POSTED BY: Stefanie LaSalle
The addition of some shelving (thanks mom!) and a couple of inexpensive fluorescent grow lights (thanks amazon!) gave my plants a healthier head start than the ones I grew last year, and you can already see the difference.
My 2013 garden taught me a lot, and I did quite a bit of research over the (long, cold, dark) winter . The two biggest changes I made were my watering system and my choice of plant varieties.
Here are my two self-watering containers that I made. The design comes from the book, The Vegetable Gardner's Container Bible, but you can find all sorts of plans for making self-watering containers online. All of these plants were started from seed, indoors, under grow lights. Since being transplanted outside in these containers, they've gotten so BIG!
Last year, I had trouble supplying enough water to the containers. We do not have a hose or faucet outside, so I had to fill containers and drag them outside to water everything each morning. It was a lot of work, and even with all that, they still tended to dry out, which stunted the plants growth. These containers have a reservoir in the bottom that I fill with a few gallons of water each, and the plants suck it up as they need it. That, coupled with a few convenient rain showers, has kept these guys nice and hydrated. Next year I think I will make two more of these and replace some of the little pots.
Here are the ones that I just planted earlier this week. I could have started most of these inside, like the others, but I just didn't have enough room under the grow lights. I will be asking for more lights for Christmas this year so I can start these all earlier in the season. Rob is very excited for the radishes - they should be ready to eat in 3-4 weeks. I'm looking forward to the cucumbers - they are called "Boston Picklers" - we can make homemade dill pickles this fall!
Beautiful Kale. The only thing I had success with last year was a mixed variety of lettuce. Most gardening resources suggest that new gardeners start out by growing herbs and leafy greens because they are relatively easy. After much consideration, I decided to ditch the lettuce this year (which takes up a lot of room, and can't tolerate heat) and replace it with Kale and Swiss Chard. These two varieties are much more heat and cold resistant, so I should be able to grow multiple crops throughout the summer and fall. Also, lettuce was really only good for salad, while Kale/Chard can be used in salads, soups, sautes, pasta dishes...
I was very worried about my Swiss chard babies a few weeks ago. Although the other plants did great inside with the grow lights, these guys always looked flimsy and hungry for more light and space. I didn't think they'd survive the transplant. As you can see, they are taking very well to being outside, and are getting big and strong. Look at those red stems! They are the only color in the garden right now besides green.
Baby bell pepper spotted! There were a couple of these on the biggest of the pepper plants. If all goes well, we should be swimming in peppers before we know it!
How's your 2014 Garden Adventure going?