After the Green Carpet Awards today, (at which the Garden won the student project award! Congrats, everyone!) Zach and I stopped by the greenhouse to check up on our precious seedlings and start some new melons. We passed a ferocious-looking game of volleyball happening in the Biolabs courtyard; I do not like volleyball (I think I have particularly tender wrists—much more suitable for transplanting than hitting volleyballs) and was thus very happy to duck into the building and escape to the greenery of the top floor.
Good news awaited us: the seedlings are progressing very nicely! Apart from a few eggplant seedlings that did not seem to be germinating well, we found all of our trays bursting with new growth.
Chard is a very controversial vegetable among the gardeners. We seem to have a 50/50 split between those who adore it and those who detest it. I find myself leaning more to the latter—but I’m hoping that watching its journey from seedhood to adulthood will stir up some parental instincts and will grow to love it as if it were my own child.
Here we have a nice mix of lettuce, tomatoes, chard, peppers, brussel sprouts, and kale. The tomato seedlings smell amazing already, like fresh tomatoes in July. They are my favorite.
After thinning the tomato seedlings, we started a half-dozen peat pots of Mickey lee watermelons. They are icebox melons, which means they grow on space-saving vines and are small enough to fit into your refrigerator comfortably. When our Mickey Lee babies are all grown up, this is what they will look like.
They will be ready to eat in about 80 days. This is unfortunate, because I’ll be out of the country in mid-July! I won’t get to enjoy the Mickey Lee melons. But someone will.
Last week, Brian Shaban, group leader of the Science Center electronics shop, set up two cameras (one in the Lowell Belltower, one in Claverly) to capture the installation of the garden and its inaugural workday through time-lapse video. Thank you, Brian! After viewing the footage, I decided to add a few artistic touches of my own. Enjoy the finished product below.
While the weather outside fluctuates in typical early-spring fashion, our work in the greenhouse continues. Last week we began moving seedlings from their communal pots to smaller peat pots – one seedling per peat pot.
Our greenhouse admin and general savior, Janet, found a big bag of derelict peat pots for us to use. There is some debate over whether peat pots, and the use of peat-based products in general, are a good idea. Some gardeners report that the peat pots are slow to break down once you plunk them into the dirt. Peat moss itself, meanwhile, is harvested from sphagnum bogs, where it has accumulated very very slowly over eons of quiet boggy growth. In other words, it takes a lot less time to harvest it than it does for it to form, leading many to call the peat moss industry unsustainable; and although producers do reseed and restore the bogs after harvest, the restored bogs may lack the biodiversity of the original ones.
On the other hand, these peat pots had just been sitting around for a few years, so we figured we might as well use them. Putting the pots directly in the dirt will also help us avoid transplant shock. Nonetheless, when the time comes when we actually have to get new transplanting supplies, maybe we’ll use normal flats or soil blocks instead.
Back to the greenhouse. The seedlings were all chugging along nicely…
This batch of seedlings is pretty heavy on the cold weather starts, like lettuces and brassicas, as well as the sorts of heat loving crops that transplant well – peppers, tomatoes, eggplants. It’s still a bit early to start the squashes and cucumbers.
Of course, we will also be direct seeding a bunch of crops into the outdoor beds once they exist. These crops will include cilantro, which brings me to the second matter of this blog post. I am one of those people who thinks cilantro is incredibly disgusting. In fact, I am a longtime member of the currently (but hopefully temporarily) defunct site ihatecilantro.com, through which cilantro-haters like myself could share stories of our harrowing first encounters with the herb, trade cilantro-denouncing haiku, and tearfully affirm that we were not alone.
Anyway, Harold McGee, food science dude extraordinaire, has an article in this week’s New York Times food section about people like me. Apparently, science hasn’t quite figured us out yet. There are many possible causes for our plight, from genetic predisposition to a lack of positive experiences associated with the demon weed. McGee even interviews a scientist who conditioned himself to like cilantro by repeatedly eating it in pleasurable contexts. As someone who has unsuccessfully attempted a fair amount of this conditioning myself, I tend to favor the genetic explanation, but for now I’m content to be a mystery of science.
In any case, if you want to begin to understand why I don’t order pico de gallo at Felipe’s, go ahead and read the article. Otherwise, stay tuned for more updates as the weather gets warmer, raised beds get installed, and hot pepper seedlings (hopefully) sprout.