Good Gardens Come to Those Who Wait

Last month, I wrote about the day my kids and I set up our "Tower of Power." (That's Tower Garden for those of you who don't live with little boys who view the world through a superhero versus villain lens.) As I looked at all the parts and instructions laid out on the basement floor, I was intimidated—if not dreading the whole process, to be honest. 

The to-do list of my life is like a vacation suitcase: I'm constantly adding one more thing, hoping it'll all fit. It can get ugly along the way. There might even be tears or some choice words spoken to friends in venting sessions far away from little ears. However ungracefully it might happen, the end result is I make things work. 

In this case, once I got over my exasperation about how long this was going to take versus all the other things on my list, it went more smoothly than I had imagined. Moms don't get to say that very often, so can I get a high five over here? 

 

Ready to rock(wool)

The boys thought it strange we did all that assembly work and then walked away without a grand finale. In other words, they wanted to add the water and the plants that day and wake up to an enchanted garden the next morning. I explained it doesn't quite work that quickly and we have one more important step to go. 

For help explaining, my go-to Merriam-Webster had my back--Germination: To cause to sprout or develop. Simple enough. So we took out our rockwool containers that had been soaking and...wait...Mamma, what's rockwool? 

Back to the internet. Rockwool is spun from molten rock, so it's basically the cotton candy of geology. The boys were very into that definition. We moved on to adding the seeds into the openings. Then came vermiculite, the definition of which made their eyes glaze over, so we moved on to the next step in a flash. "Sprinkle water on the seeds" was more like "Prevent children from drowning the seeds," but it all worked out okay.  

 

Go with the flow

After a week or so, our rockwool seeds had sprouted. It was time to get the water flowing. 

Water is symbolic of tranquility. However, in my family's Tower Garden adventure, the reservoir-filling segment was less Buddha and more Bridget Jones. My oldest son was first man on deck, ready to turn on the hose at my call. When I said the word, the hose came to life—along with a bunch of dirt packed into its opening. 

"Off! Turn it off!"

Crickets. Unless you count the sound of more water, turning the dirt into mud.

"Hey! Turn.It.Off!" 

Finally: "Sorry, Mamma, didn't hear you."

Had I said I found a candy bar!, I have a feeling there would've been a different outcome. 

At any rate, I regrouped. Wheeled our Tower of Many Hours to the porch, dumped the mud water, wiped it out, and started over. I should add: this all came after a long spell of reading, videos, and Tower Garden Facebook questions about whether tap water would be the death of my dreams. As with all of life's heavy questions, there was no definitive answer. So, like any mom who is over it already, I winged it and hoped for the best. 

Next up was the Mineral Blend and testing the pH. The short of the long: I am no chemist. First off, I forgot that seedlings take half-strength minerals. Is full strength superpower or kryptonite? We shall see. As for the pH, it was too low. And then too high. And too low again. Although I tend toward overachievement, in this case I decided to stick with the low 4.5 pH. It was a pretty sunrise yellow. Plants need sunlight. Seemed like a good gamble to me. 

 

The pod squad

It was time to put the seed pods into the Tower ports. The boys felt very important as they carefully placed the pods and made sure to push them all the way down. It worked out beautifully. Unless you count the fact that I forgot which seeds were in which pods. So we might have a big ol’ lettuce patch up top and some little basil at the bottom and who knows what in between. As I told the boys, who doesn't love a surprise? 

 

Lights. Camera. Action. 

The final step of our day was to plug in the Tower and the grow lights and watch it all come alive. I headed for the Christmas corner of the basement to dig up the outdoor extension cord. I chose one in a nice, complementary shade of green. I want my Tower to look good, after all. Turns out it was too short. Back to the bins. The second cord was too long and too orange, but I acquiesced. After some wrapping and arranging so the kids won't trip over the cord when they play in the basement, it was time. 

Picture it: I'm standing there like Clark Griswold in Christmas Vacation. You know how that went. 

There was plugging and unplugging and setting and resetting the light timer, plus a few pleas for mercy from the Tower Garden gods. Apparently, I had plugged the lights into the pump timer. That's a no-go. 

Just like Clark, I finally found my moment of triumph. When the right plug found the right socket, the lights blinded us and the water flowed. We were in business. 

 

The wait

So, what's next? The late Tom Petty said it best: The waiting is the hardest part. 

So far, our over-mineralized, under-acidic seedlings are growing. Here's hoping by next month, my bad chemistry and pH gambling will have had no ill effects. 

Was your first planting as colorful as mine? Tell us your stories in the comments!

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