Confession: I love growing things. One of my happiest jobs was working in a greenhouse for parts of many summers as a child and teenager. I still don’t know much about plants, but I love having my hands in good rich dirt.
There is something magic about those first green leaves!
Current Project 1: My sis-in-law April gave me some seeds for sprouting—alfalfa, clover, and radish—and taught me how to grow them. All you have to do is soak the seeds for 24 hours, then rinse them 3x a day for the next four days. That sounds like a pain but isn’t. If you keep them in a jar with cheesecloth over the top, the rinsing takes 30 seconds max.
From this simple process using five tablespoons of seeds, you gain nearly a gallon of lovely little shoots to use in salads or sandwiches in place of lettuce, or alongside it. I love them! The rest of my family doesn’t care for the flavor, so I doubt this will become a regular part of my life, but I’m hoping to sneak some into our diet and perhaps win a few converts over time.
Current Project 2: My grandma Dorothy used to grow her own sweet potato plants.
I’m trying it myself for the first time and having lots of fun, though I have no idea if I’m doing it in the right month, or should have started weeks ago…? I just found an aging and lonely sweet potato in my pantry, and remembered what she used to do.
1. Insert toothpicks into the sides of any old sweet potato.
2. Place the potato in a glass of water, about half submerged. The toothpicks should rest on the rim of the glass, to keep the potato hanging, not sitting.
3. Wait. After a while you will see roots growing from the bottom, and then shoots growing from the top and sides of the potato. Change the water occasionally.
4. When the shoots are green, healthy, and 2 or 2 ½ inches tall, break them off the potato and place them in a glass of water. Soon they will grow roots of their own, and then they’ll be ready to place in soil.
From one potato, my grandma grew enough plants for a nice garden patch. I am working by memory and really don’t know if it can be this easy, but I am thrilled to see roots on my potato already, and the first two shoots growing out of the top. Will they do well in Zone 5? I don’t know.
Current Project 3: Trees. We planted a mix over Easter, but this little one captured my heart.
It’s a magnolia seedling, and had leaves when we got it, which means it took the cold nights hard afterwards. I want so much for it to live.
I have a funny tension in my mind—the picture of how it could look in 15 years, gracious and tall and covered with huge white blooms, and the picture of how it looks now, spindly and small and mottled. I want to laugh. Or cry.
“Is that a tree?” says Aarick.
“It’s pretty small.”
I bite my tongue. “It’s still a tree.”
How do plants ever have the courage to grow? They are wiser than we, and grow cheerfully with a completely unknown future.
Sometimes hope looks a lot like a five-inch magnolia.