Growing A Garden In A Pandemic

Plus: Games We’re Playing, The Last Dance, and Parks & Recreation

by Linda Holmes
Welcome! It was the week when movie theater chains and studios continued to wrestle with a possible VOD future. It was the week when we lost the inimitable Irrfan Khan. And it was the week when going on camera without pants finally caught up with someone. Let’s get to it.

Opening Argument: Growing A Garden In A Pandemic

I have never been any good with plants. The few I’ve ever had have kicked the bucket tout suite, and I’ve always lived in apartments, anyway. Yes, some people are good with plants in apartments, but I never seemed to have the right window, the right place, the right tolerance for failure if it didn’t work out.

When I moved to a house, I realized I could actually try a garden. My grandfather was a gardener who would tinker outside and then somehow produce food that you could eat, and the fact that someone I knew could do this at his suburban house used to really amaze me. My family used to visit a couple of local farms where I grew up to pick strawberries or get fresh milk now and then, but right in your yard? I was very impressed. 

Unfortunately, I also have a dog, and I have a dog who likes to (1) get into everything, (2) dig, and (3) eat plants. It’s a bad combination. So I did not plant a garden. 

But then I saw someone — I think perhaps it was the food writer Helen Rosner whose tweet I originally sparked to — talking about Aerogardens. An Aerogarden is basically an indoor margin-of-error expansion system for growing herbs, vegetables and flowers. It’s hydroponic, so there’s no dirt; you drop pods into the machine, fill it with water, add some magic plant food, and turn on the bright light over it. And herbs grow, and lettuce grows. Maybe, I thought — maybe, I could do this. 

I am currently on Day 4 of my garden, and when I peer into the tops of the little pods, I can see tiny tiny leaves that will one day — I hope — be Genovese Basil. 

You absolutely do not have to fuss with these “smart garden” situations; I also have friends who have discovered regrowing their leeks or celery, putting things in little cups with water and waiting for them to sprout. You can plant a little bunch of herbs in any decent window, I am told. And obviously, people with a little more confidence than I have can just have plants like normal human beings, like people have done for ages. 

But I cannot tell a lie: It has helped a little, having this silly thing burbling and brightly glowing away in the corner of my dining room. Nature still works, it turns out. Plants grow, seeds sprout. Maybe not always, and I don’t think anything else is as easy as herbs are — tomato plants are, as a dear friend of mine put it this week, “a whole thing.”

It almost doesn’t matter, though. For one thing, indoor gardening will introduce you to a whole new community of people. And they are very, very, very serious about their gardens. There are people on YouTube who regularly show you around their various indoor setups, pointing at improvised trellises and showing you the tiny hot peppers that glow red in a bushy clump of leaves. There is a man who gives an explanation of male and female cucumber flowers that makes some very questionable statements about the similarities between male and female flowers and human procreation, but it’s fun to watch him gently smoosh one flower into another to achieve the pollination indoor plants don’t get from wind and bees. 

I like it. It’s something new, and I need new things. I told someone the other day that one of the hardest things about isolation for me is that unless I’m doing work … you know, for work … it can often feel like literally nothing is happening. Part of the day is work, and the rest of the day is blank. But now, the rest of the day is peering hopefully at my tiny sprouted seeds, muttering, “You can do it. You can do it.” 

Also, please send me all your recipes that use a huge amount of dill. Based on the videos I have seen, I am going to have an unreasonable amount of dill. 

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We Recommend:

I’m still assembling all my feelings about the extraordinary game Kentucky Route Zero, a story about loss and community and capitalism and a lot of other things. But it’s really wonderful. I played it on the Switch; it’s available for a bunch of consoles, and for PCs.

You know of my love of Salt Fat Acid Heat author Samin Nosrat. Now she’s helping everybody cook lasagna!

You’ll find a link to my review of it below, but: I think the Hulu adaptation of Sally Rooney’s Normal People is one of the most affecting and deeply felt things I’ve watched on TV in a long time. Well worth checking out. And we’ll be covering it next week on the show, so if you watch it now, you’ll be ready!

What We Did This Week:

Ben Cohen/NBC
On our Wednesday episode, we talked about some of the games we’re playing on the Nintendo Switch.

On our Friday episode, our dear friend Gene Demby of NPR’s Code Switch came to talk with me and Stephen about the ESPN documentary series The Last Dance

Glen reviewed the new Ryan Murphy series Hollywood, which he did not love.

I reviewed the new Hulu series Normal People, which I did love.

I also got to visit my favorite quarantine podcast, Staying In With Emily and Kumail, to offer some TV recommendations.

And, of course, I had a few things to say about the delightful brief return of Parks and Recreation.

Stephen talked about musicians who have been taking on the coronavirus over on All Things Considered

He also shared the Tiny Desk Concert from Daughter of Swords and talked with some of his NPR Music pals for New Music Friday.

What’s Making Us Happy:

Every week on the show, we talk about some other things out in the world that have been giving us joy lately. Here they are:
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