Today I did some unplanned rage gardening.
Sometimes our washing machine decides a load is “too heavy” or “unbalanced” and shuts down in mid-cycle, after half the clothes are soaked. Picture young child sitting down at a corner two blocks from home and simply refusing to go any farther.
For some reason, this glitch (the washing machine one) only happens to me, which is good, because I am the only one in the building who knows the convoluted, contorted, coddling steps for fixing it. This afternoon, a 5 minute trip to the basement to shovel in load #5 turned into a 90 minute fit of winter sowing while I babysat the washing machine’s efforts to chew through load #4 in three separate dainty cycles.
The bad news: I had to drain the washing machine a few times today and our basement drain isn’t at the lowest point. The good news: I bought soil last fall, just for a day like today.
The basement is a mess, a dis-ah-ster as #45 might say. But I am mighty grateful to have it. And if I can’t find what I need in the chaos, something else will do.
I had two stockpiled cranberry juice bottles plus the 4 milk jugs from two days ago. I rinsed those out yesterday. They still kind of stank, but at least not in a knee buckling way (foreshadowing of the pros and cons of milk jugs). While waiting to see if load 3a would work, I started prepping them for planting.
Drainage: I learned to winter sow from Karen. She heats a fork on a stove burner and gently presses it a few times on the bottom of the jugs, sort of like poking a pie crust. It’s kind of gentle and brutal at the same time. Since I work in the basement (sans burner), I use a razor blade to make little slits. I couldn’t find a razor blade today and I wasn’t going upstairs to look (can’t leave the washer untended), so I just stabbed the bottom corners with scissors. Not the safest choice, but very satisfying.
Cutting the jugs in half: I used to be meticulous about cutting the jugs, measuring the height of the cut, tracing a line to follow. Now I just eyeball it. Winter sowing is forgiving. Once the jugs were flopping open, I rinsed them again. The machine clicked off, ready for load 3b. Next up: adding soil.
File photo from more fastidious days. Saving thoughts on what works and when for winter sowing for later.
Adding soil: Fortunately, I stockpiled big bags of potting soil last fall.I dragged one over to the sink and ripped it open. It was suspiciously damp, despite having been untouched since October and being in the high land area of the basement. Can soil go bad? Maybe, but the smell was not knee buckling so I carried on.
Filled the bottom half of each jug about 2/3rds high with soil. Found some old dish pans. Put them in the utility sink (so grateful for a double utility sink!) Filled them with about 2 inches of water. Placed jugs in pans to dampen the soil from the bottom up. Also a good test of the hack job I did on drainage.
Another file photo, showing the “watering from the bottom” method.
10 mins left on the cycle. Do I dare keep going? Next step is seeds. But my seeds are a jumbled mess outdoors. But wait! They are still in their little bags, categorized by type: kales, lettuces, spinaches, tomatoes, herbs, flowers, and crap that will never thrive (looking at you carrots, supposedly one of the easiest veges to grow).
What’s the easiest, most forgiving, cold hearty thing I can start? Kale! Also, so conforming to stereotype!
Adding seeds: Eureka moment. I decide to label the containers before adding seeds and to label them upside down, bird’s eye view. Grabbed a grease pencil (they were stashed with the seeds. . . maybe I am more organized than I think), and declared my intention on top of the milk jugs. But grease pencils don’t work well on smooth, clear plastic, so I didn’t label the other two (foreshadowing of pro and cons of hard, clear, smooth plastic).
The machine clicked off, ready for load 3c. Do I keep going? I only meant to be down here for 5 minutes. But my hands are already dirty so. . .
Sprinkle the Lacinato kale from Bakers Creek in the aptly labeled container, which I have moved to a lunch tray on the washer (another random basement find). Massage the seeds into the soil a bit. Sprinkle some more soil on top. Hack a gentle watering can by poking a few holes in a plastic cup with a nail. Sprinkle some water on top. Find a warped roll of pink dollar store “duct tape.” Tape container shut, which is actually the most annoying part of winter sowing, esp when using milk jugs which have strange circular divots on the sides. A story for another day.
Repeat with the Lacinato kale from Botanical Interests, the Dwarf Siberian Kale, and Red Winter Kale. Plant calendula in one of the clear bottles, and a zinnia on the other. Label with a black sharpie, knowing it might fade in the sun. (I’ll remember, right?)
Click, load 3b is done. Place the jugs back in the dish pans of standing water for a last soak. Move the laundry along.
They are all now nestled along the fence outside. All laundry frustration is long gone.