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Edited by post on December 4, 2014, 11:02 am
The trick, for my plants at least, is to get them past the seedling stage without dying off. Adding some sphagnum peat (not peat moss---the label should say sphagnum)to the soil helps prevent seedling die-off. And keep the soil damp but not soggy. I don't like fancy commercial plant-growing mixes because they dry out too fast. I just use plain old, inexpensive potting soil or topsoil that I get at the hardware store. Tomatoes like a little bit of bone meal added to the soil to provide phosphorus.
Also, plants grow more slowly in the cool air than they would if they were warm. So you have to give them more time (plant them sooner---I plant mine indoors around March 15-30th for putting outside in mid to late May). I also give them extra hours of light. My fluorescent lights are on for about 16 hours per day, using a timer. Keep the plants very close to the lights---just a few inches away is great. This helps the plants grow nice and sturdy. The closeness to the lights also keeps them a few degrees warmer than the room temperature. You can even make a little tent of sorts (such as a plastic drop cloth like you'd use for painting) to drape over the lights to hold the heat in. I give them a bit of dilute fertilizer now and then. When the plants are starting to get big, I select the nicest, healthiest ones and put them in larger pots with more soil. They thrive in the larger pots and get much bigger (with better roots) than in small pots.
I live for my garden, too! I order seeds from several companies and start drawing up plans for my garden in late winter (Jan-Feb) and begin planting all sorts of things indoors in early March. I grow many different kinds of seedlings to plant out. Many kinds of tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, leeks, chicory, lettuce, cabbages, broccoli, kale, kohlrabis, parsley, celery, various kinds of flowers....I think of my garden as a micro-farm.
Back when I was in chemo, I lived alone in an apartment. I would dream of getting a home of my own where I could have a garden. I went house shopping in between chemo treatments. I found my house and moved in while I was still doing radiation treatments. I still remember that first time when I went outside into my OWN yard and started working in the soil. It was a warm late-summer day and the soil smelled and felt wonderful to me. I remember thinking that that was more healing than all the chemo and radiation treatments in the world.
I think having a passion for something, and being able to pursue that passion, is enormously important to our recovery and future health. We need the joy that makes life worth living when the struggles tend to overwhelm us. I think it's a sort of spiritual practice to pursue some activity that transports us to a deeper place inside ourselves, where we can be authentic and happy. We should find time for that, just like we find time to go to the doctor or to church.