Experiments in Gardening

Every year my husband and I talk about how this will be the summer that we’ll have a fabulous home veggie garden. We fantasize about being able to pop into the backyard for homegrown goodies and cook with them immediately. We talk about raised beds, what will grow in the Austin heat (especially during these prolonged droughts), where to put it for maximum sunshine, etc.

Every year we fail to plant a single seed before it’s too stinkin’ hot to bother. Plus, my childhood memories of gardening are all unpleasant chores like weeding and too little of the fun parts, so it’s hard to motivate me to go out to the Mosquito Apocalypse that is our backyard just to end up feasted upon and with a sore back. And honestly, our yard is always a disaster area since I refuse to water grass during a major drought and we hardly ever get around to yard work, much to the chagrin of my meticulous neighbour (if I hear much more nagging, I might have to put up an art installation in the front yard!).

But this year I decided it was important for Peo, our five-year-old daughter, to really see where food comes from, even if in a limited fashion. I read in some parenting blog somewhere (or maybe it was a magazine, I’m far too tired to remember) a great bit of advice: to not worry about the full-scale garden, but to do something small scale where failure is an option.

Several weeks ago a library storytime included sprouting beans and planting chives. We dutifully brought the protoplants home and almost forgot about them, but then planted them and now they’re growing in pots on the back patio. There are even two actual bean pods on the bean plants. I haven’t the foggiest idea of what to do with them yet, since I don’t like beans, know nothing about cooking fresh ones, and Google results are telling me to boil for an hour which seems a long time for two pods. But they’re there and probably tomorrow we’ll pick ’em and Peo can try eating them. We’ll call it science and try microwaving them in some water.

Last week we rounded up all of the little Target bargain bin mini pots that have accrued in the house over the last year and planted those too. Forgot to label them, so something’s growing on the window sill in the living room and I guess we’ll play guess-the-plant as they go. There were two kinds of tomatoes, strawberries, red peppers, tea roses, and something else I’ve forgotten. I bought a big pot at IKEA and we’ll plop anything that sprouts in there together for more efficient watering.

Today I noticed some of the garlic in the pantry was sprouting. I wondered if that was plantable, since the beans seem to be doing so well. I Googled around and learned that apparently grocery store garlic is sprayed with something that reduces sprouting (doesn’t that sound delish? Ugh!) but that some occasionally sprout anyway and can be planted. I found this link about how to plant the cloves. So tomorrow we’ll give that a go and see what happens.

For someone with a very-non-green-thumb, this has turned out well so far. We may not see a feast out of it, but it’s low on effort and high on educational value, plus you never know: we might just end up with something tasty for our efforts. It’s been very liberating to do this on such a small, stress-free scale.

If I remember, I’ll snap some pics of the successful plants for future posts.

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9 Responses to Experiments in Gardening

  1. Teal Cuttlefish says:

    Beans can be steamed or stir-fried till they are bright green for crisp-tender beans. I cannot stand beans boiled for an hour, and that's what I grew up with. (If you are going to boil them that long, just get the gray canned green beans.) They are much better (when you have enough to do this with) plonked in a pot with a half inch of water, the water brought to a boil, and the pot covered and set to simmer for somewhere between 4 and 10 minutes depending on your taste.

    Maybe a little less time in Austin; in Denver water boils at about 202 F and so things cooked in boiling or steaming water take a couple minutes longer (pasta) or 5 (rice). I think microwaving them and watching them turn bright green, then eating them at crisp-tender would be delicious.

  2. Teal Cuttlefish says:

    Oh yeah — I seem to recall you should salt after cooking rather than before, but I can't remember if that's a habit or there's a reason for it. I know salt toughens corn when it's cooked, but not sure on the beans.

    So much babble for two bean pods!

  3. Mindy says:

    Sauteing in bacon makes all green things taste better 🙂 or just oil and salt if you prefer to continue the healthy concept. They are ready after they turn bright green.

  4. I like to boil the crap out of my beans, with boullion, spices, and Rotel. But I grew up in west Texas and for years my idea of a home-cooked meal was ravioli in a can, so you probably don't want to take my cooking advice.

    The garden sounds fantastic! I am living in an apartment right now and have some stuff growing in pots. It's doing better than I expected and I'm thinking of starting a couple of things in the fall, whatever grows in the fall.

  5. kyla says:

    I planted my grocery store garlic that had sprouted once and it did grow!

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