Saturday, March 12, 2011

Experiment within an Experiment

I’m kind of looking at this year’s garden as a bit of an experiment. While my mission statement of sorts still holds trued, I am new to the climate, as well as this scale of gardening, and haven’t had the time to get the soil prepped the way I would have liked. So whatever flourishes this year is an absolute keeper, and we’ll tweak and readjust/throw stuff out next year.
But one thing I want to grow is tea.
I grew up very close to one of the oldest and most famous tea growing regions in Japan. Driving through the countryside always involved corduroy-like hillsides whizzing by, and school camping trips often involved roasting our own tea over a campfire. I took tea ceremony with my mother for many years and dang it, it was Japan. Tea is involved in just about everything.
While I don’t get why people don’t grow more of their own food, I do understand why more people don’t grow tea. It does need a warmer, moister climate, and it’s just not as deeply embedded in out culture here in the west. And black tea is a pain in the ass to produce. It’s a bit labor-intensive so why would one make it themselves? Unless you are me, who has to make everything at least once.
There are a few commercial tea operations in the US, but not many. And there are a few family-run businesses that sell tea plants online. Enter the brokenness again. I can get one plant for about $20, or 5 seeds for $2.50. As I am planting about 60 different kinds of seeds this year (gasp!), I went with the seeds.
I planted them today. If they don’t germinate, next year we’ll try our hand at not killing plants. But still so excited!!
First things first, they’re huge. Since they keep the tea bushes meticulously pruned in Japan, you rarely see seeds in Japan. This was, I think, my first encounter with actual seeds. (Oddly enough I’ve seen fossilized ones in museums in Japan on school field trips)
Look closer. Those puppies are awesome looking.

I did have an epiphany during the planting of the tea seeds today. I have plastic domed tops for seed flats, but I wanted to start these guys in a bigger container and I didn’t have anything to act as a mini greenhouse. Thankfully my man loves frappuccinos, and I happened to have a few of his empties lying around. I slapped some tape over the hole the straw goes through, and voila! Mini greenhouse!

If I can get my man to drink tall’s instead of venti's, they might fit better. But this is still totally functional and I’m happy with it. I’m anticipating that they will give the tea seeds a better fighting chance.

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