Monday, January 31, 2011

Tomato Update

Three... two... one... TAKEOFF!

Our tomato plant is huge! Every day I swear it must grow an inch. We even had to raise the light hood so the plant wouldn't get too close to the light.

The leaves all have little hairs on them, the smell deliciously of tomato and the root system underneath is really amazing. I'll have to put up a photo of that next time.

Excited to see what the tomato plant will do next. I'm waiting for flowers!

Left is the tomato on 1/16.
Right is the tomato on 1/30.

Amazing what two weeks will do!

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Tomatoes in January?

My family must be catching on that I like plants, because my sister got me this for Christmas.

Yeah, I was excited. Hydroponic? A grow light? Pre-planted seeds? I couldn’t possibly screw this up AND I could eat it. How cool is that?

We followed the instructions – said to hell with the electric bill – and started it up. So far so good. We’ve got one cherry tomato plant and it’s really taking off. The AeroGarden tomatoes are doing remarkably well.

The system works pretty simply; you put the prefilled pod that contains the soil and seeds in the holes in the top of the unit, fill it with water, add the liquid nutrient pack to the water and plug it in. The grow light is programmed to stay on for 14 hours per day and then turn off. In the unit is a motor, like a fish tank, that circulates the water and mixes in air.

Every day the plant seems to be getting larger, and the leaves are finally starting to smell like tomatoes! I’m optimistic that I’ll be eating homegrown tomatoes before St. Patrick’s Day.

The above photos were taken on 1/16/11. I'll have a post with current photos soon!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


In elementary school did you ever try the avocado pit experiment? You stabbed the pit with toothpicks and put it in water, hoping something would sprout, or roots would grow. If I’m remembering correctly, nothing ever happened for mine. As an adult, a new-found love of avocado on everything from taco chips to salad to sandwiches meant that I had an overabundance of avocado pits around. Since I had successfully not killed an orchid I was feeling cocky and thought starting an avocado would be cake. After consulting Google I got four pits. I put two in water with toothpicks and two in soil, one totally covered and one partially covered. And then I waited. And waited. And waited.

After about six weeks I was ready to admit defeat. The slimy pits in the water with no trace of root went into the trash. I dug up the partially covered pit and found no evidence of life and threw it away too. I was ready to just toss the last one altogether, but when I tipped it over I saw something white. A root!! I gently put it back in the pot, added water and held my breath. Well, maybe not actually held my breath, but you get the idea. In a few more weeks the top of the pit split open and out came a tiny green sprout. And then another! They grew fast and tall and had very pretty leaves, but not much else happened.

It stayed on the windowsill in the old, hot apartment and seemed to have reached its full potential. When we moved I found a book from my childhood, “Linnea’s Windowsill Garden” which instructed me to cut the main stem to promote the creation of off-shoots. I felt like little cartoon Linnea was telling me to take a pair of scissors and maim a good friend. I couldn’t bring myself to cut both stems, but I cut one and waited to see if it would work, of if I’d killed it.

Weeks later we have liftoff! Now I guess I just have to bring myself to cut the other one. That might take a few more weeks. Or maybe I’ll just ask J (my boyfriend/roommate) to cut it one day while I’m at work and not tell me.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Orchid Mothering

Working on a college campus can be dangerous. Cafeteria food. Skateboards. The nagging desire to take more classes yourself. Moody, hormonal students. Overbearing, neurotic parents. But the worst for me was the beginning of the new school year. After freshmen had moved in came the vendors, selling everything you needed to put your own stamp on the 6’x10’ box that was your dorm room. I was immune to the posters with witty phrases and photos of popular celebrities. Fish in tiny bowls held no appeal. Even the school spirit banners whose sale benefitted charity didn’t seem like they’d fit in with my home d├ęcor. Then he arrived.

The plant vendor set up shop in the student union one morning and taunted me with his presence for two days. Orchids, succulents, ferns, flowering plants of all kinds, tropical trees. They all looked healthy. They all came in cute pots. They were inexpensive. They were right there!! Finally my self-control was gone. A co-worker was kind enough to go with me and reign me in or I’m fairly certain I would have needed a U-Haul to take my purchases home. In the end I only bought two orchids.

They’ve long been my favorite flower, but I was too afraid to try to grow them myself. I thought they were too finicky, too delicate and too sensitive to live in an apartment and not a carefully regulated greenhouse. But if plant vendor guy was selling these beautiful plants to irresponsible college kids, I should be able to handle them right? Maybe not so much.

I kept one a work and brought the other home. The home one succumbed to my lack of knowledge within 3 short weeks. I became determined not to kill my second orchid and spent long hours at work poring over books and websites on orchid care. When the blooms fell off I cut back the stem to promote growth. I re-potted the plant in specially formulated orchid potting mix. I monitored the leaf color to make sure it was getting the right amount of sunlight. I watered sparingly and protected it from drafts. Lo and behold it survived! When I left that job, I took my orchid home and it has continued to grow. I still watch it carefully, but the new stalk and leaf have given me hope that it will bloom again.

So it is possible to have a full-time job and keep an orchid alive. If I can get it to bloom again maybe that means I’d be a good mom?

Top photo: Newly bought orchid in bloom.

Middle photo: Orchid today. Notice the little new shoot.

Thursday, January 20, 2011



hile the Ikea plant might not like the cooler temperatures of our new apartment, it’s comrade the shamrock is in heaven.

I received the shamrock as an apology gift from a friend after she dumped a large cup of hot beverage all over me at work. I’d never seen a shamrock before, but when I got it, it was just a bunch of green leaves. Pretty, but nothing especially pretty. I didn’t have high hopes for it. A few weeks later it exploded in tiny white flowers. The flowers just kept coming, but it required a lot of water in the high heat of the old apartment. The plant didn’t grow much, but seemed healthy enough.

The sunshine and chill of the new apartment has the shamrock in its element. If ever a plant looked happy, this is it. And as a newer Bostonian I feel I’ve done my part on St. Patrick’s Day to celebrate the Irish influence in my adopted hometown.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Ikea Plant


ince the spider plant was doing quite well, I thought we could bring it a friend. (Yes, I’m anthropomorphizing the plant – I can’t have pets in my apartment.) A trip to Ikea to get some furniture led to the discovery of plants in a far corner. A tiny tropical fern of sorts caught my eye and it came home.

Our first apartment had a heat problem. Being on the first floor of an old building meant that, even in the dead of winter, our apartment was about 80 degrees. It was customary to come home from work and put on shorts and a t-shirt and then start sweating. We left the windows open at night for fear of heatstroke. Did I mention that the heaters were completely turned off? This was just the heat that was escaping the off radiators. We may have been sweating it out, but our Ikea plant was loving it. It grew by leaps and bounds, throwing off new shoots every week.

Our new apartment has a different heat issue. Well, it’s a lack of insulation issue to be more exact. Our Ikea plant is not so happy. We found a sunny place for it, fairly close to the space heater and we’re hoping it will forgive us. I’ve been debating finding a glass bell for it, but it would have to be HUGE!

Monday, January 17, 2011

My First Plant

It started innocently enough. When I moved to Boston, my mother gave me a cutting from one of her spider plants; one of the many indoor plants in my parents’ home. Those were in addition to the outdoor half acre garden with raised beds and back plot for corn. And the compost bin behind that and the grass clipping pile behind that. I guess I was raised as a country girl in Ohio, though not by my neighbors’ standards. My family only had one tractor, and it didn’t help the family income, like the Cooper farm down the road with their miles of corn and soybeans. My family just had a vegetable garden and a desire to grow some food on their own land.

There’s a photo, taken from an airplane, of my family’s garden one autumn. It shows the raised beds overflowing with tomatoes and peppers and herbs and strawberries and beans and onions and garlic. The open plot behind is tall with tassled corn and the long, leafy stems of all sorts of gourds and squash peek out and start to take over the yard. It was one of the best years for our family garden.

I have fond memories of going to the local greenhouse with my dad on
Memorial Day weekend. Walking up and down the rows choosing what we’d grow that year and then going home and planting right around my birthday. Over the Father’s Day weekend there were always more than enough strawberries to go around, and I think we even tried making jam one year. We’d go on vacation in July and come home a week later to big plants and bigger weeds. Then the blueberries would start and I’d be out every morning to pick some for on top of our cereal. As the summer started winding down the garden would explode and we’d plan the nightly dinner menu on what was in season, running out to pick produce right before we ate. Zucchini came in an almost unwelcome abundance, and friends’ cars had better be locked with the windows up, or they’d get a present from our garden.

When I moved to the city I knew I wouldn’t have the land available for a garden like that, but I still wanted plants around me. Mom’s tiny spider plant survived the loooooong drive in the moving van and found a place on the windowsill in our first apartment. Three years later it’s thriving and has been repotted twice. My success keeping the spider plant alive led to more plants… and a curiosity as to how many plants I could keep alive at once.

This blog will follow that curiosity. I'm looking for advice, for other city people who like plants, for country people who have lots. For everyone!