Gardening Badge

Golden Globe Tomatoes

Originally uploaded by nodigio

Step One: Imagine stepping outside your door – onto your little apartment patio or into a 5 acre paradise – and plucking the ingredients for your salad. Maybe you don’t have a patio, but you do have a shelf with a gro-light, and a couple of containers of salad vegetables and herbs, and you pluck a few and drop them into a container to take to work for snacks and as part of your sack lunch. Maybe you grow cutting flowers isntead, so you always have fresh flowers in your livingroom or on your desk at work. Imagine having a dinner party and your friends arrive with scissors to snip their own salads!

Step Two: There are lots of reasons to garden, whether it’s a few potted plants on the windowsill just for pretties or five acres of culinary independence. Even the most inept of us can find a plant that will survive under our care (says the person who killed an air plant!), and we may find they thrive for us. That can give you a real sense of accomplishment. Even a single plant can brighten a room. Plants are excellent interior decorating objects. If you grow herbs, vegetables, and fruits, there’s nothing so satisfying as eating what you grew. Many people find that working with plants calms them and makes them peaceful. It relieves the stress of the workday. You don’t need acres of garden to get that feeling of peace and accomplishment. A single potted plant can work.

Step Three: Pick a spot for your garden, whether it’s a shelf in your kitchen, a windowsill, a hanging basket on the railing of your balcony, or a strip of ground by your door. If you have at least 3 square feet and 6 hours of sunlight (or can supplement the lighting with gro-lights), you can grow a small garden.

Step Four: Collect your gardening gear. Let’s say you’re going to grow an indoor salad garden, with a mesclun mix of lettuces and greens, some basil and parsley, and maybe even a cherry tomato like Sweet 100. You can grow all of that in 3 square feet. You’ll need 3 containers that are 12″ in diameter, organic gardening soil, vegetable fertilizer if the potting mix isn’t pre-fertilized, a seed packet of the mesclun mix (you can get spicy or sweet or a blend of both), and three plants: one basil, one parsley, and one cherry tomato. The cherry tomato plant will need a cage to support it and the little tomatoes it will produce. You’ll need a small roll of weed barrier cloth, a watering can, a fork, and a pair of scissors, and if your location doesn’t get at least 6 hours of direct sunlight, you’ll need to get a gro-light for them, and a lamp to hold the gro-light bulb. A 3 foot long tube light will provide enough light for all three pots.

Of course, you aren’t limited to what is suggested here. You can choose to grow flowers, or tropicals, or succulents, or an herb garden in a strawberry pot. Or you can research square foot gardening or lasagna gardening and grow plants outdoors. Both the square foot method and the lasagna method are quick, fuss-free, and easy – no digging!

Step Five: Once you’ve gathered your equipment and seeds/plants, it’s time to sow them! First, line your pots with the weed barrier cloth – it will let the water through without washing the soil out into the saucer of the pot. You can also use coffee filters, but they might be a bit too small to work well. Next, fill the pots up to an inch below the rim. If you bought an organic gardening blend of potting soil, it may already be pre-fertilized. If not, you’ll fertilize the soil at this point. Then follow the instructions on your seed packet, putting the mesclun in one pot, the herbs in one pot, and the tomato in the last pot. Top up with soil to within half an inch of the rim and water.

Step Six: Tend your garden. Container plants are very much like infants – they need to be tended every single day. You need to check their water levels (some newer containers have water indicators on them or watering pockets – these are great!), their amount of sunlight, and even their temperature – especially if you’re growing them outside. Wind can dry a container plant out in no time. You can help retain moisture by mixing perlite into the potting soil (1/4 perlite to 3/4 potting soil) and by mulching the pots with sphagnum moss, and by putting up a wind break around the container. Indoor plants won’t dry out from the wind, but it can still be too dry for them. They may need misting occasionally to help stay moist. They’ll need to be fertilized every three weeks, even hte plants with pre-fertilized soil. Container plants use up nutrients quickly because the nutrients aren’t renewed by plants growing near them in the ground. Be sure to read the watering needs of your plants so you don’t overwater them – yellow leaves are a sign of over-watering or fungus from being too moist. Drooping and dry soil are signs of underwatering.

If you want a continuous harvest of lettuces, sow more seeds every two weeks.

Step Seven: Harvest time! About a month after planting, your lettuces should be ready to harvest, just snip them about an inch above soil level. It’ll take about 2 months for your first tomatoes to ripen. Basil is ready to harvest when it’s 12″ tall. Snipping it will cause it to grow bushier and put out more leaves. The same with parsley. If you planted curly leafed parsley, it’s ready when you get full bunches about 4 to 6 inches tall. Like basil, cutting it causes it to come back.

Step Eight: Claim you badge!


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