Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Celery Project - Part 1

Given the success of the Onion Project (not to be confused with The Onion which is just awesome in its own right), we decided to give a few other "sproutable" plants a try. There are a lot of options out there, and it was difficult to decide which one to try. The deciding factor ended up being which plant from the list entered our house first during the natural course of events. (Now that we have the light source and soil, this should be a totally free project, right?) Charlie likes to eat celery; Sarah recognizes the potential health benefits of celery and has been trying to figure out how to choke it down; Sarah bought celery to put in chili (one of the foods with enough other flavors to totally hide the celery) and cut up for Charlie's snacking enjoyment. Celery it is.

From the online information that was available, celery is likely to take longer to sprout into something useful than the onions. Luckily, this, again, falls more into the "science experiment" category or even "entertainment" than the "want something to eat" category. It's a good thing too. If we were counting on Sarah's gardening abilities as an actual food source, we would starve. Quickly.

Day 1
This project started out very similarly to the green onion one. The base of the celery was put in a dish of clean water and given plenty of light. Since we already had a lamp for the onions, the dish with the celery was just placed next to the onions on the kitchen counter. (Yes, for anyone who has been looking in the background. That is the Scooby Doo Mystery Machine. It's our cookie jar. Does this really surprise you that we would have a totally awesome cookie jar like this?) These experiments are starting to invade the space for preparing food and doing dishes, so they will probably need to be moved eventually. However, Sarah is rather fearful of allowing them to be out of sight and therefore out of mind any time soon. It's a balance...for now, we'll just make do as is.

We discovered quickly that they weren't kidding when they said that celery wouldn't grow as quickly as the onions. The progress was incredibly slow by comparison. For anyone who wants to try to grow their own food in this fashion, celery is probably not the best choice for a start. It's kind of boring.

Day 4

As you can see, a couple days into growth, there has been only a tiny amount of growth. Mostly, the water is just turning cloudy, and the remnants from the outer stalks of celery are starting to turn mushy and after a few more days, they were pretty far gone.

After a week, the outer stalks had reached a point where they were falling apart. Wanting to take advantage of any nutrients that the mushy outer bits might provide as compost, Sarah planted the celery base in some soil allowing just the tiny it of growth from the center to remain exposed. Since she couldn't find any more pots in the basement, and trying to find flower pots over by the edge of the garden (under the snow) did not seem like the most effective use of time, Sarah improvised a pot. A few holes were punched in the bottom of a sour cream container to allow for drainage, and the whole thing put back in the (now empty and rinsed bowl that had been the home to this experiment for the last few days.

Day 13
Day 13, and we still just have little nubs. It is VERY slow compared to the onions. This is supposedly normal (and boring) since the celery is basically growing an entirely new plant. Three to four months does sound like an incredibly long time to keep a plant alive and will definitely put Sarah's gardening capabilities at their limit. Seriously? How on earth does anyone keep a plant alive that long...there's all that watering and, well, watering....

The growth in the center is actually starting to look like leaves though, and they seem very healthy. They're actually a darker and healthier looking green than the leaves from the original celery stalks that were purchased.

At this point, there has been no fertilizer added aside from the celery that has decomposed. This will probably be changing since the bag of topsoil doesn't exactly have all that many extra nutrients to it.

Day 21
And after ONLY three weeks, we have what might actually be called real leaves. Look at those cute little things!

It's a good thing that Charlie pays attention. Sarah went out of town for the weekend and had forgotten to ask Charlie to check on the growing project. Luckily, he looked at how things were going and saw that a little drink was needed. Crisis averted.

Slightly off topic but not, the parts of the celery that are composting have really started to break down. The soil is incredibly loose, and it will probably be necessary to add a couple of spoonfuls around the plant. Yes - spoonfuls. It's hard to tell from the picture, but this whole thing is pretty small. You can see how little space it takes up in its container, and it's just in a sour cream tub. (For all grammar nerds: Note the correct usage of its and it's in a single sentence. You're welcome.)

Day 27

So, apparently Sarah should have made that extra stop last week to get fertilizer when the first place didn't have it in stock yet. (Seriously Walmart? You normally have all the crap that anyone could possibly need and then stuff that they didn't even imagine. You have all sorts of seed starter kits since it's February, but no fertilizer? People do have house plants to feed.) We will definitely be making a stop at Home Depot tomorrow since they are apparently the only place in town that keeps a reasonably well stocked lawn and garden area year round. We are SERIOUSLY missing Stein's lawn and garden center right now. They do have stores on both sides of Green Bay. Maybe we should see if they'll open them on both sides of Wisconsin? Hmmm.....could this be a future project for Sarah? Upon second (and very quick) consideration the idea of Sarah having anything to do with a garden center is too amusing to give it any kind of credibility. Everyone can laugh here. It's ok.
Day 30

Plant food went into the pot on Day 30. Composting and organic fertilizer is all the rage and definitely is something that we will be using in future experiments/growing projects. However, Miracle Grow is something that we have both used frequently and know, more or less, what to expect from it. Since one of those important scientific principles is to not change a whole lot of variables all at one time, it seemed best to go with a known food for the celery. This free project has now cost $4 for the package of Miracle Grow. At least we were also able to use it to feed the green onions, and it obviously is going to last a LONG time and help on future projects. That makes it an investment? Maybe? No? It just means that $4 was spent to try to grow celery that costs less than that at the store?  It also means that $16 has been spent to try to save $3?

All of those hobby farm and homesteading blogs now are starting to make sense. It is very easy to be so focused on all the future savings that you're going to get from growing/raising your own food that you overlook the cost of starting up the operation and learning how to make everything work. As we make the (frequent) trips to get yet more supplies, it is very apparent to us that we have lots to learn. The nice thing is that we are starting small enough that the cost of our education is pretty reasonable. We could pay 10 times this amount and have it still be less than a single credit for a college class.

Since this project is much slower to develop than our first one, we'll keep you updated as things progress. We'll make it a cliff hanger to keep you coming back.

God Bless!

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