I’ve been wishing for a greenhouse so I could garden year around. I have done a lot of research about growning in greenhouses and I want to start doing hydroponics and aquaponics for growing organic lettuce and greens. Though I love planting a traditional garden, lettuce and greens have a short growing season and are prone to pests and disease. But in a hydroponics and aquaponics set up, you eliminate a lot of those problems and have a higher rate of success. I want to grow greens year around organically and I would love to have extra to sell to other local families too.
I was talking with the kids about our upcoming garden plans, and we asked the question “what is stopping us from starting a garden in the house now with some of our leftover seed?” We may not have a greenhouse, but we’ve got a 65 degree house temperature (in two of the rooms on the first floor, the kitchen and upper rooms are in the low 50’s yikes) and we’ve got windows! One room of the house has both south and west facing windows, and that is the room we want to focus on setting up an indoor winter garden.
Truth be told, I have wanted to start an indoor winter garden every since learning about doing one from an Amish friend. She had built open shelves in front of several large windows and grew plants all winter long in addition to starting her plants for her outdoor garden in there too. I had another Amish friend who grew tomatoes through the winter in a south facing room as well as several other plants too.
I wish I had planned better and started this winter garden in the fall and I could have enjoyed some yummy produce by now. But I just didn’t have a plan together. I also wanted to include the kids in this, but worried if I could pull it off without big messes (dirt, water, carpet, etc.) especially with a toddler in the house. The kids are planning to learn gardening and aquatic science for a 4 H project this spring, and we are waiting on their 4H books to arrive. Doing some plant science seems like it would be both a good homeschool science project and a good time to get going on our 4H projects too. So I am just going to jump right in, and “don’t sweat the small stuff” as my dad would say, and just get it done.
I got busy and set up a folding table under the window to set the growing plants on, and pulled out our seeds, a few totes, recyclables I’ve been saving, and some potting mix and peat. I have also been saving some egg shells to use both as seed start planters and to crush up and feed the soil.
My sweet and very wise grandma always saved her egg shells. She had a coffee can on the counter and filled it with her empty egg shells. I remember them so well. They were all sorts of colors from her chickens. She called her chickens Easter chickens (Auracana) because they gave pink, blue, brown, and green colored egg shells. When her coffee can was full, she put them into the oven and baked them. Then crushed them into small pieces and fed them to her plants. I learned this from my grandma and have done this all my adult life too.
I’ll have a future post upcycling more of our recyclables. I have saved every plastic container that had lettuce or spinach in them…a’hemm…, all year. I hoped to start garden seeds in them as minigreenhouses. I am now expanding my thinking and may try growing micro greens in them too. I have also saved water bottles and asked friends on facebook to save 2 liter soda bottles too. I hope to make vertical gardens with them.
So for now, we are starting our plants in egg shells, potting soil and little peat pots, and totes. So far this week we planted two dozen egg shells, one 50 spot seed starter, a planter and a tote.
After filling the egg shells with potting mix, we added out seeds. The kids were amazed that the seeds were so tiny!
After planting the seeds, we watered them with a light mist from a spray bottle.
We planted both basil and bib lettuce the same way. So we have 12 shells full of lettuce, and 12 shells full of basil.
Next we planted some sprouted potatoes in a plant pot and a storage tote. I had saved a few red and white potatoes from this summer in a milk crate. I hoped the would wait, or last, until spring planting, but they went a little crazy shooting up sprouts. With all the artic weather, it looks like it’s going to be a while yet before we can plant outside. Now I feared I might loose them if I don’t get them planted soon.
We used some rocks the kids had collected in North Carolina to place into the bottom of the plantar and tote. This helps with drainage for the roots. We put about three inches of potting mix over the rocks, crumbled up some of the leftover egg shells. The kids thought it was a lot of fun to play in the dirt!
Then we placed several sprouted potatoes into each container and then covered them with more soil a few inches above the potatoes. It was interesting to observe the similarities and the differences in the two kinds of potatoes. The white potatoes have thick root stems and lots of smaller roots shooting off of these stems.
The red potatoes have long skinny root stems with little “buds” of new roots and a few leaves beginning to open at the very top.
We will wait about three or four days, then go back and add about three more inches of soil, and repeat this twice a week until the dirt is as high as the planter. Hopefully the sprouted stalks that were already on the potatoes will shoot out more roots into the few inches of soil and we will end up with new potatoes into each new layer of soil. I hope!
Planting potatoes indoors is a lot different than planting outside. Usually you plant them in the spring when it is cool, then they heat up in summer with the longer days and more sunshine and they will bloom, and after the blooms die you can begin harvesting them in the late summer or early fall. It usually takes about 4 months from planting to reap the final harvest though you can begin to harvest small “new” potatoes as early as when the plants bloom. You can also keep taking a few potatoes at a time and then cover up the roots again and hope it keeps on producing. But once the plant above the ground dies, it wont produce anymore new potatoes and it is time to harvest all that is left.
I have such fond memories of planting potatoes in my grandparents garden each year. Grandpa had tough standards of how he wanted everything done. We would dig long trenches. Plant the potatoes. Cover them with dirt. Then several times a week we would go back and cover them with more dirt until eventually we had a foot or more of dirt over them. When I was about 21, my dad told me about a “better way” called container planting and vertical gardening. He used old tires and 5 gallon buckets. The idea is to grow the potatoes vertically, reaping a bigger harvest from each plant and making the harvest easier, no digging needed. Just add more dirt and straw on top of the previous layer and the plant will keep growing up and up producing potatoes into each new layer.
Dad was all about working smarter not harder and I learned a lot from listening to his advice. I have grown potatoes both ways in my gardens, and they both have positives and negatives. One downside with containers is that you have to remember to water them. But when planted in the ground, potatoes find their own water from deep in the soil. But they don’t produce as much because of pests and tight growning space in dense soil. They also don’t produce well if there is too much rain, or a drought. So container gardening allows you to over come the weather and the soil conditions and generally reaps a bigger harvest per potatoe plant. Now if you want to plant two hundred potatoe starts, it might be too big of an
obstacle to plant two hundred containers and in that case, it is easier to plant a large volume of plants in the ground. You just have to figure out what you want to achieve whem planting your garden.
But this is my first time to try growing potatoes indoors intentionally, yes I have had them sprout before, but usually wait till spring to plant or throw them out. Spoiled potatoes smell aweful! You will know if they have spoiled and you need to throw them away. But if you don’t see or smell spoilage, see if you can get them into the dirt soon.
We will be watering them with aquarium “poo” water and hope to place some worms into the planters too which will help keep the soil fertilized and more natural. I hope we can start harvesting a few potatoes in late April and have a harvest to show for all the work in lat May or early June. The 4H fair is in June and hopefully this will all work out for the kids to show their indoor potato harvest for that. I’ll keep you posted about how this goes.
Lots of planning taking place here, and when researching how to grow indoors I found this video. It really inspired me to see if we could create a real vertical window garden. We are gathering our supplies, and still need a few more soda bottles to make this work. I hope we can make one in the next few weeks. I will post an updated story about this project soon.
I will post more about planting our indoor garden next week in a “part 2” to today’s post. I have way to many pictures and stuff we are working on, and thought it would be best to break this story into two parts. See you then!
This story will be linked up with: