So, here they are, our little jungle in the window. Or, technically, I guess it's a little farm, since everything is edible and there aren't any large, dangerous snakes or anything. And a distinct lack of monkeys.

We actually started getting some sprouts (from the lettuce) a mere 3 days after planting! These guys have all been out and growing for a while now, I just hadn't gotten around to taking a picture and blogging about it until this morning.

We also have a window box with lettuce in it in the study, and I think Max planted some other seeds we ordered yesterday. I've been keeping meticulous notes as promised, I just haven't had a chance to figure out exactly what Max did yesterday. We're a little concerned that the plants aren't getting enough sun, even in the windows. Our apartment is pretty strange in that it's completely on the oblique - I think it technically faces north-east. As a result, sun never shines directly into the windows, which is great for energy savings, but not so great for plants. So we take the seedlings outside for "walkies" every couple of days, for a few hours, just to make sure they're getting enough. Soon we'll move them all outside, and we won't have to worry about it as much.

A note if you ever try to do this yourself - two, or possibly three seeds at most per cup will be fine. Even if said seeds are extremely tiny and you are extremely skeptical. I have a veritable FOREST of lettuce and carrots that I have to keep pinching off because I thought, "Meh, they're so small! I'm not counting out 2 or 3 seeds at a time - I'll just plant a pinch of 'em in there..."

On the plus side, the lettuce sprouts I pinch off actually smell and taste like lettuce! That probably shouldn't be surprising, but I'm still grappling with my amazement that this experiment is actually working. Seeds make plants! Who knew?!?



We're currently caught up in a project that involves trying to grow our own food in our apartment. Lots of factors played into this, most notably curiosity and the rising cost of produce. While at first blush it might seem that in no way can a person grow enough produce to save actual money on groceries, upon closer examination, it's really quite possible. For example, if a little bag of cherry tomatoes (which we buy almost every week) costs $4 or $5, and a bag of potting soil and seeds cost $7, then if I get 2 little bags worth of cherry tomatoes out of the plants I grow from seed, those plants have paid for themselves AND saved me money.

Yes, the plants require some care, and they don't spit out tomatoes immediately. But the potential for payoff is there. Also, homegrown tomatoes are almost always better than store-bought ones, and they have the distinct advantage of being virtually guaranteed not to give me salmonella, e coli, hepatitis, or some kind of toxic pesticide poisoning.

As you can see from our ghetto setup, we're doing this on the cheap. No Martha Stewart Living gold-leaf planters, here. I can invest in making this hobby pretty after I figure out how to make it work.

So, up there in the picture, we have 2 containers of tomato seeds (Supersweet 100 VF Hybrid, for those playing along at home), 1 container of spinach seeds (Teton Hybrid), 1 container of lettuce seeds (Grand Rapids), and 3 containers of carrots (Red-Cored Chantenay 7317B). They're all in Miracle Gro Cactus Palm & Citrus soil, because that's what I had. Incidentally, I think the carrots might do well in that soil, but it's anyone's guess, really. I'm taking very detailed notes of everything we do, so that we can approach this scientifically and try to get consistent results. Also, we plan to do more than one planting, so we can vary our methods and make comparisons, so that should be exciting.

One of the reasons we're doing this is: Have you ever noticed that pretty much ALL gardening books and advice is written by gardeners? This seems to make sense, but let me tell you why it doesn't, really.

Gardeners use their own lingo. They're so used to it, they don't even realize that other people don't know what they're talking about. What is the exact method for "cultivating"? As far as I can tell, it's stirring up dirt, but how much stirring? Also, did you know that plants can "bolt"? To non-gardeners, that sounds like your lettuce is suddenly running off at a high rate of speed, e.g. "They heard the sirens and bolted!".

Gardeners already know how to grow things. Frequently, the advice boils down to "Just put it in the soil!" "Water it when it needs watering!" and "Make sure it's getting the right amount of sun!". Obviously, these things are all important. But, people who can grow things seem to have a built-in knowledge of the particulars: What kind of soil? How deep? How much water/sun is enough? How much is too much? When pressed, these people can't tell you the precise answers to these questions. They say "Most plants will tell you when they need more (or less) water (or sun)." and "I just water it when I think about it until I think I've watered it enough." Gee, thanks. That's very informative.

I cannot tell you how many plants I have killed by over- or under-watering. Or giving them too much sun. Or not enough. Obviously, it's easy to tell when a plant is unhappy. But for non-gardeners, that's all you know, that you're doing SOMETHING wrong. Apparently plant people "just know" how to fix these things, and can't really put their knowledge in concrete terms that the rest of us can understand.

It's like, if I made this really great cake and you asked me for the recipe, and I said, "Put the ingredients in the bowl. Oh, what ingredients? You know, flour and sugar and eggs and stuff. Then mix it all together and bake it until it's done! Yummy!" Could you recreate my cake? I'm guessing no. That's why I'm taking all the notes. I may not have been born with a sense of how to grow things, but maybe I can develop it if I record my exact methods, the conditions, and the results. A pattern will emerge eventually, and I will recognize it and learn from it. And later, when you ask me how I grew such delicious tomatoes, I can whip out all of my exhaustive research and SHOW you!


The Last Post

Okay, my last post has some technical issues. The giant "FORBIDDEN" map, for one. I can't figure out how to fix it, but I assure you the map illustrates that my car was parked (for over a year) pretty much right around the corner from the place where it was stolen. Great work, Ft. Worth PD. Also, you may notice that there's some text at the bottom of the blog which imply the presence of pictures. For some reason, I couldn't get those to work, either. So, here they are, jammed up on the top of this blog, for posterity. The picture on the left was taken the day my car was stolen, and the one on the right is the day I got it back. I'm wearing the same shirt, and I thought that was really weird.

I don't know why I'm having so much trouble with the pictures, though, so maybe one of my helpful readers can throw me a bone, here. Usually, when I want to post a picture in the body of my text, as opposed to jammed up at the top like Blogger does it, I type in the HTML for it, you know, all that "" stuff that you can put HSPACE and ALIGN values into. Usually the quotes aren't there on the outside of the <>, but I think if I don't put them in for the purposes of illustration, it'll make the computer angry. Well, I did all that for the last entry, but for some reason my pictures still wouldn't post. It's funny, because I manage my pictures with Picasa, which is owned by Google, just like Blogger. So you would think it'd be pretty easy to get pictures from my Picasa web albums into my Blogger, but you'd be wrong.

Also, I couldn't fix the technical problems in my last post because when I went back to edit it, the text suddenly became invisible! I poked around on the help forums without much success before deciding to just hit the "Publish Post" button anyway and make amends later.

Anyway, sorry for the boring technical mumbo-jumbo, but if you happen to have solutions to one or more of these problems, please, PLEASE feel free to clue me in.