Thursday 31 January 2008

Go Arugula!

“Guaranteed to Grow!” it promised, the faded blue letters still somewhat visible against the once-bright orange background.

Well, I thought, might as well give it a try.

This past weekend was cold and blizzardy, and aside from a from a trip to Canadian Tire to get my car fixed up to pass the out-of-province inspection (kaff-moneygrab-kaff), two trips to the gym, and an outing for groceries/wine, I stayed inside, cleaning, organizing, hanging photos, and yes, opening up that faded box.

Last year (or was it the year before?), I bought a mini herb greenhouse, complete with pucks of “growing medium” (can’t I just call it dirt?), seeds, and little pots. It’s taken me a long time to try it, not just because I felt I was always busy, but mostly because I felt bad in advance for killing all six little seedlings. Fear of failure? Not really. It’s kind of like putting yet another plant into the Pot of Death (which I think I gave to Andrea) – I’d have a moment of satisfaction, thinking how pretty it looks, then lots of guilt for its eventual -- yet certain -- demise.

Last winter, I planned to start early, then transplant the seedlings into a planter on my balcony. Time passed. In early June, I bought an urn, some dirt, two geraniums, a parsley plant and a basil. Voila! Instant garden! Everyone lived through the season, looked gorgeous, yielded beautiful blooms, fresh seasoning and two batches of homemade pesto, yet the sense of satisfaction wasn’t what it should be. After all, I only watered them and gave them a quarter turn once a week. I didn’t feel very instrumental in their thriving.

This change of town, of scenery, of climate, of life has inspired me to open that box. I would start early. I wouldn’t be too busy with friends or outings (if only…). I would coddle and care for those little seeds, nurture them into healthy, bushy sources of fresh arugula, cilantro, fennel, oregano, parsley and tarragon.

Unfortunately, the simple directions translated into harder work than I expected, which I should have expected.

First step: soak the parsley and cilantro seeds for 48 hours. Check.

Next, put one puck of growing medium into each little pot, and cover it with ½ cup of warm water for 5 minutes. Easier said than done, since the little biodegradable pots had drainage holes far enough up the sides that any water I poured in poured right out again. I eventually soaked them, one by one, in a pyrex measuring cup; the “five minutes” of soaking turned into 45 minutes of hands-on supervision. I’d place the dirt in the pot, put the pot in the cup, pour about a cup of warm water over it, then hold it down so it wouldn’t float up and tip over. Messy, yet fun, if you have nothing else to do. Which I didn’t. Check.

About 10 of each variety of seed was sprinkled onto the moist surface, except for the parsley and cilantro, which I had already figured would be difficult, the bad seeds, if you will*. The parsley had to be finely covered. Keep in mind that I was working with a 2-inch diameter pot, with a “medium” that holds itself together with some kind of invisible forcefield, and sticks to any other surface (e.g., fingers) tenaciously. I suspected that it was a sophisticated self-defense mechanism, but I still wasn’t impressed, especially after ten minutes of finicky, filthy, fumbling frustration. And then onto the cilantro, which I was directed to press into the medium until it was buried. Again, easier said than done. The peppercorn-esque balls kept popping themselves back out. Ten more minutes gone.

Finally, the prep work was completed. In less than 2 hours, I had 6 lovely little pots labeled with stationery flags in a little plastic greenhouse by the sliding doors. I also had a muddy countertop, sink, hands and pants (I didn’t want to dirty a tea towel!).

The waiting game began; the race is on.

It’s been three days; the first sprouts appeared yesterday. It seems to be such a short time for life to develop, but tiny white tendrils are creeping out of the seeds sprinkled in one of the pots, and because of this, I have hope that the others will soon follow. Maybe this greenhouse garden will be a success, and all the little sproutlings will emerge from their seedy beginnings, survive the transplant to their urn, grow and thrive in the warm weather, and we’ll be enjoying fresh herbs sprinkled on dinner every night, all summer.

In the meantime, though, the arugula has the lead. Go arugula!

*I made myself laugh with that one.

1 comment:

Andrea Wenham said...

Yes, indeed I do have the Pot Of Death, which is so potent, that it appears to have spread its powers beyond its own confines to the rest of my pots! Clearly, all my plants have died because of this evil pot, and their deaths have nothing to do with lack of water...

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