Wednesday, February 16, 2011

grow lights

On the desk in the bedroom, level with an east-facing window, sits a tray of basil seeds in potting soil. I'm glaring at them as I type this, actually. You see, that's what they've done for the last five weeks -- sit. They mock me and my lack of gardening skill. It's like Eddie Izzard's Encore on Computers routine.
"I can't germinate because you've forgotten to give me something."
"What, what is it? I'll give it to you, I swear, if you'll just let me know what it is."
"Oh, no, I can't tell you."

I have a suspicion that what these seeds need most is probably sunlight. Tucked in between two mountain ridges, we only get sunlight from one direction -- east. And we only get it for about five hours on a winter day. Any one spot on the property probably only has sunlight for about thirty minutes. The dogs curse this as they get up to move from one tiny sunlit patch to another as it moves across the sky. You have to wait till 10 am for it to peek up over the northern ridge, then follow it patiently as it slinks across the canyon, before disappearing again over the southern ridge at around 3 in the afternoon. Which is why, although it might be a balmy 60 degrees down in the valley, up here my driveway is still packed with ice. I can sun myself on a rock for a short while in a T-shirt, but back inside the cabin, shaded by rocks and tall trees, the furnace must run to have any hope of coming close to that temperature.

Our fine state of Colorado legalized medical mary jane not too long ago, and as a result the countryside is spattered with little shops catering to the indoor grower. Knowing nothing about gardening save what little I recall from elementary school, I stopped by one afternoon. I own quite an impressive bookshelf on growing green things, and I've even read most of them -- it's just that most of it doesn't make sense to me. Bean sprouts can't meow or crow or nudge me when they haven't been fed or watered. They don't respond to their name, or to loud noises. In fact, plants in general often mystify me as to how they can be considered living things in the same category as ducks and termites. But I digress. Hoping for a little instruction, I let the young salesman give me his schpiel.

Unfortunately for him, it backfired. You mean to tell me that these fancy "grow lights" that start at $25 are basically the same thing as a shop light I could get from the hardware store for $6? They take the same bulbs? Blue light is better for sprouting, red light better for flowering, but you can get the effect of both if you just put a warm and a cool bulb together in a two-bulb shoplight? Who knew?

Maybe all my little basil seeds need is a little bit of light, after all.

1 comment:

  1. LOL! I have the same problem. I keep trying to grow things in my house, but I seem to be uniquely gifted at killing every type of plant. By the way, the Eddie Izzard bit cracked me up :) I love him!