In any season, but especially in winter, light is the factor which determines the crops the indoor gardener can raise. Leaf and root crops need four to six hours of sun a day, fruiting crops should have eight hours. Artificial light can be a big help, even a north window will grow many kinds of vegetables if a couple of fluorescent tubes are suspended over the plants and lit for 16-hours a day during the darkest months.
The trick of serving home indoor grown produce is harvesting most vegetables when slightly immature. Here is where the indoor grower has it over the outdoor gardener. Often, produce matures outdoors faster than the gardener can harvest or consume it, whereas the indoor plot can be tailored to produce the right amount at the right time. How? Planning, timing and a controlled environment.
Succession cropping is the key to continuous peak production and timing is the biggest challenge in indoor farming. Sprouting seeds do not need much light, at least until they have their true leaves. Any out-of-the-way area that is cool and dim can serve as a germinating area. The sowing is small and harvested plants should be immediately replaced with new seedlings that take hold rapidly and are quickly ready themselves for harvesting.
Cherry tomatoes and long peppers can be grown in hanging baskets, perhaps with herbs such as parsley or chives interplanted for textural contrast and vegetative good looks. Leaf lettuce is easy and successful. You may harvest lettuce when heads are the size of a baseball, and they look so attractive served whole.
Garden cress provides fast, nutritious greens, ready to harvest in only 10 days; sow in shallow planters on a thick pad of moist paper towels or two inches of soil. Mustard is grown in the same way but takes somewhat longer to harvest. Malabar and New Zealand spinach both stand heat and grow well in overheated apartments. Try watercress in a terrarium, grown in sandy soil with much moisture-even pools of water.
European self-pollinating cucumbers, a special indoor cucumber that is long, slender, and mild-flavored, can be eaten skin and all. Eggplants need a big pot and plenty of light. Beans may be grown successfully in a window. They must have a large pot or tub for root room. Peas need cool, bright conditions and the edible-podded varieties are excellent.
Herbs can be grown in pretty earthenware pots in any sunny window. Herbs may be clipped fresh for use in recipes or dried by hanging in small bunches, stems up, in a cool, airy location. You simply crush them between your fingers and bottle in containers with airtight stoppers. Bottle only small amounts as dried herbs lose much of their pungency if stored for long periods.
Finally, consider a window greenhouse as a very worthwhile investment. It will pay for itself in produce for your family in just one winter.
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|Title Annotation:||The garden|
|Publication:||Countryside & Small Stock Journal|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2008|
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