Monday, September 29, 2008

Day 80 / Day 16 - Teeny Tiny Tomato

Admittedly, I was just about to give up on the tomatoes. Not only are there not a lot of flowers, but I noticed even some of the flowers that had appeared were suddenly drying up.

But then I looked very, very closely at one of the wilting flowers:

If I'm not mistaken, that is a teeny tiny tomato! And then I recalled from all my old tomato gardening experience growing up that this is how it happens--the flower whithers away and behind it the tomatoes grow.

Now before you get too excited, this is the one I've found among all three plants, and there are still way too many buds without flowers for my taste. I still think that somehow I probably got a bad batch of tomato seeds.

But I've adjusted my criteria for success. At one point I had visions of dozens and dozens of cherry tomatoes. But now, if this one little guy grows up to be a ripe red cherry tomato, I will make myself a teeny tiny BLT and consider my gardening experience a success.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Day 77 / Day 13 - Tomatoes Blah, Lettuce Yay, Herbs Eh

If the pictures below look much nicer than my pictures of the past, it's because for the first time in many years, I used a real digital camera and not a digital camcorder with a flash that washes everything out. It was a birthday gift from the two young ladies who report to me at work--two of the most wonderful, fantastic, thoughtful, lovely, amazing, and my favorite people in the whole wide world. I'd go on, but one of them reads this blog, and I don't want to embarrass her :P

The last digital camera I owned was an Apple QuickTake camera in the late 1990s. It wasn't 8 megapixels, or 4 megapixels, or 2 megapixels, or even 1 megapixel. It was 0.3 megapixels. Since then, I've gotten by with camera phones and digital camcorder photos, but it feels great to finally have a real one. Although at 8 megapixels, I admit I'm overwhelmed. While my 2.0 megapixel camcorder could take photos, this camera gets down to the subatomic particle level.

Anyway, back to the plants. Admittedly, I'm getting a little worried about the tomato plants. There are a whole lot of leaves and a whole lot of buds, but not a whole lot of flowers. Plus, the plants were growing off to the sides and close to the lights.

I finally caved and turned to the manual. Lo and behold, it gave instructions for that very scenario. Its advice was to basically prune the plant to remove branches that were falling off the side and near the lights. I did, and I got this:

The kitchen floor looked a lot like our kitchen floor growing up after my dad would give us all haircuts. The one difference is that the Aerogarden did not run upstairs in tears because they knew they were going to be made fun of in school the next day, but let's not go there.

It actually makes sense to prune the leaves, because they were getting big and sucking up all the nutrients. Some of them were getting brown on the edges because they were blocked from the light. Hopefully now most of the nutrients will go to the buds, turn them into flowers, and then turn them into little tomatoes. Here's one of the flowers, in all its subatomic glory.

The lettuce, on the other hand, is doing quite well. All of the pods sprouted multiple leaves except for one, which had one lone leaf pop up. In fact, if I were preparing a salad for a Barbie doll, I'd be able to provide a very nice garden salad for her.

On the top shelf, standing on my tippietoes, the oregano, sage, and thyme have all popped up. The parsley is still biding its time.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Day 71 / Day 7 - And They're Off

Perhaps inspired by their lettuce brethren in the apartment above it, a few little yellow buds finally appeared on the tomato plants!

There are about 3-4 yellow flowers and a whole bunch of green buds that have no hint of yellow yet. The flowers aren't open yet, but once they do, the manual says I'm going to have to do the work of a bee and pollinate the flowers by shaking the plant. Such is the glamorous life of the indoor gardener.

Here's what the tomato garden looks like today.

I still get the nagging feeling that the tomato plant is a bit behind schedule. Not only are there not too many flowers, some of the leaves seem to be drying out at the edges, even though there's plenty of water in the unit. Let's hope the green buds start sprouting flowers soon.

On the other hand, the salad greens don't have that problem. They just keep on growing. Today, I removed the plastic hoods from 3 of the pods. Here's what one of them looked like:

Not to be outdone, the herbs on the top shelf have started to sprout too! I have to stand on a chair on my tiptoes to see, but the oregano and thyme are up and we're still waiting for the parsley and the sage. Here's what the thyme is looking like:

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Day 67 / Day 3 - Salad Greens Are In the House

The Salad Greens pods say on it that they sprouts in 1-3 days. At first I thought this must have been a typo, but lo and behold, just under 2 days after writing the last blog, a teeny tiny little sprig of infant lettuce peeked its leaves out! It's certainly the polar opposite of the weeks I waited for the tomato plants to appear. Right now it doesn't look a thing like supermarket lettuce, but I figure time will take care of that.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Day 65 / Day 1 - Big day for the indoor gardener

Now that I have two extra shelves, I decided to go with the silver Aerogarden as my third unit. Since I had two black ones already, I figured I'd mix it up a little.

Unlike the shelf, assembling the new Aerogarden was a joy as usual. 

It quite literally took me under a minute to put it together. Just pop the arm into the base, attach the lights into the hood, plug the hood into the base, and plug the whole thing into the wall. In fact, it took me longer to type that than to actually do it!

It took me another 30 seconds to plant the pods. 

I decided to go with the salad green pods. In my on-and-off resolution to eat healthier, I told myself that I'd eat more salads if I had access to fresh lettuce every day. The life of a single guy who doesn't happen to own a bunny is that you buy an entire head of lettuce and end up throwing away 95% of it. Either that or buy individual bags of a few lettuce leaves for five bucks a pop! (Of course it didn't hurt that it was 40% off when my local Linens N Things was selling everything on clearance...)

Everything was the same as all other Aerogardens, except I had to select the light setting for "Salad Greens". Aerogarden units are intelligent in that when the plants are initially growing the lights will remain on for 18 hours and off for 6 hours, and when the plants are mature, it'll change the cycle to 17 hours on and 7 hours off. Seems that the good folks at Aerogrow really put some science into it. 

This is a kit that'll grow different varieties of lettuce. The amazing thing is, it doesn't grow heads of lettuce, but individual leaves of lettuce! How they manage this I don't quite understand. I'll just chalk it up to modern science.

Here's what the pods looked like on the second shelf of the 3-Shelf Unit. 

My dream, of course, is to be able to do two things: first, to make a garden salad complete with cherry tomatoes and my own lettuce. Second, to make a BLT using my very own L and my very own T.

So, what to put on the top shelf? I decided to plant Aerogarden's "Holiday Herbs" kit. When I first heard the name, I thought it'd be growing plants of red and green sprinkles or something. But it's actually a great kit with my favorite cooking herbs (parsley, sage, oregano, and thyme). It's one herb short of "Scarborough Fair" (but happily, I do have already have three rosemary plants).
Planting my pods of lettuce and herbs took all of 30 second. Admittedly, if I ever move to a house with a yard, I'm a bit spolied now. I don't know if I could ever go back to tilling soil and seed starters and critters again...

Here's what my indoor garden looks like now:

And no, my kitchen didn't do an impersonation of the walls of Jericho. Not yet, not least. 

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Day 61: There's one born every minute

I am one of those types who loves to get a good deal, probably a little too much so. If I see a giant talking Elvis head that used to be $300 but has since been reduced to $50, I'll jump at it, and only realize too late that I really didn't need a giant talking Elvis head.

So, when I saw the Aerogarden Three-Shelf Wall Gardenicon on sale for way below its retail price, I had to get it. I figured, I'd get delivered to my door a lovely pre-assembled shelf unit that I could just prop up and put my Aerogarden units on.

Here's what I got...

I cringed as I read the instructions. I admit that I'm not very much of a handyman. I mean, I own a power drill and a studfinder, but to be honest I've never really used either very much (you guessed it--I got both of them because they were on sale).

But feeling a bit adventrous, I started to read the manual. It seemed simple enough. Lay the paper guide over the wall, drill holes into a wood stud, and screw the shelves into the wall.

Step one went okay.

The studfinder told me where the wood studs. But when I drilled into the wall, all I felt was a lot of plaster and there were no wood studs to be found.

So, I concluded I needed wall anchors. I went to the Home Depot and bought a box, which were the wrong kind.

I went back the next day and got another box, which were also the wrong kind in a completely different way.

Then I dug through my toolbox and found a set of plastic wall anchors, which I proceeded to drill into the wall. After drilling for a bit, guess what I found? That's right, a wood stud. Turns out it was buried several inches underneath all the plaster or concrete or asbestos or whatever it was.

So, I went back to square one and drilled the shelves into the wall, reaching all the way to the wood studs. This is how it ended up.

Notice that I've already put the Tomato Aerogarden on the bottom shelf. In a few days, I'll be starting up a second Aerogarden (the one that used to have the basil) and a third one, which I bought a few weeks ago (yes, it was on sale at Amazon). Admittedly, I am still half expecting the entire wall to come crashing down one day, but until that happens, I'll just consider myself up there with the likes of Bob Vila.

So, an update on the tomato plants. I did add two more nutrient tablets as another two weeks have passed (how time flies). The plants are getting bigger and bigger. I'm a bit nervous because there don't seem to be any flowers yet. There are green things that look like flowers, but no purty yellow or white flowers yet. I'll keep waiting, and you'll be the first to know once they show up.

Oh, it'll be our little secret what's up and down the wall behind the silver post (shhh!)

Oh, and yes, I really did buy a talking Elvis head.