Munchin’ at the Window Spinach

March 17, 2009 at 7:26 pm

Brad Moldofsky

The window spinach and mesclun are growing big and tall, even as my growing children are delicately picking at the smaller individuals to thin out the herd and encourage survival of the fattest. They’re happy to nibble on microsalads whenever the urge strikes, knowing that they’re making room for the largest leaves to fight for sunlight and water until the day they find themselves torn from their roots, piled into a bowl and doused with oil and vinegar.

The great tragedy of the week is that the sprouts I’ve been growing in slotted plastic trays have begun to sprout puffs of mold. I’ve double checked, and they’re not the tiny white tendrils typical of sprouting seeds. Nope, these are fuzzy little cotton ball moldies. And in a house populated by Moldys, we only allow the human kind. (With the exception of this disgusting example. See the April Fools: Moldy sandwich clip.)

The only thing to do was to bleach my works and start again. My wife, however, warns that porous plastic, once exposed to mold spores, is impossible to perfectly sterilize. She doesn’t understand how much bleach I’m willing to use. Although maybe she does, since she often complains that her colored T-shirts and socks are pocked with white spots from the times I’ve done the laundry.

I estimate my agricultural losses at maybe 4 grams of sprouts valued at about $.50. Burpee Seeds estimates that every $50 spent on gardening items returns $1,250 in produce. I couldn’t say for certain whether I’ve already eaten $12.50 worth of sprouts. In fact, that would be an aggressive guess. Our annual sprout budget isn’t usually that big. Now it seems time to take an accounting of my expenses to see if backyard (or window) farming has a financial payoff or if, as my wife suggests, it’s one of my more costly and time-consuming hobbies.

To date, I’ve spent about $11 on the sprout kit, $6 on potting soil, $2.50 on peat pots (to supplement the toilet paper roll/shoe box germination stations, which I’ll describe in a future post) and $8 on seeds. At a 5:125 ratio, I can’t say that the $27.50 I’ve spent has yielded $687.50 in green benefits. But the season is young. I have, however, saved a lot on gas, since rolling over in bed and tearing a piece of lettuce uses virtually no fossil fuel.

From here on, I will keep an estimated value of the produce we grow and consume versus the money we put into the effort. Below is the first tally:
Spent: $27.50
Eaten: $1.25 in sprouts, $1.25 in spinach and mesclun.
Grand total benefit: $2.50
Net gain (or loss): Oh, let’s not discuss that just yet.