Gardening Personal Stories

A Garden Against The Odds

phoebe louieBack in December I adopted an iguana and became a lizard momma to King Louie.

Iguanas are herbivores, they do NOT eat crickets like most lizards do, which is one big perk to me because I didn’t want bugs. Iguanas eventually grow up to be about 6 feet long with the body the size of a cat. They are considered to require “specialized care” but it seemed to fit perfectly for me. Louie needs a balanced diet of greens, fruit, veggies and flowers including but not limited to: kale, collard greens, basil, rosemary, rose petals, mangos, carrots, etc.

I tell you this because Louie changed my life. There are lifestyle changes I always wanted to make but it is difficult for me to be motivated to do them “just for me”. But being a lizard momma has made me want to be the best person I can be for him, and provide the best that I can for both him and myself. Between buying so many greens for Louie to eat and being conscious about my health, I was inspired to go vegan. I’ve also been inspired to grow an indoor garden. Spring is coming and I want to see growth around me as Louie grows up too. The cool thing about an indoor garden is that I can plant things that both Louie and I can eat and / or enjoy. It gives me an excuse to grow herbs, flowers and greens.

The idea started when I was talking to my mom about being inspired to start a garden for me and Louie but not knowing where to start. You see, I have all of the “worst case scenarios”. I live in a second floor apartment in a small bedroom with no windows and I wanted my garden to be at least in the same room as Louie, which is of course the windowless room. I’m also poor. So with limited space, budget, and out-of-practice green thumbs, I was unsure of where to begin. Well, my mom mentioned that she saw this idea online once where someone used a shoe organizer as a planter box essentially, and every pouch is a different plant. I was so inspired that I went to Kmart and looked around.

I meticulously picked everything. At first I was going to try one of those seed starting kits for kids to just try my hand at it but it all included Miracle Grow. After consulting with a friend who owns other reptiles, she said that any chemicals is just a bad idea for Louie, which I agreed with. So I ended up starting it all from scratch and hoping for the best. I ended up buying a 24 pocket shoe organizer, a shower curtain, seed starting soil, a little purple gardening shovel, and a bunch of seeds including; rosemary, thyme, basil, nasturtium, marigold, snapdragon and kale. All of but the snapdragon Louie can eat, and I can eat and enjoy as well.

phoebe tools

Seed packets were about $1.59 each as opposed to buying them potted at $6 and up. I didn’t want to get too much of everything in case it failed miserably but I did get a good amount. I consulted my mom, my gram, Leah’s husband who has an epic green thumb, and of course the internet. Leah’s husband was worried about the kale succeeding but said it was, “worth a shot.”

phoebe shoe rackI looked on the directions of both the organic seed starting soil and the seed packs and the internet and followed those instructions. With this combined knowledge I hung the shoe organizer on my bedroom door on top of the shower curtain in case of moisture.

Then I filled the pocket with soil, two inches from the edge, I poked a few holes on the bottom and watered the soil until it was wet all the way through. Then I put in way too many seeds because I wanted to make sure I’d get sprouts. Then I covered it with soil and watered again.

At first I covered it with newspaper to help it germinate because I read that somewhere and my gram said “but the light wont get through” so I switched to plastic wrap. My first pocket was all wrong, I filled it all the way and the holes are on the top, but maybe just maybe it’ll still be okay.

Louie has a light for his enclosure so I redirected a different light towards the plants until me and my friend got a light to hang on the wall facing down at the plants and put the plant light and Louie’s light both on timers so that even when I’m not there they get the proper amount of “sun”.

After a few days I started to see white mold growing on the top of some of the soil. I panicked and looked online. I read, Don’t panik! It’s common and in fact it means that it’s perfect circumstances to start seeds. Just remove the plastic, scrape off the mold and keep an eye on it. It’s gross but it will be okay.

Phoebe kaleThe first sprouts I saw were the kale! Surprise! It was just a few days. Then I started to see more from the other pockets. Hope filled my heart and I went and got more soil and seeds with birthday money.

I got lavender and chives to add to my collection. After seeing a lot from “phase one” sprouting, I planted the rest. Now I have little green sprouts and seeds waiting to grow. I’m still new at this, and I’m certainly not perfect, but I’m excited to grow our own food and beauty. I’m guessing in the future i will have to “thin out” some sprouts and maybe the kale will grow out of its container. The flowers are on the top and I’m hoping they almost “pour over” and create a nice colorful hanging garden.

phoebe hanging plantIn addition to my garden wall, I also have a hanging “prayer plant” and tulips from Easter in my room! I’m also acquiring an aloe plant soon as it is a “cure all” for lizards. It would be cool to have a tiny tree as well but maybe that’s too much? Having Louie is really making me want to go back to my roots… Pun intended.

I will check in with you all at the end of #G3Gardening month to let you know how my plants are doing and anything else I’ve learned along the way.

Here are some photos of my sprouts right now. Pro tip: if you want to see how many days it took your plants to germinate but forget all the time to write things down like me… take photos every day or whenever you think of it. The time stamp of the photos will tell you when you planted, when it germinated, etc.

What are you all working on? What are big things you’ve learned?


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