Some Seedy Success

March 26, 2009 at 7:28 pm

Brad Moldofsky


This is the mesclun and spinach box, in all its leafy glory, basking in the bay window. For the sake of journalistic integrity, I concede that this photo was retouched to remove some hardware and a water sprayer. But no green was added. Well, I upped the brightness to make it look like a sunny day. And I tweaked the contrast to intensify the green. But the plastic tub looks as hacked and mangy as the day I shredded it in two with a utility knife.

The lettuce remains the bright spot in an otherwise struggling bay window agro-economy. Of the 50 eggplant and tomato seeds we planted, only a single sprout emerged after three weeks. The lonely little eggplant that could looked so determined among her slumbering sisters that she inspired me to buy some seed starter and top off the tomatoes, adding the remainder of the seeds from the Burpee package I picked up at a local drug store out of expediency. Not that I feel the need to justify my action.

A word of explanation: months ago we began saving empty paper towel and toilet paper tubes, which the boys and I cut down to fit into a shoebox and a Clementine crate. What the arrangement lacked in elegance it made up for in utter shabbiness. Carefully spooning potting soil into each tube, we sprayed the soil with water, tucked in the seeds, covered and watered them again. The boxes sat on a rubber boot mat in the sunny bay window (augmented with a lamp) and covered with an old window pane on to simulate a greenhouse.


So what went wrong? Too cold? Too hot? Bad seeds? Bad gardener? Too chintzy? Probably all of that. But it’s a minor loss, so I’m not heartbroken. Instead, we unceremoniously threw down the new seeds and covered the tubes in plastic wrap.

And of course, several of the original tomato seeds burst through the new seed starter layer the next day. So we now have three tomato sprouts, one healthy eggplant and another eggplant that can’t quite decide whether to poke through the soil and straighten up. Plus the newest tomato seeds, which still stand a fighting chance. Regardless, reinforcements are on the way. We’ve already ordered a batch of Casper variety eggplant seeds. (The fruit will be white, like a friendly ghost. Get it?).

My initial instinct over the winter was to wait until spring and buy flats from a gardening store. Based on the success with the lettuce and spinach, and based on farmer Vera’s recommendation, we placed an order with SeedSavers Exchange. I let the boys pick out the varieties, so we’re going to have some very unusual and colorful things growing in the backyard this summer.

So I guess the lesson today is that due to my incompetence, I’ve almost completely wasted some perfectly good toilet paper tubes and a shoebox. Clearly what I need is a $165 million bailout bonus.

Seeds on order:
Cinnamon basil
Wax beans
Calabrese broccoli
Long island brussel sprouts
Early snowball cauliflower
Mini white cucumber
Casper eggplant
Dwarf blue curled kale
Triple curled parsley
Green arrow peas
Golden treasure peppers
French fingerling potatoes
Bloomsdale spinach
Chelsea watermelon

New expenses: $52 in seeds; $5.50 in seed starter
Total expenses to date: $85 Total benefits: $2.50
Net gain (or loss): Way too early to calculate