Grow Your Own Microgarden

Juliet Kemp

It was only a decade ago that drugs were expensive, controlled by multinationals and insurance companies, and accordingly could be very hard to come by. These days, the genetic modification (GM) revolution means it’s incredibly easy to grow your own DIY pharmaceuticals, alongside a few protein-plants and microgreens, even if all you’ve got is a windowsill. Read on for how to get started.

Which Plants?

  • Drups (drug-plants) are genetically engineered to produce a specific dose of a drug per full-size leaf as long as they have the right basic growing conditions for the plant. Whilst not all drugs are (yet!) available as plants, those you can start growing right now include insulin, 5HTP, spiro, testosterone, estrogen; and of course the ever-popular recreationals MDMA and THC. Check out your local seed shop or garden store: more are being developed all the time.

  • Once you’ve identified your preferred drups, don’t forget your food needs! High-protein legumes are far tastier these days than ever before, and most drups grow better with a legume or two nearby.

  • Those old standbys, microgreens, are ever-evolving for specific tastes (I love a medium-spicy rocket) as well as packing a greater vitamin punch than ever before. Go for a ‘cut and come again’ (cut a leaf while the plant keeps growing) for maximum efficiency. If you’re not sure where to start, try rocket and an oak leaf type lettuce.

  • Still got a spare corner? Squeeze in the odd herb or two for flavour: try basil, sacha culantro, thyme, or fenugreek; or try one of the latest GM plants like five-spice or chilli-cumin oregano.


Setup

  • Once you’ve decided what you’re committed to growing, and what you’d like to add if you can, check out the seed packet info for information about light and heat levels required. Testosterone drups need high light levels, for example, whereas there are modern THC cultivars tweaked to cope in full shade.

  • The phone app PlantLight is super helpful -- if you measure the light level three times in a day and give it your location, it advises you on what you can and can’t successfully grow. If your light or heat levels are low, consider using a growlamp, especially if growing indoors.

  • Next, consider which plants do and don’t grow well together. For example, alliums and legumes don’t get on, so don’t put your spring onions next to your high-protein pea sprouts.

  • Bear in mind that the drups all originate from various plant families; it should tell you on the back of the packet if there’s any plants to avoid planting together.

  • If you have essentials that disagree with one another, use a couple of containers rather than one big one (put them in a single large water tray to keep them tidy).

  • Automatic watering systems are great if you can afford them (or consider retro-fitting once your plants are established, when your meds and food budget becomes lower). If not, set a phone alarm to water daily, or use a remote-sensor probe that will text you when the soil’s too dry.


What to buy?

Done planning? Time to get your hands dirty. You’ll need:

  • Container(s) (we love the GroPots range from Indoor Gardens, which comes in five different colours to suit your decor).

  • Soil (best to get a drup-specific one, sold at your local garden centre or online; food plants are more forgiving and are happy in both regular potting soil and drup soil).

  • Seeds (of course!).

  • If you feel like splashing out, Grow Your Own sells cute silver or turquoise watering cans, gorgeous decorative stickers, and bioplastic plant sticks to identify your seedlings.


What to watch out for

  • Don’t forget to label which seeds you’ve planted where!

  • Don’t cut your drup leaves too soon; the packet should tell you what ‘full-size’ is so you get the correct dose, or many seed companies have apps that will check a photo of the leaf and confirm when it’s large enough.

  • We’ve said this already, but: don’t forget to water! And you’ll need to use plant food every couple of months.


So that’s you ready to get started. Send in your photos of your new microgarden setup! We’d love to share them in a future issue.


About the Author

Juliet Kemp (they/them) is a queer, non-binary, writer. Their short fiction has appeared in venues including Analog and Cast of Wonders, and they were short-listed for the WSPA Small Press Award 2020. The Rising Flood, the third book in their Marek series, is out in late 2021. They live in London by the river, with their partners, kid, and dog, where they try to fit an ever-increasing number of plants into a microscopic back garden. They can be found on Twitter as @julietk, or at https://julietkemp.com.

The following is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, events and incidents are the products of the author's imagination. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events is purely coincidental.