Growing Things

When I was a little kid, in about 5th grade, I planted a pumpkin patch in the side yard.  The back yard (though really big) was heavily wooded and had all sorts of viney things that were not conducive to growing the traditional vegetable patch. The side yard was less-so, though there were patches of poison ivy lurking.

The pumpkin vines grew really well, and produced big orange flowers, but never any pumpkin fruits. I was sad, and concluded that I generally fail at growing things.

That, however, did not deter me. I grew herbs indoors (also largely a failure), and even tried corn in buckets set out on the driveway (my parents humored me and my little projects).  Needless to say, we did not harvest much bounty from my early suburban gardening experiments.

Now older and (slightly) wiser to the ways of plants (pollination, anyone?), I have a big backyard that gets full sun for the majority of the day.  Shortly after moving in, my mom came to visit and helped me build six 3×3′ raised beds for vegetables.

Unfortunately, my current occupation (graduate student) means that I’m out of town for 3-4 months of the growing season.  In Michigan, that’s pretty much the entire growing season.  So I’m experimenting again with some indoor herbs. I planted lemon basil, parsley, and chive seeds in small pots, and bought sweet basil, lemon balm, and thyme seedlings.  My seeds took ages to germinate, and I was afraid that I had failed again. But no! They are now thriving (relatively) in the ample sun provided by my sliding glass door.  The cats love it, because it makes them feel like they’re outside (or so I tell them):


Outside, my last roommate planted a killer summer veg garden while I was out of town. The broccoli is still growing:


I’m also experimenting with a winter greens garden… My friend Shannon Brines lives around the corner and helped me out by planting some kale (last year, still going crazy!) and a mix of arugula, mache/ vit, and escarole (this year).  The arugula has just sprouted, and I’m hoping it will get a root system established before the heavy frosts roll ’round.  That way, it will over-winter and I can have a small harvest come April:


I planted some chard, beets, garlic, and carrots myself, and plan to put in some cabbage soon.  All of these plants are cold-tolerant and can withstand mild frosts (some even improve in flavor with the frost!) but would stop growing soon due to cold temps and short days.  To help these little guys out (and to prolong the growing season until the end of November-ish) I’m building passive solar greenhouses of the sort that Shannon describes on his website.

I’ve spent weeks planning and procrastinating these darned things.  After some careful calculations, it was determined that I’d need about 9 feet of “bendy material” for each rib to build the frames over each of the raised beds. I went to Home Depot and checked out their PVC piping… my stepdad had recommended 1/2″-inch as being reasonably bendable.

It only came in 10′ pieces. No, they couldn’t cut it. Okay! 10 feet it was.

I’m sure the guys at Home Depot had a pretty good laugh at the chick who crammed 21 pieces of 10’x 1/2″ PVC pipe into her little hatchback.


I was thrilled, when I got home, to see that the carrots had sprouted:


Now I’m off to measure and drill and cut and nail these things into frames over which I can drape my 6mil clear plastic sheeting! This may end up being a multi-person job, but I’m going to give it a shot.  Will update as I go, with photo documentation of what I am sure will be some amusingly frustrating exploits.


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