There's a lamp on 15 hours a day on my three season back porch again. Didn't it just seem like yesterday that I had fuzzy chicks on my back porch, cheeping away under a heat lamp and growing exponentially every day? These days the girls are all grown up and have taken to each laying one egg a day, giving us endless delight in the form of surplus protein. If you haven't gotten eggs yet from us, ask. Last I counted, we had 4 days last week where we found 3 eggs in our little nest, compared with all winter where we'd maybe find 1.
This time around the growing things under our heat lamp aren't chirping, they're just growing steadily, quietly, faithfully under a serene piece of plastic. Seeds. Beautiful heirloom vegetables and herbs are getting their start a little early this year. Over on Gapers Block, I recommended to Chicago that they get moving on their seeds for the season and promptly heeded my own advice. I hauled myself up to Brew & Grow and, after getting a bit distracted in their beer kits and picking up a Belgian Tripel kit for next weekend, I was persuaded by B&G's knowledgeable staff to pick up starter plugs (last years peat pots and starter mix failed miserably), a one piece lighting system (that actually doesn't produce heat, rather economically efficient wavelength light for growing), and a little indoor watering pot. We picked up a few brewing freebies too-- a taste of the alt beer they had on tap and a half gallon of their house made compost tea.
On that drizzly Monday night, Melanie and I plopped ourselves down in the middle of our kitchen floor, scattered seed packets in logical planting order, readied Melanie's handmade grid and began to plant. We had 98 spots, 17 packets of seeds and felt ready to make some tough decisions. How many chive plants do we really need? And will we have room for 5 different kinds of tomato plants if we want to grow 4 of each variety? We're going to need some serious yardage. Last time I checked, little to nothing grows in my back yard (save chickens) but luckily, I snagged a spot at a newly established community garden plot just a few blocks away. Check out our grid below--I made it extra big for your reading ease. I know, we got a bit over zealous on the tomatoes but is there anything better than a tomato straight out of the garden? I could swoon just thinking about it.
Plugs are brilliant. You drop the seeds into their little pot, and voila! You're done. No mucky soil under your nails, no soil all over my kitchen floor, just seeds and plugs all neatly tucked in their little tray. I am really really hoping that these plugs prove to be the brilliant hydroponic miracle plugs that they claim. So far, things are looking fantastic.
I turn on the light on at 6 am when I leave for work and then off again just before bed to give the seeds their full 16 hours of daylight, plus keeping their plugs moist with some organic grower feed. For all the work, I'm delighted that spring has come early in my little apartment. I like having projects working quietly at home as I work and if there is anything I can do to lengthen the uber-short growing season in Chicago, I'll do it. Thus far the cucumber is winning by a long shot, followed by beets and carrots. I'm not quite sure what to do once these guys outgrow their plugs but aren't quite ready for the cold Chicago outdoors but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it. Actually, let's be honest. I'll probably run up to Brew & Grow and ask them what to do, and pick up another beer making kit, have another little sampler and be inspired to keep growing. That's what we should be feeling inspired to do come springtime. Keep growing.