I kill plants.
It’s just something that’s understood in my household. I have never been able to keep plants alive. My husband has to handle all of the yard work, otherwise, the plants will just crumple and die as I walk past – like some evil blight creature out of a fairy tale.
With the pandemic, it seemed like a good idea to try to grow some of our own food, if for no other reason than to avoid as many grocery store trips as possible. And building a raised garden bed gave my husband and kids something to do while I’m on deadline.
I’ve seen what happens in gardening centers in our area in NORMAL years, so I didn’t want to try to rely on starter plants. So the plant killer decided to start plants from seeds. What could go wrong?
I don’t know why my family decided I should be in charge of the plant aspect of this project – other than maybe they’re trying to stay entertained in the quarantine. First of all, some of those seeds are really freaking tiny and I want to know how you only plant one at a time. Tweezers? I don’t really have a second of all. I’m just saying.
So as the Michigan snows continued to rage through March, I babied my tiny peat pot discs. In about a week, I started seeing signs of life. I confess I panic ordered some bell pepper plants online because I was convinced I had murdered an entire tray of them. (They lagged behind everything else for WEEKS. They’re fine now.)
One of the green bean plant was taller than all of the other plants, so I called it Big Tuna – after my favorite lanky character from The Office. And then the green bean plant next to it started sort of reaching towards Big Tuna, so we called it Pam.
Naming the plants seemed to give the kids more of an investment in them. Every morning, we would wake up to see the tiny changes that happened overnight. And it was funny to see how the plants took on little personalities.
The green bean plant surrounded by peat pots that refused to thrive was Toby, because he seemed to suck away their will to live.
The Dwight K. Schrute plant became aggressively bigger than all of the other pea plants. The Nard Dog pea plant didn’t seem to realize how close the Dwight K. Schrute plant was to the Angela pea plant. Nard Dog also had a tendency to attach itself to other plants with its little tendrils and refuse to let go.
The Jan Levinson-Gould blue bush bean plant leaned away from the Michael Gary Scott plant and the Michael Scarn plant.
One of the bell pepper plants broke off during shipping, so we named it Creed, because he was just The Roots.
Also, we named the onion bed Stanley after that time that he made Michael cry.
Every plant that thrived got its own little plaque and a name. We eventually ran out of Office names and moved on to Parks and Rec. We now we have a planter full of cucumbers named Jerry Larry Gary Gurgich and a pea plant named Ron Last Name Redacted.
We put the plants in the raised beds yesterday and most of them survived the transition.
And they’re being guarded by this guy.
Because it's funny.
If nothing else, I think planting a garden will help the kids appreciate how much work it takes to bring food to the plate. And it’s something we worked on together, which has definitely been more fun than the million jigsaw puzzles we tried. Or at least, it involved less cursing.
So, if you’re like me and you are not a gardener, I offer the following tips.
-Consider how much space you have to plant and what you can reasonably bring to harvest in that space without becoming a major inconvenience/damaging your house. Pay close attention to planting seasons, germination/harvest times and spacing instructions.
-Starting from seeds takes a lot of work and patience and space. By the time I was done repotting everything – because the plants were too tall for the peat pots – the plants took up about half of my living room. It’s cheaper that buying plants, but the chances of failure are lower. You have to figure it out for yourself – because your family may not be OK with turning your living room into a mini farm.
-If you don’t want to brave the garden center, you can order plants online. There are some great sources on Etsy - just search for "live (blank) plant." You can also search on Ferry Morse or Amazon or Home Depot online.
-Get creative with your planters. You don't have to go out and buy planters in a bunch of different sizes. We ended up using plastic lined shipping boxes and it worked great!
-The warnings against over-watering are REAL. There’s a temptation to water constantly because it’s something concrete you can do for your plants every day. I started getting tiny mushrooms in the the pots, which is supposed be a sign of good soil health, but also a sign you’re watering too much. Mushrooms growing in your house is always bad!