Monday, April 23, 2012

How to Transplant a Seedling

If you're like me and don't have children or pets, you might feel as if there's a hole in your life.  A longing that just won't be quenched; an emotional need with no apparent fulfillment in sight.

I'm talking, of course, about the hours you don't spend taking pictures, the entire days that sometimes go by with nary a Facebook status update, and the fact that you don't lie in wait like Coleridge's Ancient Mariner for someone to happen by and ask you if anything cute has happened at your house lately.  It's a wonder we even manage to fill all those pesky hours in the day.

Lucky for us, there's gardening.

I touched on the idea of gardening and its benefits a few weeks ago, but that was way back when my babies had barely broken the surface of the soil, and there have been such amazing photo opportunities since then.  From the tray of 72 tiny units where they got their start, several of my darlings have gotten so big that they've needed to be transplanted to their very own pots.

Watermelon catching some afternoon sun on the back porch. 
Tomato in the matching terra cotta that's all the rage this season
The first transplant is a very tricky process, and can be scary for first-time parents gardeners, but if you follow these steps you should have success every time.

1)  Assess the situation.  A transplant is a shock to a young plant's roots system, and you don't want to take your little one out of its home until you're sure it's ready.  Take a look at the bottom of the tray.  You should see quite a bit of root poking out.  The stem of the plant should also look and feel sturdy enough that it won't break if it's handled.  Hold the stem gently between your thumb and forefinger.  If you get the sense that you're going to kill the plant just doing this, it's not ready to transplant.

2) Prepare the new pot.  The new pot (or hole in the ground, or soda bottle cut in half, whatever you've got) should be filled with soil that's loose enough for the seedling to plop right in.  If necessary, make a hole in the center that's about the same size as the space where your plant currently resides.

3) Pop it out.  I say "pop" because you want as little disruption to the root system as possible.  Hold the stem of the plant very gently as close to the soil as you can in one hand while squeezing the plastic encasement with the other.  Ideally, the whole thing: roots, dirt and all, should come neatly into your hand. (Make sure the soil is wet when you do this; that way the soil will hold together nicely.)

4) Tuck it in. Now the hard part's over.  All that's left is to plop your baby in to his or her new big-kid bed and, using both hands, pat the soil down. You can use a little more pressure with this step; the idea is to mesh the two types of soil together so that the roots will continue to grow outward and downward into the new soil.  You'll probably also want to give it a little water after this, and make sure it's right in the sun so it can start repairing any damage to the root structure that may have happened in the move.

And of course, don't forget to snap a picture and post it on Facebook!

Saturday, April 14, 2012


If you've been following the blog in the last few weeks, you know that I stopped eating meat temporarily.  The reasons for it are explained in the post Another Diet Challenge, but suffice to say for now that I returned to meat eating this past Sunday over a celebratory Easter dinner with friends and family in Connecticut.

It was a delicious meal, centered around a leg of lamb with roast vegetables.  There was also chicken & broccoli, salad, and a fabulous array of desserts.  Dinner also featured a discussion on the evils of soda that I didn't even start!  All in all, a pretty successful holiday.

And that's exactly what it was:  A holiday.  As you may remember from my mom's guest post, she hardly eats any sugar anymore, but neither that nor the presence of my Type I diabetic cousin stopped the Easter Bunny from visiting the house.  Because it was a special occasion.  Leftovers made a great lunch the next day, and I got back in touch with my inner child eating my chocolate bunny ears first, but after that, the holiday spirit kind of wore off, and the bowl of pastel-colored M&Ms and jelly beans that somehow found it's way to my kitchen table back up in Boston is greeted with more cringes than smiles by passers-by who can't help grabbing a handful.

And as for the meat, it's not as exciting having it back as I thought it would be.  Sure it's nice every once in awhile, but let's face it: it's expensive, it doesn't keep in the fridge, it's hard to cook just right, it makes a lot of dirty dishes, a lot of it's not that good for you, and the current system of supplying it simply cannot keep going the way it is forever.  A reduction in American meat consumption, as Mark Bittman and others who know more about the issues than I do suggest, is not only necessary but not that difficult, and already starting to happen nationwide.

What about you?  Have you ever tried to cut back your meat intake?  How hard was it?  Is there a favorite meat substitute that helped you?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Healthy Living Quick Tips: Part 2

   Last week I posted a couple of ideas for healthy eating in our  fast-paced world, and promised to come up with more.  I know you've all been on the edge of your very seats awaiting the exciting conclusion as if it's the next Hunger Games movie, so without further ado, here we go:
   3)  Make dinner with friends.
   How many times have you grabbed a quick bite on your own before going to meet someone at a concert or the movies?  Doesn't that seem counter-intuitive?  Eating should be a social activity.  It's literally what keeps up alive, and should be given a little more attention that it usually gets.  Too many of our meals are eaten during stolen moments in the car or at work or before running out the door.  And I'm not saying that has to change;  it's not going to any time soon.  However, I don't think it's too much to ask to actually enjoy your food when you do have free time.  Dinner parties (especially cook-outs now that the weather is getting nice!) can be a fun, healthy, inexpensive way to reconnect with friends and family.  Open up one of those cookbooks lying lonely in a kitchen drawer and buy the ingredients for something you've never made before.  What's the worst that could happen?  It's comes out innedibly terrible, and you all have a good laugh and order a pizza.

  4) Make a grocery list.
It's a fact that people who make grocery lists and stick to them spend less money and buy healthier foods.  As tempting as that two for one sale on potato chips is, do you really need that many potato chips?  I like to start my grocery list by taking stock of what I already have, then planning recipes around it.  Thanks to the magic of Google, it's now easy to come up with interesting meal ideas just by typing in the name of an ingredient in the search bar.  (I once Googled "lentil and pumpkin recipe" and, believe it or not, ended up with a pretty good dip!)

Hope these helped.  Up next week: Easter highlights, including adorable birds-nest macaroons and eating meat again.