Gardening: Exercising Optimism
The renowned garden photographer Marina Schinz once wrote, “Gardening is an exercise in optimism. Sometimes, it is a triumph of hope over experience.”
Living in North Dakota, we may have an edge in this optimism and hope due to our long winters and cravings for spring. We continue to exercise caution even when the weather warms up; anyone who dares to plant her vegetables before Memorial Day is considered a risk-taker or a fool, as snowflakes have been known to fly in June.
Some people start ordering seeds in January and people like me who save seeds from last year’s crop find them again in March. Since we can’t go outside, we get those seeds started indoors as foreplay to the garden ahead. I learned the gentle art of seed-saving from my Uncle Al, age 96, and an unofficial Master Gardener. Inside the letters he sent to our family over the years were gardening tips that I hold dear to my heart.
The key is having a big sunny window! I am blessed to have one, and for two months, it looks quite cluttered, as you can see. Gone are the pretty vases and ceramic coasters. There is only room for trays full of pots with labeled Popsicle sticks. If you have never made an indoor garden, let me share with you how easy it is.
You can start with those little pellets that expand with water, or you can simply fill pots with potting mix, add water and a seed or two of your choice plant, and cover all pots with saran wrap. I like to put them on a tray lined with Press ‘N Seal or saran wrap. Put in a dark place (I put them under the couch) for a few days. As soon as I you see sprouts, you can bring them out of darkness put them into the sunny window and watch them grow. Water only as needed – no need to drown them!
If you don’t have room, you can sprinkle seeds in the soil of your regular houseplants. I have done that with herbs, such as cilantro, parsley, basil and oregano. I actually don’t transplant them outside: I leave them in the pot and they are ready to clip for any salad or soup.
What’s growing on my window sill now in my indoor garden? According to Tabitha Twitchell, my little Beatrix Potter ceramic kitty guarding all of it, we have Uncle Al’s favorite heirloom tomato Stupice and Black Krim, friend Jennifer’s Amish Roma and Sungold Tomato Cherry, friend Veronica’s Lunchbox (golf-ball sized tomato), plus Cousin Jenny’s Organic Red Currant, Dar Cucumber, Dwarf Gray Sugar Peas., and Organic Bush Bean Blend The flowers I have started are marigolds, wildflowers, and nasturium. I have already planted lettuce and radishes outside, and in a few weeks, I will be planting Yukon and Melva potatoes, sprouts courtesy of friends as well.
If you think I have a huge garden, I do not. I plant most of my vegetables next to the house and the garage because tomatoes and cukes love the heat of the buildings. I only use about 10 plants, and the rest go to family, neighbors, friends, and even strangers. The other day I met a woman at a store and we started talking plants. She said she doesn’t have a sunny window so she can’t plant in advance. I told her about my heirloom tomatoes and I could see the “wish” in her eyes. I invited her to call me after Memorial Day for some tomato plants. After all, it’s so easy to plant a seed…. not only of a vegetable, but of friendship.