MS. REBECCA SHEIR
Okay. So we're going to stay on the subject of plants for this next story, but we're going to head inside. That's the primary domain of Kenneth More, a Washingtonian who's dub himself the Indoor Gardener. And as Emily Berman recently found out, that title is pretty spot on.
MS. EMILY BERMAN
Kenneth Moore's first apartment in the District was a studio in Mount Pleasant. He picked it because of all the windows. It would be the perfect place for a garden.
MR. KENNETH MOORE
I was growing lettuce. I was growing beans and peppers. And I had 9-foot-tall tomato plants. I tried eggplant, but that did not work so well.
He nailed 2x4s into a rectangle, filled it with rocks and soil, then planted stalks of corn, which wasn't really a great idea.
And I would come home and my furniture would be covered in yellow corn pollen.
And sweet potatoes? Turns out they grow really fast.
They are so vigorous that I could not untwine them from my blinds.
He had dozens and dozens of plants growing and out of all of it…
I got enough tomatoes and peppers that I made pasta sauce twice to have one bowl of pasta. And I got two baby ears of corn.
That's it. And you'd think, that's kind of disappointing for months of hard work and basically turning your apartment into a garden, but this was just the most recent incident in a long line of underperforming gardens. The first was when he was 4 years old.
We lived in a townhouse in Laurel. And my father built a garden box out of 2x4s. I was the one who decided when to plant things and what to plant. My parents just let me go to town.
He got the idea to garden from a book called, "Every Seed is a promise," which he loved.
I read that all the time. I made my mom read it every night. I learned how to read so I could read that book myself.
Moore's dream was to be a farmer.
I had dreams of bringing two carrots and one cucumber to the grocery store so that they could sell it. And I thought I would get rich with those two carrots and one cucumber.
By the time he got to high school, his interest in plants had broadened. He studied biology in college, but found that his idea of getting rich by farming probably wasn't going to bear fruit. So he works in communications. And when he's not working, he's gardening.
If you'd like to put two or three seeds in each.
Two or three.
Two or three, yeah.
We're on the floor of his apartment, planting super frying peppers.
This is going to be painfully obvious for me to say, but these look like pepper seeds.
Like seeds you would find in a red pepper or something.
We finished planting and Moore sets the tray of pots onto one of his plant shelves. It's a 6-foot-tall bookshelf with grow lights, misters and plants top to bottom. There's even a fish tank full of orchids.
It's only a 20-gallon fish tank, so I can't fit a ton in there, but there's about 45 plants.
There are plants on his window sills and planting gear neatly stacked up the walls of his basement apartment. All together, Moore estimates he has more than 150 plants and an emotional connection to each of them. Such a strong connection, in fact, that when he got a job offer in 2010 to move to Saudi Arabia, the plants came with him.
I brought about 100 plants to Saudi Arabia in my gym bag.
He had passed all the USDA inspections to take plant cuttings out of the country, but on his way back he kind of skipped that part.
The USDA knocked on my door and they asked if they could come in. And I said, yeah, yes, of course. And I'm like terrified. And came and confiscated my plants.
He didn't have any illegal plants per se, but because they hadn't been inspected they needed to be burned. Later that year, the feds returned to his apartment after he thought he was buying seeds from Indiana. Turns out, they were from India, but it's all just an experiment Moore says.
It's something to try. It's something to figure out how to do and how all those things that I use in the day-to-day world are made.
Even with a remarkably high kill rate, which on the whole is about 50 percent, Moore says he's entering this spring planting season ready to learn new lessons and make new mistakes. I'm Emily Berman.
To see Kenneth Moore's picks for his favorite seed stores and garden shops in the region, visit our website, metroconnection.org.
Time for a break, but when we get back, an ecological mystery in our local rivers.
MR. FRED PINKNEY
The two rivers that are doing really poorly are the Severn and South Rivers right near Annapolis.
That and more in a minute on "Metro Connection," here on WAMU 88.5.
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