On Life and Love

2011 Gardening: The Start of Awesomeness

This spring–and, admittedly, my impending marriage–brought out my green thumb. The prospect of moving this summer to an apartment that will probably have fewer windows makes me want more green in my house.

Much to Greg and Chris’s amusement, I’m planting almost everything I get my hands on:

  • a peach pit (planted before winter in the hopes of a spring sprout that hasn’t come),
  • cilantro (from packaged seeds),
  • basil (also from packaged seeds),
  • tomatoes (packaged seeds),
  • garlic cloves (unused in a risotto dinner),
  • orange seeds (from a late-night snack), and
  • a green onion (unused from a frittata meal)

This is all in addition to my two trusty cacti (a saguaro and a tephrocactus articulatus). Seventy-plus years until the first saguaro arm!

The pots and cans are covering our tall “bar” counter, fireplace mantle, and encroaching onto the stand where we keep movies and games.

The packaged seed plants were all messily planted on the same afternoon. The tomatoes sprouted first in less than a week:

Young tomato sprouts.
Picture taken 4/16/2011 afternoon.
Less-young tomato sprouts.
Picture taken 4/18/2011 morning.

They’re growing about a half-inch to an inch a day, and are happily arcing toward the window. I’m rotating them daily. I’m not sure yet when I’ll need to separate out the ones I want to grow super-big. I’m also not sure how to do so safely.

The cilantro took another two days, and the seeds are actually at the tip of the plants, which is awesome:

Tiny cilantro sprouts.
Picture taken 4/18/2011 morning, when I first saw the sprouting.
Cilantro, with much more growth.
Cilantro as of the afternoon of 4/19/2011.

My biggest hope lies in the basil, though, which hadn’t sprouted as of this morning. Basil is so easy to maintain and we’d use it in a crap-ton of dishes when we cook. If the cilantro turns out hardy, I may give this little batch to Michael, who would probably use cilantro as much as I’d use the basil.

The garlic cloves were planted about a day after the seeded plants, and their growth has been the most miraculous to watch: they’re literally growing half an inch every 8 hours. We’re keeping a paper clip in the pot to mark the big one’s height at night before bed and checking on it in the morning.

First garlic to sprout.
Picture taken 4/18/2011 morning. It's grown another 2 inches since then, as has the little one over there.

This thing is beeyootiful. I can just stare at it all day, wondering if I’m actually seeing growth. I’m curious as to what’s going on under the soil, though, because I only planted one clove, but I know I’m going to get a whole garlic out of the deal. Are there itty-bitty clove-buds forming that will grow to match the original one I planted? If the third one I planted in the pot spouts, I’ll unearth it and examine it.

The green onion came from the store with stubby roots still attached, so planting it is more an experiment in seeing if it will take root and flower. It’s a little sad; we had to attach a pencil to get it to stand upright:

Green onion in a small pot.
Even the pencil can't hold it up.

After the green onion, I was out of conventional pots that will fit on shelves, so the orange seeds went into a corn can. First tree to poke up (either the oranges or the peach) gets the huge shrub pot.

The corn can containing the orange seeds.
The corn can containing the orange seeds.

I think my saguaro is showing signs of sun deficiency, so I set up a halogen lamp for it last night (to run during the day, not 24/7). I think it’s far away enough to avoid burning, but I’ll run it for a couple of days and keep an eye out. I’m mostly looking to lighten and even up the color a bit–my tephrocactus articulatus has always done fine indoors, but the saguaro got knocked over by the cats and replanted about a year ago (shortly after its plane trip to Charlotte), so it’s a bit distressed.

I’ll admit, the foodie plants are much more immediately satisfying than the cacti. I’ve had my tephrocactus articulatus for over five years now (first trip to Arizona!), and it’s grown one healthy third prong in that time. Noticable, but not like, you know, half an inch overnight:

Three day-old garlic.
Garlic as of the afternoon of 4/19/2011.

Updated to add pictures from the afternoon of 4/19/2011.


  • Jed

    Advice from the guy who lived on a farm:
    Did you let the peach pit freeze over the winter? I am not sure if they have to freeze but I do know they have to get cold before they will sprout. It is very possible that the orange seeds are immature and will not sprout, but planting them is worth a shot.
    Separating the little sprouts is gonna kill a bunch of them, but as long as the one you want to keep has a small ball of dirt that does not fall off of the roots it should be ok, just be very gentle. if all the soil falls off the roots than there is just about no way it will not die. (holding the ball so it stays together can help) transplanting them into soft very slightly damp soil also helps.
    The garlic is probably not growing any more cloves and the cloves split off of the center stalk and grow out, with the biggest cloves on the outside. Gladiolus (the flower) grows like that, with the new corms growing from the bottom. You may want to check up on the life cycle of garlic because some types are day length sensitive or temperature sensitive (they grow leaves until a certain temperature or day length, then they start growing the bulbs or something like that, we did not grow garlic for very long).
    How big is the onion stalk to get it to need support?

    And cactus!! Tephrocactus articulatus is one of my favorite little cactus. MIne keeps getting the new growth knocked off so it is still tiny. Hopefully my saguaro hopefully only has about 60 years till its first arm, I am not sure how old it was when I got it but I have had it for about 15 years now. 😀

    • Melissa Avery

      I updated the post to have more photos, including some from this afternoon.

      Jed: I put the pot containing the peach pit outside for the winter (I’d read something about it needing to freeze), so it definitely got frosted and snowed on. We had a bitchin’ cold winter this year. Do you think that’s enough?

      The garlic thing makes sense–the clove I planted actually becomes the plant, in effect, and new cloves grow at the base. I’ll definitely do some research on the life cycle/growing style. It seems like garlic stops growing when the soil gets around 90 degrees.

      There’s now a picture of the onion stalk in the post. It’s a full stalk from a grocery-store bought bag. It’s probably not going to live. 😀

      How in the world does the growth on your articulatus keep getting knocked off? I don’t dare touch mine; those little hairs take forever to pry out of my skin.

  • Jed

    I used to have the articulatus sitting on my bedside table. It was a horrible idea. And the winter there should be cold enough to get the peach to sprout.

  • Michael

    “The prospect of moving this summer to an apartment that will probably have fewer windows”? where? why? how? and w/e others you will.

    • Melissa Avery

      It’ll be somewhere in Charlotte, but we want someplace smaller, cheaper, and easier to clean. We also want to experiment with moving closer to small living to see if it would work for us.

      I’m only assuming “fewer windows” because I wouldn’t expect to have more than two sides externally-facing. I love all the natural light in our house now, though, and don’t want to lose all of that. I think natural light is what makes smaller places work.