Another April Fool

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April 2, 2009 at 6:25 pm

Brad Moldofsky

Can’t blame the squirrels this time.

It’s still chilly outside, and while the bay window invites much sunlight, it also lets heat escape at night. I suspected this chilled the seedlings, so I had been running a halogen lamp, (set back a good distance to avoid burning the leaves) to provide heat and light. And yet, only ten percent of the toilet paper/paper towel tube planters grew seedlings. Was the lamp overheating the seeds?

Before I could focus on this issue, an unintended side project distracted me. A mushroom crop sprang up next to one of the eggplant seedlings. I checked out a colorful library book on mycology, but the two caps were so tiny I couldn’t identify my fungi. Whether these invaders were parasitic or beneficial to the eggplant seedling, I wouldn’t know until they grew larger. So my choices were to kill them and save the seedling, or let them grow unimpeded among the healthiest of my two remaining potential eggplant plants in the hopes that they’re friendly aliens.

Since one of today’s blog themes is death, I removed the mushrooms. I resettled the two eggplant seedlings from the orange crate into a new home in empty yogurt cups with holes cut in the bottom. Joining the surviving eggplants were three spindly tomato seedlings. As I surveyed the remaining veggie wannabees, I considered mercy composting all but one strong eggplant and one robust tomato. But then I got the bright idea to put a compact fluorescent bulb into a Tiffany-style piano lamp featuring an ornate, top-heavy, colored lead glass dome so as to extend the sunlight hours for the growing darlings. This would provide a better growing light than a halogen bulb, minus the possibly excessive heat and electric bill.

Then–and you’re gonna love this–as I turned away to plug in the cord, the weight of the dome tipped the lamp onto the seedling crate, decapitating (or de-leafing) the robust tomato seedling.

I chuckled to myself and munched a handful of fresh mesclun as I surveyed the carnage. This is all a learning experience, I decided. So I’ll permit myself one tomato seedling decapitation per season, as long as I don’t do it again.

Now, I pride myself on a lack of pride. Not only can I laugh at myself, but I’ll happily initiate the mocking. I make no pretensions of being a master gardener, and offer the errors of my ways as a primer for how not to grow food efficiently. Hopefully, you and I will both learn from it and improve next year.

DW commented that she thought some of the soil cylinders seemed a mite dry. It’s been hard to tell, as the rubber boot tray sometimes shows excess water spilling out of the tubes, and other times is bone dry. But as I disposed of the un-sprouted tomato seedlings in the compost tumbler, I saw mold growing on the sides of the cardboard paper towel tubes. So, what I’ve learned from this is that my seedlings failed to sprout as a result of too much water and not enough moisture, as well as the previously mentioned excessive heat coupled with lack of warmth. And of course, the general neglect and abuse, as well as the one particular (remember, I’m allowed one) execution by stained glass. I hope you’re taking notes, because there will be a quiz later on.

Within a day, the surviving tomato seedlings shriveled up and, while they didn’t technically die, I couldn’t bear looking at them any longer. I dropped the last of the tomato plants into the compost tumbler, gave it a spin, and didn’t look back.

So now I’m on a roll, right? This seemed like a good time to bring out some new seeds. Sown in half a dozen peat pots a piece, I emptied envelopes of peppers, kale, eggplant, Brussels sprouts, broccoli and cauliflower. I generously watered each pot and covered the trays in plastic wrap, welcoming them to the boot tray in the bay window.

Ah, little ones; in this place, you have so much to fear.

I also received a box of soft, spongy spuds from SeedSavers, some of which are already sprouting little green and red shoots from their eyes. These went on a plate in front of an eastern window where they’ll hopefully get just enough light to sprout more. My understanding is that these can be planted as soon as the soil is workable. And since they’re going into raised beds filled with soil I’m creating from bags, that should be any day now.

New expenses: $20 for potatoes (including shipping)
Total Costs: $105
Total Benefits: Fresh Mesclun and Spinach first thing in the morning’s got to be worth $5 by now.
Net benefit (or loss): The Magic 8 Ball insists I ask again later.

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One Comment

  1. Lorrio says:

    Hi Brad-
    I’m Joel Segal’s mom (you probably remember me from soccer games) and I’m somewhat of a gardener, mostly perennial flowers. But, to keep up with the trend and just cuz’ I want fresh veggies this spring/summer, I plan to (or plant-o) create a veggie garden where we have some unproductive raspberry bushes behind the garage.

    So, is it too late to start seedlings? My guess is that it is not, but to get going soon. Also, my guess is that Mother’s Day is still the target date for getting most things into the ground. Right? I need to prep the area, that is, rid the space of rasps and weeds and a few weed-tree-stumps. Your advice is much appreciated! Lorri

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