mantsI’ve just returned from an exhausting but eye-popping week at MANTS, the annual Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show in Baltimore.  And, 3000 booths and a lot of handshakes later, I am now sitting in a pile of glossy, wildly gorgeous literature and trying to figure out what might be of interest to readers (and to myself) in the season ahead.

MANTS is about plants, but it’s also about products – products that will either help people already gardening (such as a Felco pruner upgrade), or inspire them to pick up the pruners in the first place.

And thus we come to the controversial issue of kits – a huge feature in recent years in garden centers, Big Boxes, catalogs and even grocery stores.

Controversial because I’m a frugal girl.  Always have been, always will be.  It’s hard for me to part with a penny when I have a sneaking suspicion I can do it myself more cheaply.  And, this philosophy applies as equally to making yogurt as it does to growing yarrow. (In past years, the former was usually setting up in the oven while the latter was being dug out of a friend’s field.)

“Controversial because I’m a frugal girl. Always have been, always will be.”

But in believing thusly, I do tend to make things excessively hard on myself.  I mix my own potting soil, I build my own cold frames, I spend hours retrofitting an old barrel for rain collection while smarter souls run down to city hall, sit through a mildly boring lecture and get one already made.

I’ve always been this way; but as I get older (not that old mind you), I find I no longer feel like staying up until two in the morning to wire brush a ridiculously rusted patio table.  In earlier days, there was no “feel like.” I just did it.

complete-gardenSo, as you can imagine, the idea of using a kit for anything used to fill this snobster with disdain, and led to the use of inflammatory words such as “lazy” and “unnecessary.”

What I didn’t fully comprehend (because my idea of relaxing was fixing my Kitchen Aid mixer while I watched TV in the evening), was that other people had a better grasp of the benefits of not working every living second of every living day.  Others wanted to try something with a small and convenient time and money investment to see if they liked it, not jump into the deep end fully clothed to find the water was icy cold.

This is where kits come in extremely handy:

  • When you don’t know if you’ll like something.
  • When you don’t know if you’ll have the time.
  • When you need to put your creative energies elsewhere, but still want to try.

– it might be time to try a kit.

Kits give you everything you need, instructions to guide you and photographs to inspire you. There is everything out there from pre-planted grow sheets that you lay over your beds and water (Seedsheet) to sprouting kits that allow you to harvest microgreen mixes from your countertop (Botanical Interests).

Last year I had a blast with an oyster mushroom counter kit from 100th Monkey Mushrooms.  What a conversation starter – and I’m moving on to their straw bale inoculation kit this spring.

mushbox9Kids adore kits and can’t wait to try them at the most inconvenient time for parents.  So if you want to annoy your sister whilst simultaneously becoming the world’s greatest auntie, there are kits to grow pizza ingredients (Harris Seeds), or to magically turn small bricks of ‘soil’ into grow bags for peppers and tomatoes (The City Garden by FibreDust).

For those of you who balk on ecological grounds (all that packaging!), take a little time to look at the kit you’re scorning.  Without exception, all of the kits I lingered over at MANTS were using a renewable soilless media like coir; cardboard and paper packaging that could be recycled; and most of them used biodegradable pots and growing containers that decompose as soon as they hit the soil.

Need one more reason to try a growing kit this season? I have a good friend who bought a beer kit over ten years ago and now owns his own farm-based brewery and makes some of the smoothest ale I have tasted this side of the Atlantic (Mad Science Brewing Company).

A kit was the key that unlocked that particular adventure. Who knows, a sprouting kit could be the beginning of yours.


This article is reprinted with permission by The Frederick News Post