet shop. For their part, my typically active boys are going nuts from being cooped up indoors. They need more exercise, and while antagonizing each other raises everybody’s heart rates, it’s not exactly aerobics. We just registered them for summer camp, so my non-gardening fantasies include them coming home exhausted each day and telling us how much fun they had in camp and how much they appreciate all we do for them. And they’ll behave respectfully to us always. And they’ll eat all their vegetables.

My plastic lettuce planter is only a few days old and so far absolutely nothing has happened. Still, contemplating a silent box of dirt is more inspiring than the frigid view out the window behind it. Spinach and lettuce don’t mind a chill, and the bay window offers a full day’s sun, complemented by a reading lamp that, when at high power, is too hot to touch. The window area gets down to the low 60s at night and up to 68 during the day. I’m guessing the reading lamp micro-climate kicks it up two or three more degrees. Anybody with experience growing indoor lettuce, feel free to tell me what I’m doing wrong.

In a few months, I’ll transplant the lettuce outside to face the dangers of the world. Perhaps that’s a good analogy to watching kids grow up and face adult life on their own. Except we don’t plan to eat our adult children. The lettuce, on the other hand, is doomed whether it thrives or not.

There’s a parental instinct to quarantine your kids and protect them from potential harm. Vegetables, too. The best part about growing indoor lettuce is a reduced chance of rabbit theft. Floppy and Bugs have been leaving paw-prints in the snow throughout the backyard, as if to say “We can handle this brutal winter just fine. So we can deal with your eventual new fence and have our way with the new garden you plan to raise. We’re looking forward to dining on your hard-won vegetables this year, Brad!”

Or maybe I’m reading too much into it.