Things I’m reading

Today is Thursday night, for me week 7 of shelter-in-place/work-from-home/etc.

Things I’m reading:

Things I’m grateful for:

  • Somebody at work wants to start a book club, with books not about work.
  • Sun.
  • The peas are up! And the kale! And the beans! And the melons! And the spinach! They’re all up about a quarter of an inch, but still. They’re up! And there’s one ripe strawberry, which I’m hoping to eat before a squirrel does.
  • That our house, the house of the Horrible House Remodel, came with an Awesome Garden. We at least partially bought the house because of it, and yet. The Awesome Garden is even more awesome than I realized. The past several weeks have offered me much more time to spend in it, and I love it.
  • That we got the new fence and raised vegetable garden beds in before shelter-in-place.
  • Clear air, and the views over the southern & eastern hills.
  • Two days ago, the deer that hang out in the far yard eyed me carefully while I sat on a bench under a tree. I held very still, and they carefully walked right past me and continued on their way to graze on whatever they wanted to graze on.
  • Having a kitchen, and a heating system.
  • Having plenty to eat.
  • That my family is healthy.

People I miss:

  • My parents.
  • My nephew-by-friendship, and his parents.
  • My hiking buddy.
  • My afternoon-walk friend, and my mentee.
  • My college friend who just moved to California.

Things I’m surprised by:

  • How just plain exhausting videoconferences are.
  • My own lack of patience for said videoconferences; most large virtual meetings; project status updates; and other work-process type things.
  • How nice it is to be at home all day.
  • How not-stir-crazy I feel.
  • How I still feel busy (although, and I’m grateful for this, less than a week or two ago).
  • How easily we switched from eating out nearly every night (which started because no kitchen), to cooking nearly every night (because shelter in place).
  • The difference an ergonomic keyboard makes.

That is all.

Garden journal

What you can’t see in this photo: seeds for scallions, peas, tomatoes, and basil, all just below the surface of the dirt. The tomato and basil seeds are under this mini-greenhouse-thingy. The green plant that is visible is a raspberry bush. It will get bigger. I hope. 

Today I planted seeds for spinach; scallions; chives; the first batch of tomatoes, and basil. The tomatoes are an experiment. I’m not one for transplanting, so I’m starting the seeds under this row shelter. It’s a sort of lightweight portable greenhouse, designed to keep the air and soil within it warmer than they would be otherwise – and thus, I hope, encourage the tomatoes to grow. I don’t know if it will work. I’m hopeful but not confident.

This brings my total number of garden-beds-planted out to two – the two smallest, out of six total, but still. It feels like progress. I’d already planted peas, and they’ve started to sprout; and two years ago I put in strawberries, which being perennials, remain right where they are and just keep on producing. I pulled back the bindweed from the raspberries, and they are starting to send out runners from main plant & generally expand, so I’m optimistic about that as well.

Dirt is wonderful.

I am not, I would say, an experienced gardener. The six beds I’m planting out now will be my first full-scale vegetable garden. Previously, I had the strawberries, and I grew peas last year, and for several years I’ve bought tomato plants at the nursery and put them in, with mixed success (sometime I get the tomatoes, sometimes the squirrels do) – and I have thyme and oregano and rosemary, all of which are pretty much plant ‘em and forget ‘em types of herbs. But this year …

This year is different.

When work-from-home / shelter-in-place / buy-groceries-only-every-two-weeks began, the first thing I did was buy a frying pan. The second thing I did was think I am only growing things to eat. Then I bought seeds. It wasn’t a well thought out plan. It felt more like instinct, a do this now urge that, while imperative, didn’t come with a lot of background knowledge or detailed instructions. I didn’t know how many of any kind of plant I would want, or even how many would fit in the space I have. I didn’t know how long things would take to produce, or what to do about fertilizer, or how far apart to plant things.

I figured it was better to have too many seeds than too few, so I bought more seeds than I needed. I focused on things I like to eat, that are best eaten uncooked (spinach, kale, tomatoes, herbs to brighten up canned goods or casseroles), that I just love and want lots of access to (corn, snap peas, more tomatoes, melon, zucchini), that seem like really handy things to eat that I might not want to get from a store (green beans, scallions, dill, chili peppers).

Then I started clearing weeds.

Then I made a spreadsheet.

I don’t have a lot of experience, but I am very very good at online research of the how-to variety, and I am very very good at structuring information. My spreadsheet lists the seeds I’m planting down one side, and across the top has months, broken down into half-months. Based on looking up when to plant, how long things take to grow and mature, and when to harvest, I now have a diagram showing what the seed producers + the collective wisdom of the internet think I should plant when, and how soon I can expect to see it sprout, and how soon I can expect to eat it.

My plan is to take notes as I go, and see what works. I do want to eat all this goodness this year; but I also want to learn, and I’m enough of a realist to suspect that some things I’ve planted will work out better than others.

So. Today I planted out the first two beds.

By the end of the week….

Really easy gardening (in pots! in not much space!)

Baby snap pea plant. Gardening makes things better!

A few friends who are sheltering in place in apartments (or houses with not much outdoor space) have asked about growing herbs and veggies in containers, and how to get started.

This is totally do-able! You just need pots; potting soil; and seeds. It can be sort of intimidating to figure out which, though, so if you want an easy way to get started, here’s a list:

Pots and dirt

I’m linking to Home Depot because they’re open, and offer delivery. Your local garden store might be open too! If so, just ask them for three or four large-ish pots and the equivalent amount of potting mix.

Self-watering planter, 1 (or 2 if adding a tomato plant)

Rectangular deck box, 2 (or 3 if adding basil)

Potting soil, 2 bags (or 3, if you get an additional planter and/or deck box)


I’m listing seeds that are easy to grow; don’t need transplanting, staking, or other special stuff; grow quickly; and are a reasonable size to grow in containers.

I’m linking to because I’ve ordered from them before, and they’re open and shipping. I also like and

Snap peas: Sugar Ann

Arugula: Runaway Arugula

Spinach: Bordeaux Red-Stemmed Spinach

Parsley: Gigante d’Italia

Cilantro: Caribe

If you have a sunny spot, you can also do:

Tomatoes: Cherry Falls (doesn’t need a tomato cage!)

Basil: Bonazza


The seed packets will have planting instructions. In general, all these seeds should be planted just below the surface, about 1/4” to 1/2” deep.

Peas: plant them in the self-watering pot.

Arugula & spinach: plant in one of the rectangular boxes; use half the box for each one.

Parsley & cilantro: plant in the other rectangular box; use half the box for each one.

Tomato: plant in the other self-watering pot.

Basil: plant in half the other rectangular box; use the other half for whichever other type of seed you like best.

Tomatoes like warmth, so if you have space, start by keeping the pot indoors and move it outside only once the seedlings are 5”-6” tall. If you don’t have space indoors, find a sunny spot for the tomato – in front of a wall that gets sun reflected off it is a good choice.

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