During that first trip through the garden center, I also picked up some potted herbs, namely spearmint and lavender, again being surprised at the low $2 cost. After all, wouldn’t it be nice to make plantation iced tea without having to buy mint sprigs at the market? And aromatherapy articles tout the benefits of lavender. To my surprise, these two plants flourished, that is, they didn’t shrivel up and die. In fact, the mint branched out and the lavender is now fuller, and both seem to enjoy their daily spray bottle showers.
Encouraged, I roamed the Walmart garden center, thinking that perhaps vegetables are to be my niche. I see kits for growing seeds, each box costs $6. Geez, you can’t even buy a fish tank for $6, how cool is this? A stand of seed packets is conveniently displayed next to the kits. I pick out asparagus (a neighbor has a cluster in her yard), sunflowers and tomato.
The kit turns out to hold three dozen dehydrated soil pods. When you line up the pods in a square plastic tray and pour in warm water, you end up with moist rich soil pods wrapped in a thin fabric mesh. You can now drill a little hole on top of each pod and insert your seeds. I only activate a dozen pods, and insert a small amount of seeds in each. A clear dome cover fits over the tray, creating a little plastic greenhouse.
After several days indoors, near a sunny window, the sunflower and tomato seeds begin to sprout, and arch towards the light source. I keep on rotating the tray in the hopes of getting the plants to grow upright without curving. The asparagus takes a week and a half before appearing.
I show my masterpiece to one green thumb senior, who pronounces the seedlings worthy of a petri dish science experiment. A week later, another senior viewed the seedlings, and gently advises that two thirds of them could really be weeded out, and only the sturdiest plants with at least four leaves might be salvaged. From their feedback and further garden center explorations, I realize that you can inexpensively buy fully formed seedlings which have a much better chance of survival. I gained some insight into this growing ‘from scratch’ experience, but am now happy to leave the seeds to experienced farmers.
Seedling update: Here are the final candidates in the 'survival of the fittest' group after two weeks. Even though these seedlings were all planted at the same time, their growth has differed, I assume because they haven't gotten the same amount of water or sun.
Newbie lesson for me, it might be a good idea to label seedlings, especially if one transplants them numerous times. Hopefully these will grow to a point where we can tell the tomato plants from the sunflowers! If I were really compulsive, I would have taken photos of each plant along with their descriptive 'cards' and store them in a software notetaking application like Evernote, which would perform OCR recognition on the plant name along with care instructions so that the text can then be easily searchable for future use. Geekdom and gardening can be a good team!