From the Blog

I Want To Grow Stuff

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For months now, I have been dreaming of growing a vegetable garden. Not long after the season started changing, and the sky started getting lighter, I also started feeling cramped in our tiny little downtown apartment. We had moved so many times, had downsized so much, and worked towards the goal of living smaller and “traveling lighter.” It seemed like a silly thing to now want such a heavy, rooted commitment. It was hard to imagine being fleet and agile like deer, while lugging heavy containers of plants around.

I’m not a gardener. Or at least, I’ve never been a gardener up to now. I have a few pots of succulent plants that I fuss over. I like them because they look more like little sculptures than plants, so the cat doesn’t seem interested in eating them. And I really do fuss over them. It’s a bit of a ritual to pull the dead leaves, spritz the soil, check for new little sprouts. I love the odd shapes of the plants and the tiny, daily changes as they grow. It’s a good outlet for my obsessive, nervous energy.

I love the idea of growing a few items we can eat. I’d love to grow tomatoes, squash, corn, strawberries, spinach and herbs. Now we’ve moved to a more rural area, maybe we have better opportunities for growing stuff. Of course, we still live in an apartment and we don’t have a yard. I’ve had friends suggest a community garden, which sounds like a great idea that I will probably never do. If I have to drive to get to a garden, I probably won’t do it. I use the car maybe once or twice a week. It seems counter intuitive to get in the car to go tend a garden. And it starts to feel like an obligation instead of a joy, I’ll lose interest.

And we do live in one of the soggiest places of a most soggy state, averaging 67 inches of rain a year. We have a small balcony on the east side of our apartment, but it gets maybe an hour of sun on the days that are actually sunny, which does not happen very often. I could probably start a pretty successful mold farm out there. But I don’t really like mushrooms, so that’s sort of out.

I read The Bountiful Container, which I loved and may actually purchase after having borrowed it from the library (Get Rich Slowly has a great review). But I realized I’m probably not going to be able to grow the big summery vegetables that I most want to eat. But I still want to grow something. I began just thinking about having an herb garden. Herbs want a bright, warm Mediterranean climate, so again, trying to grow outdoors would likely be a mushy, disappointing experience. I started researching growing herbs indoors. Even our sunniest window would likely not be sunny enough. And I still have the damn cat that would eat anything that looked vaguely vegetal.

Gah. I’ve been thinking about this for a long time. We have enough closet space that I could set up a bunch of plants with a grow light and keep the door closed to keep the kitty out. But the idea sort of breaks my heart a little. Plants in the closet. Another counter intuitive solution. Plus, part of my obsession is LOOKING at the plants. At the risk of sounding foofy, I sort of want to “be” with the plants. I want them to “be” in my space, I want to see them growing, I want them to catch my attention, and I want to fuss over them.

Okay? I’m a nutjob. I have been hemming and hawing over this for months now, thinking about solutions that wouldn’t be overly burdensome, completely unnatural or impossible to maintain. I knew it would make me happy to grow some plants to eat, but now it’s become a Big Fricken Deal, and now I’m almost sort of intimidated. I did all kinds of research about hydroponics and growing indoors, keeping in mind the bastard cat, and I think finally I’ve come up with a solution.

I got a tall 30 gallon fish tank. I got an entry level grow light. I was thinking I was going to get some herb plants from the farmers market, because I want some goddamned basil NOW. But I may start from the beginning and grow from seeds. It feels more authentic somehow, since I’m managing all these unnatural contortions just to eat something I grow myself. I’ll plant them in containers inside the fish tank so I can take them out as needed. And the cat can just salivate at the greenery growing behind the glass. If the plants ever get to be too big for the fish tank, well, that will be a happy problem I can deal with later.

I swear, I swear, I swear, this will make me happy.


  1. I’ve been wanting to do something like this but I’m lazy and afraid of the hardwood floors in my apartment.

  2. Heather, I would do a container garden. Hydroponics are great, but alot of work. Get some big pots, put some dirt in it, then plant. I did this when I lived up at Old Orchard Beach, I didnt have a yard to plant anything so I did planters, and when it got cold, I was able to bring the plants inside to extend the harvest.

  3. Neat, Mary Sue! You could suspend above a fish tank. I’m learning that fish tanks solve everything.

    Tim, I think the only thing I could grow in this cool, wet climate would be spinach or kale. I don’t have good outdoor sun on our little balcony. I looked at the hydroponic stuff, it looked more elaborate and expensive than I wanted. My solution will be to grow herbs in soil, in containers, but with a grow light indoors. We’ll see how it goes. Fingers crossed.

  4. Our apartment deck has the opposite problem, too much sun and too many extremes! Plants bake or freeze out there… but I totally understand! I have a few houseplants that are perfectly happy with little to no attention, but I would love to gave something grow! I tried making sunflower seedlings in eggshells and it worked great, but I never got somewhere to transplant them in time.

    Oh and I tried to grow an avocado seed into a plant – it did great sprouting roots in water and even cracking to show a teeny sprout – grew even more when I added it to soil, and suddenly…PLOOP, nothing.

    Maybe we should both try to grow some indoor mint! I know it bolts about when left outside :)

    • Kristi, those seedlings in the eggshells are adorable. Why am I thinking of baby dinosaurs? I have heard that mint is aggressive and will overtake other plants if potted together. Mint is like the mean kid of the garden playground.

  5. Great idea using the fish tank! It could even work as a tiny green house to keep a warmish moist climate cheaply! Craigslist I’m sure is loaded with cast off or leaking fishtanks. :) Tammy & I are thinking of planting a vertical garden on the south facing exterior wall of the tiny house. Your fish tank idea totally inspired me to think of this idea in a new way! Vertical greenhouse! A tall but shallow glass cabinet for plants on the side of the house! I can’t wait for Tammy & the builder to shoot down this nutty idea! ;)

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