Monday, March 5, 2012

So Many Questions!

This post is primarily for those of you who are looking to start a little bit of gardening, but who are not in a rural setting like mine.  You may have a patio or tiny yard and you may be renting, so plowing up your allotted bit lawn is out of the question.  In what ways might a person in this situation set up a winter garden or any kind of garden for that matter?

For starters, watch Bill Mollison's video, at least as far as his permaculturing of a high rise balcony (which isn't very far in).  He does amazing things with that tiny space that will reportedly produce one fifth of the food needed by the people in the apartment! 

Now that you've done that, here are answers to some of the questions I've been getting asked: 

1.  Starting tomato seeds - A seeding tray can be purchased at this time of year for cheap at almost any hardware, home improvement, or even grocery store.  They look more or less like this:
The trays with the plastic cover like this one are particularly nice because they reduce the need for watering and they capture and hold more heat.  The "cells" come in a variety of sizes.  You'll just have to choose the size that you think suits you best.  Keep in mind that larger cells will hold the plants for a longer time period without re-potting.  You will probably need to purchase potting soil as well to fill it with.  Bring it all home, fill the cells with soil, wet the soil thoroughly, make dents about 1/4" deep, drop in your seeds, cover with the soil from the sides of the dent, put the cover on the tray and set in a warm place.  They don't need a sunny spot until after the plants emerge.  When you start to see elbows you need to put the tray in a sun room, sunny window, or under a grow light.  (Important note:  If the sun is only shining on one side of the tray the plants will photo-trope {lean toward the light} and etiolate {become spindly} so you need to turn the tray frequently to even up the amount of sunlight the plants are receiving.)  This same method works for peppers and herbs as well.  Be warned . . . peppers take a lot longer to emerge and REQUIRE temperatures of 70 degrees Fahrenheit to germinate.

2.  Container gardening - I could probably do many posts on container gardening, but for now I will limit myself to a long paragraph with pics.  The options for container gardening are almost limitless.  Flower pots and window boxes are the most common options, of course.
Tomatoes and herbs (did you know you can eat Nasturtiums?)
Herbs in a shoe holder!
The ultimate container garden!

I will typically fill a window box with several different herbs.  A recent popular addition to the container garden repertoire is the "Topsy-Turvy" tomato planter.  They look like this:
They can be hung from the ceiling of a balcony or patio (provided your space receives at least some sunshine) You put the plant in the bottom of the soil filled bag, and water from the top.  The days of needing lots of ground space and tomato cages are over!  Incidentally you can even grow potatoes in containers!

3. What constitutes a vegetable garden? - I suppose technically, you can only call it a vegetable garden if you are growing only things like Swiss Chard or Celeriac where you eat pretty much the whole plant.  Tomatoes, squashes, peppers, and eggplants are all actually fruits.  Beets, potatoes, and carrots are roots.  Bag all of that.  If you can eat what you are growing, call it a veggie garden!

4.  How soon can I start? - Start now!  Find seeds of cold tolerant varieties if your weather demands it.  Tomatoes planted now will be ready to go outside by the time things warm up (especially this winter)  I planted my tomatoes in January, I think, and the largest plants are about a foot tall. They are begging me to be put in the ground, but they will have to wait a few more weeks!

5.  "You should offer courses in self-sufficiency with internships for food and board!" - We would love to do that and are working towards it.  We need to get a small cabin or two built where interns could stay. 
Like this
Or this!

Or maybe even this!!!


Jen awJ said...

Thanks, Barb! You're the best. This is great stuff. You're saving the world one post at a time. Love it!

Jen awJ said...

Also, I know what I'm going shopping for tomorrow - container gardening supplies. Thanks again - you've given me new direction and purpose for the month. Yay for the upcoming Spring Equinox!

Barb Schanel said...

Glad to hear it darlin! We all need goals. We are doing really well on accomplishing our pre-equinox goals!

Karen from Collins said...

And this is giving someone cityish like me (EXACTLY who you're talkin' about - LOL) something to dream REAL terms! SO excited to make something grow this Spring and beyond, THANK YOU. AND oh my gosh, I'm a totally DOPE for not have picked up the phone to call you, sweetie - it's been beyond insane and speakin' of goals, doing THAT is a main one and soon! :) <3

Barb Schanel said...

One is glad to be of service! LOL I look forward to hearing from you girlfriend. I've been rolling memories from Collins around in my head. :-)

abbie said...

Right arm, Barb. ; ) gonna go get me some little seed-starting thingys asap. I've seen the shoe-holder gardens done before, and they are very attractive to moi. What kinds of herbs (legal, silly) would be good to start on?

Barb Schanel said...

Basil and cilantro grow really well and there are many types of basil. grow several, each has its own special flavor. Oregano, Mint (plant two or more types), Dill. Lemon balm would be better off in a large pot because it will come back year after year, the same holds true for parsley, and even oregano if you protect it during winter. Throw in a few spaces of pretty flowers, there are many with edible parts!

Jen awJ said...

Just planted my little greenhouse seed starter tray with the tomato seeds you sent, some red cherry tomatoes, mixed bell peppers, spearmint, and lavender seeds. And planted some cute mini-pansies in the hollow spots of a tree stump in the yard and a pot. And I have many other packets of seeds to start in the weeks/months to come. So excited. Thanks for being my inspiration!

Barb Schanel said...

You are awesome! Keep in mind that lavender sprouts slowly and doesn't have high germination rates. I planted probably over a hundred seeds a few weeks ago (scatter style in a flat) and so far only four have come up. But if they all thrive I will be able to take cuttings from them and have a much bigger bed next year!

Karen from Collins said...

oh my gosh, honey, I'm awful!!! Oy, the Primary is just a week away and THEN I return to a freakin' HUMAN - LOL!! I'm so sorry, I'm reminiscing in my head and wanna talk to you, too, it WILL happen darnit!! :) <3

Barb Schanel said...

Don't worry Karen, I'll be at the cave for the whole summer and beyond!