Getting down and dirty

Tonight we’re seeing the typical schizophrenic weather that Florida exhibits during the change of seasons: Sunday, it was 92 degrees. Monday, the forecast high is 71 degrees, with a dip into the upper 30s by Tuesday evening. There is something reassuring about knowing at some point we’ll see a change of 20 degrees or so from one day to the next at least once during a season.

Saturday afternoon, I decided that since we’re not going to find a piece of property immediately, and since we’re not going to have a greenhouse at our disposal immediately – not a decent sized greenhouse, in any event – it’s time for us to try doing some container gardening (with grow lights and possibly some warmer lights eventually) and to put in some cool/cold weather vegetables. With that in mind, mom and I took ourselves over to Lowe’s and Home Depot to pick up some supplies.

The players: several different types of tomatoes (roma, supersweet 100, red cherry, big boy hybrid), zucchini, a sweet bell pepper (california wonder), jalapeno and cayenne peppers, collards, broccoli, snow peas, two kinds of lettuce (black seed Simpson, Romaine), leeks, bunching onions, and various herbs (sweet basil, oregano, curly parsley, thyme, dill). We also picked up a kumquat tree that is small but laden with fruit, a navel orange tree, and a variegated pink lemon tree (as a whim). I also plan to try some garlic, shallots, and carrots.

That all seems like quite a lot, but at the same time seems like only a little, given that there are only one or two of each. Saturday, I started all the tomatoes and peppers, zucchini, onion, and leek from seed in peat pellets, which are currently sitting warm and toasty in a small greenhouse container on the table outside in the sunroom. Sunday, I transplanted the basil, oregano, and parsley plants into pots from their peat containers, started the lettuce and dill from seed, and watered down everyone to ensure they wouldn’t go thirsty.

By next weekend, if all goes well, we should start seeing a few shoots from our peat pellets as the seeds germinate, and the lettuces ought to be pushing their way skyward as well. I’m hoping to have settled on a compost tumbler by then too, so we can begin recycling the organic matter in addition to the other recycling we do each week already.

Monday is reserved for transplanting the collards into the ground in front of the row where the peas will be sowed – after that row is dug, of course. Our winter is forecast to be pretty mild, and I think with the grow/heat lamps on the containers and the hardier vegetables in the soil, we should see a fairly good harvest in a couple of months. Knowing the zucchini, it will probably try to crawl out of its long container to take over the world, but we’re only starting three seeds to germinate, and will pare down to two plants – so we should have a good fighting chance of not being strangled by any output the plants decide to give. If we do see a heavy load, no doubt we’ll be leaving baskets on the neighbors’ doorsteps, ringing the bell, then running away. That would be a nice problem to have.

It’s good exercise, all of this, although I’m sore as hell just from the work thus far. It’s a good soreness, though, even though it’s painful: it’s the sort of pain that lets you know you’re still alive, still able to face the world, still able to do something different than your usual routine, still able to look with pride on even the small steps you’ve made. Breaking up the things that need to be done into smaller groups allows me to get something accomplished and then go back to my regular work. There’s something to be said for that.

In the meantime, I continue to look for property, and I’m poring over seed catalogues, deciding what to do for spring while seeing what the results of the winter experiments are. And when those first signs of life poke their way through the peat and soil, I’ll have my camera ready.

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