Maybe it is easy being green

. . . because you really can grow lettuce indoors in the Midwest

Nothing can get you more in the mood for spring than having a deadline. Mine was January 20, when it was so cold outside, one deep breath could make your snot crispy. The story objective - to encourage readers to get out there and dig around in their own back yard and start a garden. After all, how much more local can you get while saving money and being creative in the kitchen?

Slight problem, even if I scraped away the snow and ice covering my yard the only thing I was going to find underneath was more frozen tundra and freeze-dried brown things - I needed artwork to tell the story. I needed some earthy little sprouts. On the plus side, my tiny kitchen has one large south-facing window that I use to grow parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, chives and catnip in year-round.

So with the countdown clock set, my mission was to find some quick sprouting vegetables that are the harbingers of spring. The answer – baby mesclun mix and baby spinach. To speed things up, and to justify buying a new gardening gadget, I purchased a heated seed-starting mat that goes under prospective seedlings to warm their little plot of earth.

That earth was a mix of potting soil containing fertilizer and seed-starting medium (which is lighter). For aesthetic purposes, and since I wanted to fake a spring garden plot, I left out those little brown pellets and their fibrous pot cousins and spread my earthy mix in the seed starting tray. Then, each half was sprinkled with my little budding wonders of joy – half spinach and half lettuce.

With their buns warming and a mist of water each day, the little green heads began emerging within a few days. Once the sprouts were established, the warming pad was no longer needed. To keep moisture even, the clear tray lid was propped open with chopsticks – while I was home. You see, a big tray of dirt with little sprouts was too much temptation for the feline members of the house.

Which led the melt down of 2009. Well, the year is still young. You see, as I was waiting for the sprouts to get a bit bigger for their pictorial debut, curiosity did just about kill the cat. Someone decided to reach in their paw and tipped the whole mini-garden plot into a pile of green confetti and brown rubble. Of course this was as I was leaving for the day job. I thought all was loss until Mr. Andshecookstoo mentioned getting to work late that day.

Did I mention that most of the cats are his? After a careful replanting of each little seedling – something akin to playing a game of Operation – the plot was restored. He even kept the spinach and mesclun sprouts in their separate halves. Did I also mention he’s a librarian?

Consequently, the little darlings lived. And now, when most spring gardeners are just starting their plots of lettuces and greens, we have a bountiful little tray fit for two. Or more. I keep finding half-chewed pieces and dirty paw prints around the kitchen . . .

Mesclun is a mix of salad greens that offer a variety of flavors from peppery to herby. Originating in Provence, the greens come in a wide assortment of size, color and textures. The reason we used baby mesclun and baby spinach in this experiment was to save sprouting and maturity time and to not need a great depth of dirt while still providing room for the roots. With just a few seeds needed, I think this is something I will grow indoors year-round in addition to my herbs.

-GE, 3/1/09

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Herbs are also great to grow indoors - sage, thyme and parsley do well.

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