Thursday, October 29, 2009

Winter Gardening

Every year, by the end of winter, you will hear me say how I long to get my fingers back into the soil again. We have a 6 month gardening season here in PA....definitely not long enough to suit me. But this is the trade off when you live in an area with dramatic season changes. And I love the changing seasons...so PA is where I will stay.

All summer long we enjoy the fruits of our labor with large quantities of home grown fruits and vegetables. What we don't grow, we buy from local farmers. But in the winter, well, that is a different story. Nothing is grown locally in the winter, so we are left with buying what is offered in the supermarket and eating what we have "put up" over the summer. Usually I have lots of frozen carrots, peas, green beans, broccoli, and cauliflower.

The problem is: Hubbs and I are big salad eaters. In the summer we grow our own lettuce and spinach. In the winter we have nothing available but those big plastic vats of organic baby lettuces. They are shipped in from California and southern states....which means a big carbon expense to the environment....not to mention un-recyclable plastic containers.

This winter I have decided to try my hand at indoor gardening.

Hubbs set up old storage shelves equipped with grow lights in our basement. Here is where I will attempt to grow our fresh leafy greens for the coming winter.

I sorted through my seed packs and pulled out those that I thought would be good for indoor gardening.

I bought a few heat mats....to speed up germination.
Then I filled a few open flats (with drainage holes) with organic potting soil and set each inside of a flat with no drainage holes. These flats were seeded with a variety of lettuces and spinach.
A few clay pots were seeded with herbs.
Everything was placed on heating mats and set beneath a grow light.
Each container is labelled...
Now I will mist each container with a generous amount of water daily (maybe twice daily)...and wait. I will post pictures when the begin to germinate.

This was such a satisfying project for a cold, rainy, day!

In case you are interested in starting your own indoor garden. Here are a few tips:

You can purchase "Grow Lights" that are sold for that purpose, but they are a bit pricey. Or....you can just purchase 48 inch shop lights that plug in. You will want to make sure that they take the same gauge fluorescent tube as your fluorescent grow bulbs. These are all readily found at your local hardware or lighting store.

You will need to water more often than you do for outside gardening....as the dry winter heat of your house will dry out your containers quite quickly. Draping clear plastic sheeting over your shelving will help to keep the humidity in...much like a greenhouse.

Use potting soil, not soil from outside.

Provide warmth to encourage germination....especially if you are doing this project in your basement or other cooler area of the house.

You can plant seeds that have shallow root systems such as lettuces, spinach, herbs and such. I am also trying a few clay pots with cucumbers. If your pots are deep enough you can grow peppers and small tomato plants. I plan to experiment throughout the coming months.

9 comments:

  1. Good luck with your experiment! I hope you'll be able to harvest lots of lettuce and herbs. Wish we could try something like that here, but we just don't have the space. Still toying with having hubby build a cold frame for me...

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  2. I had never thought about a gardening 'season' before.. No wonder you hang out for the end of winter! I have a couple of questions though. Is the reason because the ground is too cold, or freezes? Do the weeds still grow in winter?
    What a fab idea though... inside garden! Good luck and I'm sending over some warm sunshine to help!

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  3. What a great idea. I have some left over lettuce seeds, I think I'll have a try too. Thanks so much.

    Smiles,
    Lisa

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  4. You can try growing sprouts as well! I did this last winter. I didn't really like the type of seeds I sprouted (lentil), but I recently bought some other sprouting seeds (brocolli, alfalfa, radish, etc.)
    I posted a how-to on my blog last winter. Here's the direct link if you want to give it a try. No electricity required.
    http://all-natural-mama.blogspot.com/2009/02/sprouterific.html
    Also, we're a bit colder here than PA I think and I still have lettuce growing. It can withstand frost. I planted it back in late July with the rest of the fall garden.

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  5. The weather is too cold...it kills the plants, the ground freezes. Even the weeds go dormant. If you have never experienced a true Winter, stick around i will post lots of wintery pictures in the coming months.

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  6. I grew sprouts last winter... alfalfa and broccoli. But we still like to have lettuces in winter. And yes, at this point of the year, we could still have lettuce and spinach if I still had a working garden. But, that too is a work in progress. We have been working on the raised beds instead....preparing for next year.

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  7. Do you shut the lights off at night or have them on 24 hours a day?

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  8. I have them on a timer. You need 10 hours a day of light if you do this in a basement, where there is no other available daylight.

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  9. What a great idea. Keep us posted.
    Kelly

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