A Year and 91 Days: The Life and Times of Avi the Avocado

Two days before Thanksgiving, not last year, but the year before, a sandwich was made and a seed was started. The sandwich was a smashed collaboration of avocado and sauteed kale, ricotta cheese and caramelized onions which turned out great and became a repeat recipe for awhile, but the real star of the show was the seed. On that day, November 22nd, 2016 a little life began.

Reminiscent of elementary school science classes, the avocado pit (actually called a berry) from the sandwich-making endeavor got cleaned up and pierced with toothpicks. Resting on the rim of a glass while partially submerged in water, it sat there half-hovering for days and then weeks and then months.  Absolutely nothing happened.  The holiday season came and went. We celebrated New Year’s and middle month birthdays and our first snow in the ending week of January.  But in the land of the avocado, nothing was changing except regular refills of water in the glass. It was such uneventful gardening I didn’t even take photographs.

Heading into the first week of February (week 9), I thought perhaps my avocado seed was a dud and was ready to abandon the project altogether. But magically, almost as if the little seed had read my thoughts, a crack in the pit opened up one morning. Something was happening, at long last! Days later a tap root started reaching out like a diver heading towards the bottom of the sea. And then things really escalated. Every day, it grew longer and longer until little root tentacles started filling the bottom of the glass.  Satisfied with itself, it turned its attention skyward and from the center of the pit, a long slender green shoot started reaching for the stars.

Drinking about a 1/4 cup of water a day, it grew almost a 1/2″ inch every morning. When it passed 12 inches” in height and grew its first set of leaves, I named this little guy growing with such gusto, Avi, and welcomed him into the family. For most of the Spring, Avi enjoyed his glass of water while taking in the river view from his perch in the window.

As the days grew longer and the temperatures warmed, I introduced to him to the outdoors for a little bit each day. When the hot, humid temperatures of summer in the South took over, he was transferred to a new garden pot filled with potting soil and joined the summer flowers on the balcony. You might remember seeing him from last summer’s post about how to make a mini-compost bin.

There’s Avi on the bottom right corner behind the nasturtiums!

In the lazy summer sun, Avi grew and grew and grew. Towering over the other plants, he looked like a king ruling over his court.

All summer he played a long-standing game with the nasturtiums to see who could climb the furthest.

Avi was the winner! When the seasons changed and the cool rains of Autumn scattered leaves on the balcony garden, Avi welcomed the wet weather.

But when we moved in mid-Fall trouble began. His first few nights went okay. He and Indie liked to watch the city lights come on from his new spot on the new balcony…

but during the day, when the sun was warm and bright, and the birds were floating overhead, Avi started doing peculiar things. Instead of carrying on with his growth spurt, he got limpy and lethargic. A week into his new surroundings, he developed brown spots and then white spots and then crinkly skin. Thinking he was not getting enough water, I doubled up. But soon after, he looked more like a loose umbrella than a young tree. His leaves turned from a colorful shade of lime to a dull blackish green. Tragedy was looming, we both knew it. A week before his first birthday I feared Avi might be on his last legs.

Signals from a troubling time of growing pains.

I brought him inside for a few days, consulted the internet and determined that he either had too much salt built up in his roots, ( a common side-effect of using regular tap water for daily watering) or he was getting too much sun on the new patio. I rinsed his roots in distilled water and gave him a new home in a bigger pot with fresh potting soil. Then he got a new vantage point – a sunny windowsill on top of a low bookshelf.

Avi’s second perch nestled in with pig and pineapple and Hedy Hatstand.

But for two weeks he still looked terrible. So he moved again, this time to a bright corner between two big windows – a spot that gets no direct sunlight but reflects light because of the white wall paint. It also happens to be right next to the kitchen, where I could keep a close eye on him.  To my happiness, Avi flourished once again!  Day by day, his leaves moved higher and higher until they went from vertical back to horizontal. And he started growing again.

Now he’s taller than dear Hudson and happy as a clam. As it turns out, all Avi ever wanted was to be close to the kitchen and out of the sun. Who can blame him?

Back to pretty green leaves and a happy disposition once again!

Today he measures 3′ feet 2″  inches tall and he’s just achieved his longest set of leaves at 12.5″ inches in length. Some gardening experts say that Avi will never produce avocados to eat, but that doesn’t matter, I like him just for the handsome plant that he is. And it’s fun to watch him grow. I hope to see him reach a height of 8-9 feet (maybe taller!), a little indoor arboretum in the making.

If you’d like to grow your own Avi, it’s really simple. Find step by step instructions here. You just need an extra dose of patience in the beginning until the berry cracks open and growing gets underway. Other than regular watering every couple days and eventual transplanting as it grows, avocado plants are easy to care for. Many garden sites say that avocados LOVE sun, but as we learned with Avi’s growing pains, too much sun is indeed, too much, so watch closely as your plant’s personality develops and see what he or she likes best.

On November 22nd, when Avi celebrates his second birthday, we’ll check back in to see how much he has grown in the nine months between now and then.  Maybe he’ll be up to the ceiling!

In the meantime, cheers to Avi and his ability to weather the rigors of adolescence. And cheers to indoor gardening – an activity that’s in-season all year round!

The Surprise of the Season!

The last time Ms. Jeannie posted on the blog it was snowing. And now it’s Spring!

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Vintage Metal Marquee Sign – The Month of April

Goodness gracious where do the days go?! All throughout February and March Ms. Jeannie has been navigating the book club and her organizational systems for it.

February book club packages ready for the post office!
80 February book club packages ready for the post office!

It has taken her away from blogging and all you lovely readers which she hates, but it has also introduced her to an assortment of wonderful authors and stories from new subscribers which she loves, so it’s been an exciting journey from concept to creation.

With a total of 88 subscribers as of this post, the book club is a constant bustle of activity. To date, which is now at the 7th month mark, Ms. Jeannie has wrapped 307 books, written 307 author’s bios and 307 book bios, been kicked out of the post office once (too many packages please come back tomorrow), gone through 15 packages of tape, finished 8 rolls of twine,  folded 356 pieces of tissue paper, cut 560 lengths of ribbon and been reprimanded by the post master twice (only 10 packages at a time in line please!). Needless to say it’s been a spectacular adventure!

And while Ms. Jeannie’s days are now full of books, and research, and writing, and schedules , she managed to carve in a little gardening time over the weekend thanks to one of the most wonderful surprises ever…

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A greenhouse on loan!

Ms. Jeannie’s neighbor has lent her the use of her greenhouse for the rest of the year! How exciting – a whole greenhouse all her own! It’s located just down at the end of the drive, so it’s a quick walk from the house, and ideally set with plenty of sun water spigots, and old rickety potting tables. After a quick yet thorough snake check by Mr. Jeannie (none thank goodness!) Ms. Jeannie got to work right away planting seeds…

The first seeds of the season!
The first seeds of the season!

So far, in just a day she managed to prepare and pot almost her entire vegetable garden…

Cantaloupe, Brussels sprouts and spinach!
Dill, cucumbers, spinach, hot peppers, and tomatoes.

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It was the first sunny, dry and 70 degree weather in days and Ms. Jeannie was so glad to be enjoying it in her new horticulture house. She even collected sand from the creek bed for her spinach seedlings – these are going to be some pampered plants this year.

Creek sand!
Creek sand!

Next week Ms. Jeannie will get to work on the flower seed aspect of the garden so stay tuned for some regular garden updates all season.

With each passing month, the book club gets better and better situated, so Ms. Jeannie looks forward to sharing a bevy  of spring and summer blog posts.

Until next time, happy April and happy Spring!

 

 

 

If You Build It…They Will Grow

Well, Ms. Jeannie has done it. She has finally planted all the garden seeds that she  had ordered from Botanical Interests three weeks ago.

The just completed final garden patch.

She has been working on this goal bit by bit every few days, but Monday’s gorgeous weather really got her motivated to finish up.

At market last weekend, she bought some pre-started herbs for her garden (dill, rosemary, basil and mint) and wouldn’t you know, a few extra plantlings just happened to jump into her basket during that shopping trip too. So 4  jalapenos, 1 red bell pepper  and two tomato plants  round out the garden complete.

So in addition to her six containers full of sunflowers,  a 4′ x 5′ sunflower patch and her newly finished 10″x 12″ vegetable, flowers and herb garden, Ms. Jeannie is well on her way to being a farmer!

In the 10′ x12′ patch, she mounded the herbs in the center of the patch to give the garden a little interest as everything starts growing out. She lined the base of the herb mound with rocks and lined her pathway in old bricks that she had lying about in the garage.

Mound of herbs!
Brick pathway

Until she gets a fence up she has blocked off the sections in her garden with fallen sticks from woods behind her house.

Garden sections. Jalapeno plants down front. Tomato plant in back.

Ms. Jeannie likes to halfhazardly organize her garden thoughts on paper before she plants, so she can keep her seed plans organized while she’s planting. On paper the garden plan looks like this:

Rough sketch of garden plan

As Ms. Jeannie was planting, she started thinking about the garden of her dreams and what all that would/could include. Years ago, she read a beautiful garden coffee table book called Venzano: A Scented Garden in Tuscany about a couple who bought a 12th century monastery in Italy and turned part of it into a nursery.

Venzano: A Scented Garden in Tuscany by Stephanie Donaldson

It is a gorgeous book and a gorgeous story.

View from Venzano
Courtyard at Venzano

Ms Jeannie is in love with the rustic pergola above. She has spent many a daydream trying to incorporate something similar into her own garden plan. At Venzano, it is used to shelter the herb garden.

Sadly, due to financial issues, the couple had to sell Venzano. It was bought by someone but the nursery is no longer in operation and the residence is private.

But thanks to the book, Ms. Jeannie can recreate the look of Venzano in her own garden. In addition to the splendid pergola above, Ms. Jeannie would also incorporate these dreamy elements that are available through Etsy.com

Wrought Iron Garden Trellis from VanMadroneMetalworks
Pea Gravel from BluffCreekNaturals
Antique Iron Wire Garden Gate by beep3
100 Succulents from SanPedroCactus
Stepping Stone Paver Moulds from KapCreations
French Style Garden Bench from SusanVaillant
Wood Garden Markers from AndrewsReclaimed
Solar Powered Mason Jar Lights from BootsNGus
Antique Large Copper Wash Tub from RustedandWrought
White Cotton Ball String Lights by CottonLight
Garden Bench Made from Reclaimed Wood by SauteeWoodWorks
Birdhouse Gourds by MizzTizzysWeedSeeds

Ms. Jeannie is also in love with the twig style  fences. In almost all the how-to guides on building a twig fence you can find the follwing verbage: challenging, impractical, un-sturdy, purely decorative, non-functional.  Perfect!  Ms. Jeannie’s  on a mission to change all these negatives into positives and makes the world’s first easy, durable, functional twig fence!

She just loves the look of them, so maybe her passion alone will navigate her the tough parts. This is the kind of look she aspires to:

Twig Fencing

Wish her luck! Projects updates to follow soon!