Indoor Winter Vegetable Gardens

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The first cool
night of the almost changing season gave the squash plants a shiver
and they curled their big leaves upon themselves as if to find protection.
I wait for this moment in the eternal gardening cycle to begin preparing
my plants and myself for the “indoor” gardening season.
You see, I don’t let the thought of thirty degree days or fear
of the blowing snow that is Colorado keep me from enjoying the,
excuse the pun, fruits of my gardening labor.

With the looming
price hike in food and the uncertainty of the times I am comforted
with the knowledge that I’ll be picking fresh greens, tomatoes,
peppers, beans, and herbs right in the comfort of my living spaces.
No, I don’t have a greenhouse. So I thought I’d share
a little information of how you too can enjoy the benefits of fresh
produce all years round without a greenhouse or sun room.

I live in the
foothills of the Rocky Mountains, so lest you think I have great
growing conditions, know that indoor gardening can be challenging.
But, I feel it is a mandatory skill set to learn. Not only do you
have the benefits of fresh produce at a time of year the grocery
stores charge a kings ransom for a bunch of scallions or a bit of
radish, you will have the ability to augment meals if we run into
during winter.

There are a
few basics you must have to be successful and you must practice
these plant husbandry skills in order to reap any rewards. Practice
is critical as you must understand the growing parameters of the
plants you choose and where in the house you will be gardening for
best results.

First, examine
you home for the best plant locations. Good lighting is critical.
Without good direct light your plants will grow long and spindly
or “leggy”. If a plant must go searching for light for
the photosynthesis process they won’t have the energy to grow
properly, let alone set fruiting bodies. I am fortunate in having
large south facing windows in three rooms. I also augment with grow
lights, so when I decide where certain plants will spend their winter
I set up the lighting before I place the plants. It is easier to
get the area ready before you place the plants. Some of my plants
are in the topsy turvy planters so I set the lights close to the
floor pointing upwards. The plants are suspended on chains held
up with hooks in the ceiling. Remember plants grow toward the light.
I think it is very important because some plants hate to be moved
around and will be a little temperamental if jostled around to find
better lighting.

Think about
temperature fluctuations. We keep our house at 60 degrees during
the winter. Yes, that’s really cool. We have hot water heat
and I can adjust the “zones” at will and during the day
I turn up heat in the rooms that I will be working. I cluster various
plants that need extra warmth at night like tomatoes and peppers
together in a room. Some veggies like cool temperatures like lettuces,
green onions, and peas. These are grown in a cool zone. If you heat
with wood be careful not to place plants too close to the stove
as the dry heat will suck the moisture right out of them. You must
also watch the temperatures in front of your windows and be careful
that the plants don’t get overheated during the day. If they
do, they will have a hard time with water usage and leaf burns.
A window shade is a good idea in case you have to moderate the solar
gain through windows.

Next I prepare
the pots for the plants. If you are moving plants from the garden
you will need good size pots. Most plants need several gallons of
augmented soil to have plenty of room for root expansion. Make sure
they are scrubbed clean and rinsed in a little bleach water. After
washing and rinsing the pots, I give them a good dose of sunshine
to dry them out well. Place a layer of clean small rocks in the
bottom and fill about 2/3 full with garden soil and compost. They
are now ready for your plants. If the planters are very large you
should do the dirt filling in the place where the plants will grow.
The hernia you prevent from lifting all that weight will be appreciated!

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9, 2010

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