But then the lovely people who owned it sold their house, moved to the South, and only returned in the spring and early summer to run their business. The number of varieties they offered seemed to shrink. So I began starting my favorite varieties of tomatoes and peppers on the windowsill, as well as a few vegetables hard to find started in nurseries, such as celeriac and leeks. The tomatoes and peppers never seemed to get enough light there. And the celeriac represented a different kind of frustration: months of babysitting and then chomped by groundhogs within minutes. All in all, not a very satisfying experience.
Then a few years ago, I decided to plug in an old shop light left behind by the previous owner in the basement and grow my tomatoes and leeks there. Guess what? They looked much better.
Last year, I splurged and bought another shop light. I posted about my set-up here. For the first time, my pepper seedlings rivalled those in the nurseries. Of course, there were still frustrations: my onion seedlings all disappeared to cut-worms as soon as I planted them in the garden. But on the whole, babysitting those trays of tiny plants was worthwhile.
This year, I retired the old shop light with the frayed cord and bought 5 new ones to join the one from last year. I even turned on a drill for the first time in my life in order to screw in hooks to hang them from.
I used to feel constrained by my seedlings, their neediness, their Goldilocks-style fussiness, their intolerance of neglect. But now that I have my cheap shop lights and a timer, I feel freed by them. I can have any variety of tomato or pepper I want! I can experiment with growing potatoes from seed! I can have as many alpine strawberry plants as I want, even though they are impossible to find in local nurseries!
Somebody please stop me before I start growing flowering perennials from seed.