Returning to my Roots

I have missed gardening so much over the last several years as I bounced about between different rentals. I still think about the salvia, Russian sage, and most of all my beautiful cherry tree that I left behind at my old house. I was equally upset about the lost gardening space when our tiny house dream fell apart recently. Being able to garden and grow my own food again (and flowers, and God willing, one day another cherry tree) was a primary motivator for buying our “big-little house.”

new garden beds April 20 2015Since buying the house a mere 10 days ago, we’ve made 10 garden beds, moved almost 7.5 tons of dirt, removed sod, tilled, and planted what will one day be a hedge of blueberry plants. We’ve also planted our onion sets, transplanted our walking onions, set up green-bean trellises (I hope correctly!), collected well over a dozen eggs from our new chickens, and planted a bed of strawberries. The strawberries seem a little worse for wear, but no more than we do. In those same days, after all, we’ve also moved houses, demolished a moldy bathroom, cleaned up the rental, helped run the State Latin convention, and gone to a doctor to deal with some extreme back pain.

Despite the aches and pains and droopy strawberries, I am so very pleased with how the garden is looking, and we’ve met so many of our neighbors as we work in it. These neighbors seem more interested in our gardening plans than in learning our names as we’ve fielded significantly more queries about what we are planning to grow, where we ordered our dirt, and how we built our raised beds than queries about our names. My vision for the garden continues beyond what we’ve started, but the reality still seems very ambitious for someone who has let her green thumb wither away for nearly three years. I’m sure there will be much failure (and learning from that failure) in the upcoming year along with another epic battle against vile squash bugs.

In fact, I have already learned something new about gardening this year. I’ve never been particularly successful in growing carrots before, quite possibly because I struggle with the diminutive size of the seeds and my notorious impatience. This year, I bought two varieties of carrots: Scarlet Nantes and Dragon Carrots. The Scarlet Nantes came on seed tape, and I thought that seemed like a brilliant, easy solution to my impatience. My Dragon Carrots, however, did not come on seed tape, and I am far too enamored with the idea of eating purple carrots from my own garden to trust the seeds to my past record on cultivating carrots.

To make my own seed tape for my Dragon seeds, I watched a couple of Youtube videos and assembled the following tools: (1) scissors, (2) seeds, (3) a seed tape tools
small dish with equal parts water and flour, (4) a small paintbrush, (5) my measuring tape, and (6) a roll of single-ply toilet paper. I’m certainly a novice at making my own seed tape, but I chose single-play natural toilet paper because after spending so much time as a backpacker, I know that packing out your trash means toilet paper too. Toilet paper can take a surprisingly long time to decompose, and I’ve been beyond disgusted by less considerate backpackers on the trails. Since I want the seed tape to decompose in the garden bed and leave behind only happy and crunchy purple carrots, it seemed a prudent choice to select a single-ply toilet paper without dyes or bleach.

Mischief felt compelled to "help" inspect my handiwork.
Mischief felt compelled to “help” inspect my handiwork.

After assembling my tools, I cut a strip of toilet paper the width of my garden bed (4 feet), and then I cut that strip in half lengthwise, making two strips of for seed tape that were four feet in length. I mixed up the flour and water together to make a paste, and I dabbed little droplets of the paste with the paintbrush at the spacing required for the seeds (1/2 an inch for the carrots; 1 inch for the lettuce). From there, it was so much easier to pick up the little seeds and drop them on their paste to “catch” them than it ever was for me to try to plant them in the ground. Once I had my strip of tape done, I folded it in half, with the seeds and paste functioning as the filling in a sandwich, and planted it in the ground! I’ll have to report back later on how my experiment turned out, but I’m very hopeful that I’ll have more purple carrots than I know what to do with!

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2 thoughts on “Returning to my Roots

  1. Alex, you learn by starting! You can start with a couple of potted plants on your porch and take it from there. Also, remember: beautiful green things grow from the blackest dirt. I’m sure your black thumb isn’t anywhere near as bad as you imagine. ๐Ÿ™‚

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