tomatoes smell like tomatoes

As everyone else probably expected, breaking the rules didn't go over so well, mostly because we have been having some chilly nights followed by only mildly warm days. The eggplants, heat-lovers they are, are not doing so well. They don't seem dead, they just don't seem very alive either. I have had to keep them under their milk cartons almost every night and they just look sad. I imagine I will have to replace them soon with my indoor eggplant reserve, which should probably be transplanted ASAP or they'll run out of root room. One of the tomatoes* I planted seems to be doing fine (the other was left unattended at the hands of a ruthless killer kitten mere days after I planted it...), although it isn't growing quite as fast as I'd like. Hopefully as the weather gets warmer, this will all straighten itself out.

*With the help of my dear father I figured out it is indeed a tomato plant. The conversation went a little like this:
Me: Dad, how do I know what I planted is a tomato plant and not purple coneflower?
Dad: Well, tomato plants have a very distinctive smell. Crush a leaf between your fingers and see how it smells.
Me: What do tomato leaves smell like?
Dad: [pause] Well, I guess they smell like tomato plants.
This hunch was later confirmed via an emailed photograph of the plant in question. But just in case you ever mix up your seedlings, the tomato plant is the one that smells like a tomato plant.

The lettuces are doing splendidly (they like cool, wet weather), so well that they are getting pretty crowded in their bucket. So I decided to make a second lettuce planter.
What's that you're saying? What an unconventional planter? Why yes, yes it is! Here's what I did:
Hat tip to Ms. Jess for helping me realize that the extra under-the-bed storage drawer that has had no place in my apartment for at least two moves now would make an excellent shallow planter! Worried that its translucent plastic would cook the roots of whatever I planted, I lined it with black garbage bag (cut one down the side seams and it fits perfectly) and pinned it with clothespins. Inside the garbage bag, I lined the bottom with about 1.5" of styrofoam peanuts. This helps with 1) drainage, or in this case, giving extra water a place to sit that won't water log the roots and 2) keeping the weight of the planter manageable. As an afterthought, I decided to drill a few holes in the very bottom corners of the bin and managed to catch the garbage bag on the drill bit with almost every hole. So, the garbage bags have some holes, but now so does the bin. Breathe, dirt. Breathe! It's not the prettiest solution, but it is doing its job. I planted mesclun mix leaf lettuce around its perimeter and they are sprouting already.

Warning: when using a shallow container, be sure that you are raising plants that are shallow-rooted. 6" is not a lot of dirt! These drawers would make a decent seedling bed that you could transfer plants out of later.

Lastly, I did a little deck clean-up and reorganization today. When we moved into this apartment, we inherited, among other things, a weird wood table/shelving thing that has been sitting on our front balcony doing absolutely nothing. Today I moved it out back to hopefully change up the planter levels (prior to this everything was sitting on the ground looking rather un-landscaped).
From left to right, top: oregano, catnip, chives, pretty flowers; bottom: more flowers, sad eggplants, lonely tomato, big bucket of dirt, lettuces
It looks much nicer now, really. And it will look even better when things warm up more.


breaking the rules

We've had some anomalous weather for the past few days. Today it reached 90 degrees (according to weatherunderground, at least). Yes, that's right. April 7th. 90 degrees. Bizarro. It is supposed to cool down over the weekend, but for now, it is boiling in my apartment, and I got it into my head earlier that things needed to be done in the garden!

My eggplant and purple coneflowers have gotten very big, and if the roots poking out of their peat pods are any indication, it is time to plant them. So the weather is warm, my seedlings are ready, I put soil in more containers over the weekend... sounds like a perfect planting afternoon! WRONG.

According to McGee and Stuckey (and yes, I have a total gardener crush on them), and just about every other seedling instruction resource out there, you have to "harden off" your seedlings. This basically means that you are supposed to take the seedlings outside for a few more hours each day, building up until the seedlings won't get shocked by the temperature change. This can take up to a week.


Like I have the patience for that.

M&S, I love you guys, but I don't want to wait a whole week. Besides, I have time to do this now. I'm sure they will be fine.

By way of insurance, I planted two of each and will keep the other seedlings in their trays indoors, and see how things go out on the deck.

Despite the heat, it was very windy today in Philadelphia, so I also made some protective covers for protection. After realizing I planted the eggplants too close together to fit under one half of a milk jug, I exercised some extreme resourcefulness. Gladware! So as long as it doesn't frost sometime in the next few days, they should survive. If not, I always have extras!


In other news, the weed-flowers are thriving. They seem to really enjoy the heat, and both are flowering. The pansies, on the other hand, aren't huge fans of lots of sun and this much heat, so they are not doing so well. Ah, well. I knew I'd have to replace them eventually.

Finally, the lettuces are doing very well. So well, in fact, that I have had to do some aggressive thinning. In light of my reluctance to let any seedlings go to waste, I am going to eat the thinnings. Thus, I present to you my very first salad:

Yes, that is a real fork. Yes, eating this is going to be more work than it's worth (in fact, washing the stupid things was already more work than it is worth, but...). Just think of it as a micro-micro greens salad.