Thursday, May 8, 2014

Urban gardening update, May 8th.

(I'm trying something special this year and am keeping a "photo blog," telling my story mostly through images but with a bit of description added as well, concerning my first-ever year of being an urban gardener. Check the "Garden 2014" photoset at my Flickr account for the entire series, including more photos for each entry than you see here.)

May 8: Oh no! I'M A MURDERER! The other day we had one of our first quiet sunny weekdays of the year, so I took all my seeds and most of my smaller plant pots up to the roof of my building, so they could get an entire day of direct sun. (I take them up at 9:05 a.m. then bring them back to my apartment at 4:55 pm, so that the majority of my office-working neighbors never realize I'm doing it in the first place, because I'm still not sure whether keeping plants on the roof is against the rooftop regulations; and I have west-facing windows in my place, so after 5:00 the plants keep getting direct sun until around 7:30 or so.) But I guess the weather was still just a little too cool for some of the plants' liking (it was in the low 50s in the morning, then got up to the mid-60s by the afternoon); because just after a single day, all my newest morning glories had all completely died, about half of my cinnamon basil, and about half of the leaves on my latest moonflower plants too. Ironically, though, as you can see in the photos, some of the other plants seemed to do quite well in the cooler weather; it didn't affect my mesclun or coleus sprouts at all, my looseleaf lettuce is looking better than ever, and the one new sugar snap pea plant I've gotten to sprout grew so much, you could literally see a difference in its size between that morning and that evening with your naked eye. So, yet another lesson about gardening learned the hard way -- some of the plants I'm trying to grow can't handle weather in the low 50s, while others do just fine.

It's funny -- this is the third or fourth plant I've now killed since March, which is just a natural side effect of the "gardening by trial and error" that I'm doing this year, and at first I felt incredibly guilty whenever it happened, like I had killed a puppy or something. But the more I think about the very subject of gardening this year -- and especially the more I think about the way all this stuff happens out in the natural world, away from human involvement whatsoever -- the more I realize that this kind of sudden, massive, almost genocidal kind of death is simply the way that vegetation works, and that there's no real need to be shedding any tears over a dead plant. After all, that's why a typical plant will emit hundreds or even thousands of seeds before it dies off for the winter; it knows that only a tiny amount of these will receive the natural soil submersion, water, nutrients and sunlight to sprout in the first place, and that even a smaller amount of those will survive unusual cold streaks, animal dinners, bugs, weeds, and all the other things that will prevent a sprout from growing into a thriving adult. A plant only needs one of those thousand seeds to catch on in order to continue its own existence, so the other 999 are essentially expendable, which is the mindset you too quickly start developing when you're a gardener, I've come to realize. Anyway, lesson learned, so it looks like it's back to the seed containers again this weekend for my fifth round of plantings!

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