Green thumb after all

I think it is the feeling of Spring that stirs in me the desire for change. Why else would I have changed the formatting of this blog twice in the past two weeks? I realize the new template is a bit more girly, but I’m a girl who sometimes feels like being a girly girl. That’s my excuse, and I’m sticking with it.

About a month ago I had a couple days off in the name of a so-called “Spring Break.” I call it “so-called” because it wasn’t a real break. More than half of the time was spent teaching make-up lessons, so I couldn’t take an actual vacation. Stuck at home with a couple days of nothing pressing to do for the first time in months, I decided to be productive on my own terms. Winter was coming to a close, and I wanted to instill some new life in my home. My answer to this call of the seasons has always been to buy some plants. Not just any plants, mind you, but edibles like herbs and vegetables. Unfortunately, it was still just a bit too early in the season; my local home improvement store, from where I always purchase fantastically healthy plants, wasn’t carrying them yet. They were, however, stocked with an abundance of seeds.

I haven’t successfully grown anything from a seed since I was in the second grade, when we grew bean plants from lima beans wrapped in damp paper towels placed in plastic baggies that were tacked to the bulletin board. Even then, my bean plant didn’t grow nearly as much as the other kids’. I always had a knack for taking care of plants from the stage of a little sproutling, but my luck with seeds left much to be desired. For some reason, though, this memory didn’t deter me as it might have on any other day. A great feeling of confidence welled inside me. I puffed my chest and marched to the seed rack.

As I just said, I hadn’t grown anything from a seed in about twenty years, so the wall of seed packets and accessories before me suddenly seemed a lot more daunting. I froze in my tracks. Even if I decided which seeds I wanted to grow, what would I do with them then? How deep should I plant them? How much water should I give them? When should I move them outside? I had no idea what I was doing. I needed help.

Fortunately, a young woman and her daughter sidled up next to me and began to peruse the seeds. Eavesdropping, I heard the woman discuss with her daughter the merits of a particular brand of miniature greenhouse. Bolstering my confidence, I approached them and asked if they had used that product before. Answering in the affirmative, the woman suddenly realized that I was a complete newb when it came to horticultural insemination. She smiled and then walked me through the basics of how to grow plants from seeds by using the product they were about to purchase.

I ended up with a little plastic container reminiscent of a takeout container from a Chinese restaurant: plastic, with a solid, opaque bottom and a clear, transparent lid. Inside were round divots, just large enough to hold a small, cylindrical peat pellet. I also ended up with seven packets of seeds: basil, chives, cilantro, oregano, tomatoes, zucchini and jalapeños. Doubting that any of them would sprout, I hydrated the peat pellets, gently planted the seeds, closed the lid, turned on my grow lamp (fashioned with a plant-growing light bulb and a heat lamp once used for a frog tank) and wished them all good luck.

Three days later, I spotted a hint of green poking out from beneath the soil. Two days after that, almost all of the zucchini had broken through and was reaching for the sky. Within a week, I had to replant most of the tomatoes and zucchini because they had reached the top of the little greenhouse. A couple of days ago, I realized that every last seed had sprouted.

This all took place about a month ago. Today, as it is so gorgeous outside, I moved the majority of my baby plants outside so that they could feel the warmth of the Spring sun. With any luck, this summer I will be eating home-grown vegetables seasoned with fresh herbs.

What thrills me the most about this is not so much that my balcony is filled with life, but that I, the girly girl whose lima bean did not want to grow as nicely as the other kids’, managed to grow each and every one of those plants from scratch. I doubt that there are many more better feelings than that. If you have the means and the time, I highly recommend trying to grow your own garden, even if you don’t think you have the knack for it. In my case, it turns out that I had a green thumb after all.

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