Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Back to the roots

This image is called "just off the turnip truck"
Photografer is Darwin Bell, you find more of his images here

Since my added light projects proceeds in a very slow pace I spend the 'lost' time researching the crops I've bought. You've already seen the result twice, since I've published small articles on common purlsane and ice plant on this blog. Now it's time for the different roots. I like roots. They're nutricious, can be harvested early and stays fresh for a long time. On the other hand I wasn't so sure that I could learn something more about them. The tiger nut are indeed exotic to a swede, but the turnip seems common enough. And the carrot! Is there anything worth to add about the carrot?

I always do my research on the net, using Goooogle and the common swedish name of the plant. As soon as I find a reliable latin name I do a new search on that. This is the best way to find reliable sources. Because the net is littered by plant heads, romantics and wannabe herb gurus, and you need to distinguish between them and the reliables. Read the reliable ones first to have a solid base of knowledge when you go on to read the articles written by plant heads, romantics and wannabe herb gurus. These are often more fun, and may contain some grains of truth.

Indeed, there were quite a lot to say about both turnip and carrot. There's even a museum dedicated solely to this orange root - I'm not at all surprised that there are englishmen and women involved. I'll publish my collected efforts on this blog during the week.

Happy gardening!

Monday, February 26, 2007

What's in a name...

In my dreams...
This image is called "magical enchanted indoor forest", and the photografer is Russel Bernice
You find more of his photos here.

In Swedish this blog is called ”Parquet flooring gardener” an allusion to an old swedish urban legend. Perhaps it's international too? You may have heard it. A friend to a friend of yours have told you that some immigrants break the parquet flooring to grow potatos beneath. She or he have seen it for herself when she worked as a locksmith, changing looks in the appartement, or when she picked up her kid who was playing with the kids in the family.

You haven't? In one way I would be glad if this old misconception was forgotten. It's older than the first big swedish influxes of immigrants (from Greece and Turkey in the sixties and seventies). I'm not really sure when this rumour started, but I know it was first told about peasant families who moved into town to work in the factories. Judging from this and the evolution of different building techniques I would say it's from the beginning of the twentieth century.

It is actually possible to grow potatos beneath the parquet flooring in some buildings. I used to live in one. The floor was supported by a network of bolders, and to get a completely smooth surface, the spaces between the bolders was filled with sand. Sand is an excellent growing media for potatos, just add some water and fertilizer and the bulbs will grow like crazy.

Nowadays I guess that most swedish condominiums are built like the one I live in now. The parquet flooring is placed directly on a concrete suface and that's that. In other words: I can't even try... or, wait a minute! We bought a drill hammer not long ago... Hm....

Saturday, February 24, 2007


When you are into gardening you have to buy your seeds from somewhere. There's a lot of firms available, Thompson and Morgan for exemple. Good enough if you want ordinary plants, but if you are like me, and want to do things the most complicated way, then you'll probably want an retailer selling something extra.

Impecta is a firm like this. They specialises in old swedish traditional crops, but you can find almost anything there. For exemple I read about the tiger nut in an article (the tiger nut is almost unknown Sweden) where I was recommended to buy seeds from french retailers, if I wanted to grow some. ”Haha!” I thought and went to the webpage of Impecta. Yup! They got it. They also have Canary Islands dragon tree, tuberous pea and strawberrysticks, if that's what you want. The only thing I haven't find in their online shop is ulluco. They don't have it - yet.

So, if you are of swedish ancestry and are looking for swedish traditional crops, Impecta's online shop is well worth a visit. Unfortunately the pages is in swedish only, but they do sell to countries outside Sweden and you can most certainly email questions to them in english – most swedes are pretty good at this language. If you are searching for particular crops they always list their seeds on both common and latin name.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Added light for windowsill, part 2

Having proved that I am woman enough to fasten things to the walls I asked my hubby to put up the other bracket.

To be continued...

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Added light for windowsill, part 1

My son is ill. This means that I spent the for noon at home together with hubby and offspring. This was a coincidence too good not to be used in some way. Since I keep everything I need at home for putting up added light for an entire windowsill, fluorescent lamps, armature, chains for hanging the armature and bracket to fasten the chains in something - to make the lamp shine on the right spot you have to fasten it in something a bit away from the wall. This I discovered when I put up the added light for my herbgarden, and had to use some more rustic methods.

I started by opening the armature and stare mystified at the contents for a while. It isn't that hard, everything is colour coded, you have a short and helpful manual and the only thing you really need to worry about is one lamp and one cord. But the presence of hubby triggered my bad confidence in handling mechanincs and heavier crafts. I think it's something that is impressed on girls through simple and double messages all through the years. And hubby was walking around discretely eager to be of help, if only to put a battery into its recharger. The urge to ask him almost overpowered me, but neither hubby nor I did yield.

The armature is made for moist places, like djungles and the bathrooms of teenage girls. This means that the cover has strong clips and and packings, plus two rubbergizmos meant to seal the hole for the cord. All of this were packed in a plastic bag together with some extra clips as well as packings for the attachments. According to the manual two screws should have been packed too, but I didn't even find a glimmer of them. Perhaps this is a good thing, since I'm about to hang the lamps in chains I was going to use steel loops anyway. If I ever need to seal the lamp completely I plan to use some silicone rubber.

One of the big problems was the shelf. The brackets needed to be placed on such a distance that I can't hang the chains directly from them. It's not estetic to have chains hanging diagonally when their only function is to hold a lamp! A simple solution to the problem is to place a shelf on the brackets and fasten loops under it for the chains and the cord. Unfortunately we didn't have any piece of plank long enough for this purpose. My thoughts went to the discarded indoor rails we keep on our attic, hubby suggested a broom stick.

Broomstick it was, then.

Time to get some work done. With a bracket in one hand and a ruler in the other I climbed a chair from IKEA to meassure exactly where I should put the bracket. I wanted the bottom side of the shelf to be in line with the windowframes. In that way I thought I would get an horizontal shelf. Turned out that our windows are not in line with each other. We live in a house built in the 80s when desing was in, but not building up to standards. I used a few foul words while fighting the ruler to get a line that at least would be visually logical. Hubby wondered why I didn't marked the holes where I should drill - and I asked why when I only needed a line to aim after.

Time for the cordless screwdriver. Looking at it I instantly imagined bloody mishaps and emergencies and secretly hoped for hubby to offer his help. He didn't. What we did do was to localise the supporting frames for the walls. They have sucked small amounts of moist into the plaster boards to the extant that our wall papers are striped with grey on their places. Quite practical on occasions like this. The point was to screw directly into the frames instead of using special gizmos to make the screws hang on to the plaster. Yeeha! I could use the frames. This shelf will stay put.

Back on the chair, bracket against the wall, the screw in the bit (that is magnetic) and then I screwed directly into the hole in the bracket. Well, halfway through I discovered that the bracket was som tiny that the screwdriver actually tipped it a bit. The whole thing was skew, and da rned how the mechanincs worked slow! I jumped down to fetch our small, flexible screwdriver - which proved to be even weaker, of course. The non mechanical one was a joke! My helpfull hubby added an extension to the big one, and I could work again. Except for the last hole, where the supporting arm of the bracket was placed in front. What is the reasoning behind a construction like that? "We put a hole here for a fastening screw, but let's make it purely ornamental"? Above that I managed to drill out the treads in the screw by being to squeemish in pressing on while screwing.

BAH! That's what you get trying to prove your competence!

Finally I had fastened the screws, all three of them. Well there was half an inch left for the last one when the screwdriver said.


Battery's out, and no extra to use.

I told my hubby that putting a battery in the charger was so easy that even I could handle it, and put the battery in the charger. Then I returned to contemplate the lamp. I unpacked the things in the bag, read the manual thoroughly, squeezed the rubber thingys gently. This seems to be easy. I only need to drill a hole for the chains. Explains to hubby what I am about to do. He agrees to my plans - good, saves me a lot of fuss. Then we take out our foldable working bench and I fasten the cover in that. I take the opportunity to fasten the loose clip too.

The battery has been in the charger for a while. I fit it into the screwdriver again, hubby gives me right drill and I press it to the cover. Askew again, I pause and correct the position before the plastic has been to damaged. Drill against the cover, a better grip on the screwdriver and....


Not much use in that battery.

Hubby concludes that this work isn't meant to be done right now. I agree. It's some kind of sign. So my report on this work so far is; after half a days work I've managed to put up one (1) brackett.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Indoor compost

This picture is called "Still life with compost", photografer is Kevin Saff,
you find more of his photos here, and can read his blog here.

There are people composting indoors, usually using a vermicomposting system. One of my friends and her mother deported their vermicompost to the furthermost corner of their terrace house garden when it started to stink. They are more of romantics than practically inclined, which makes me suspect that they didn't care for it in the right way. Knowledgeable people reassures that a working vermicompost don't stink. Hm.

In the long run I'm planning to try it out, but not before I've did some more studying on the subject. Perhaps I'd better start this summer, when it's possible to place the entire thing on the balcony while I figure out how to tend to it. But it doesn't seems so hard. You use three containers to be able to exchange composting bins in a steady pace, leaves a wet newspaper for the little worms to live in when you start up the compost, and then you only add as much waste as they are able to eat. Appart from citrus peals, almost everything seems to fit inside.

Keep your fingers crossed for me when I start...

Monday, February 12, 2007

Common purlsane Portulaca oleracea ssp.sativus

Well, I bought seeds from common Purslane, but what kind of plant is it?

Apparently it is an old cultivated plant in Sweden and Europe, and it is common to grow it in containers (although the most common way is to plant it in the garden). It looks much like Jade plant (crassula ovata) which is to be found in pots in every place where people show a certain neglect in watering. It's perhaps a good idea not to grow the two plants in the same space. Purlsane is nice enough to grow new branches once you\ve cut it down, as long as you leave stubbs of two inches length. It tastes sour, and contains oxalic acids (like rubarb and spinach), flavonoids and Omega-3 fatty acids.

Before you jump for joy because of the \newfound\ source of Omega-3 I\ll remind you that we are talking plants here. The fat level of plants are in general very low, unless you look at nuts and ceratain fruits. However, I have a feeling that purslane is kind of the plant world shmoo.

You can use it as spinach, but that doesn't say much since spinach is the leaf vegetable world's answer to chicken, ie. if anything isn't possible to use in a very special way it's to be used as spinach. I guess I have to grow it to taste it myself.


Sunday, February 11, 2007

My little herb garden - an update

I thought I would post a picture on how my herb garden  has 
developed after two to three weeks of added light. The sage 
and the mint have both sprouted new and greener leaves, perhaps a bit 
smaller than they should, but they are definately on the right track. 
The mint are eagerly trying to crawl over to the empty space where 
I'm planning to sow basil - given I can find my basil seeds again.

If you don't remember how my herb garden looked like before I'm 
reposting a picture where the withered leaves and such recently
have been cut, and the additional light have been up for only two days.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Successes so far

I'm of the firm belief that analysing successes are more important than analysing mistakes

*I added extra light – apparently it's pretty dark, even in the windowsills since the sage and mint are growing in a completely different way ever since I put up the plantlamp.

Hm, this list of successes was short. My goal is to have other proportions on my analyses in the future; the mistakes shall be in singular and the successes shall be legio. Furthermore, prepare yourselves for a picture series on how I'm assemble, decorate and put up flourescent lamps to widen my growing space.

Decorate? You can't imagine how uggly they are, and I have to live with them...


Friday, February 09, 2007

Mistakes so far

Ok, here's my confession

*I used low quality soil – cheap seeding soil bought in the closest mall. I'll chose more carefully next time.

*I stored the soil at wrong place – in an open box at the balcony, which made the soil suck up water like a sponge and pack itself.

*I tried a new kind of pots, constructed from plans I'd worked out myself – stricktly speaking this was not a mistake. It was an experiment that prooved my theory didn't work out well with reality. One have to count on some waste.

*I tried to thin much too early – I'm tempted to say the tiny sprouts left died from lonlyness, but instead it was really the fact that

*I left the pot within reach of an inquisitive twoyearold.


Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Ice plant

The picture was taken by Naomi Ibuki, you find her Flickr profile and links to more of her photos here.

Heh. Ice plant proved to be a cool vegetable, although a bit slow to grow. It stays in its juvenile growth for six weeks before turning adult, a stage that can be prolonged for months in a lab (hopefully this is valid for a windowsill too). Then it blooms and start the seed production, and once the seeds are mature the plant dies, roots first. Since the plant collects salt in its leaves the withering plant will contaminate the underlying soil. The seeds can grow in this saltyness, but other herbs and vegetables will not survive, hence competitors for the earth are taken care of. The plant can grow in almost any soil, from well-drained sandy soils (including sand dunes), to loams and clays. Since it absorbs salt and other minerals from the soils it's a candidate for using as 'clean up plant' on polluted grounds.

Ice plant have thick leaves covered with big bladders, it do look frosted. It's hardly a surprise that it taste salt, and sour. You can eat it raw, in woks or treat as spinach (gee, have we heard that one before?), and you can crush the leaves to use them as a soap substitute. Seeds and fruits are edible too. If you collect ice plant leaves, fruits and seeds in the wild, DO CHECK THAT THE GROUND IS CLEAN, since every poison in a poluted ground will be amassed in the plant. Having done that, try this recipe I manage to find.

(serves 4)

In origin, this recipe is from the book ”Het Trädgård — odling & recept” (translates as ”Hot garden – cultivation and recipes”)

8-12 slices of bacon
2-3 tomatos, sliced
A giant handfull och ice plant (it says so!)
8 slices of whole grain bread
Gourmet quarg
salt and black pepper
Barbecue blues sauce

Fry the bacon in the oven (200¤C or approx 400¤F) for 7-8 min. Take it out and drain it from fat on domestic paper. Roast the bread in the meantime. Spread the quarg over four of the bread slices, cover with iceplant and add the tomato slices. Spice up the tomatos with salt and pepper, cover them with bacon and pour over the barbecue blue sauce. Add the last bread slices and cut the sandwiches into triangles.

(This is a recipe translatedfrom swedish, you can find the original here.)

Hm, ice plant needs added light, but appart from that it seems to be so hardy you'd have to jump on it several times before it dies. This is a candidate for sowing in that cheap seedling soil I've complained about so much.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

And when you think you're unique...

 Well, I'm making my own pots, sending for strange seeds from Impecta (altertnative link for people outside EU, unfortunately both pages are in swedish), and agonizing over cheep soil, and then it turns out that Rusta (a swedish home furnishing and hardware chain) are selling readymade pots for indoor gardening! And here I thought I'd found a unique hobby!

On the other hand; I'll make a lot of new friends. Company is more fun than being a pioneer :-) .

Monday, February 05, 2007

Sigh... but on the other hand!

It's no fun making mistakes. Most of my babyleaves have withered and are dying. Only one out of five pots have healthy green leaves, I had hoped for greater success. As you already know the soil is caking itself when I'm watering the plants, and when I think about it I may have been a bit to optimistic on how good my selfwatering pots are. The soil was still moist when I checked the plants, but definately in the drying stage. Right now I'm hoping that watering by sinking the entire pot into water will do the trick, and have placed the pots with living plants in water to the brim. Perhaps this will not only waken the plants, but also fluff up the soil...? Is that a feasible hope?

On the other hand the extra light I put up for my little herbgarden is working well. Both the sage and the mint are doing fine and are enthusiaticalle sprouting new leaves. Right now I'm enjoying the first cup of mint tea made from homegrown mint for this year. Furthermore I recieved the Thompson & Morgan catalogue yesterday. This is mouthwatering high culture entertainment for a gardener. It's a good thing I'm broke, otherwise I'd by more strange seeds.

And blueberryplants! Definately blueberryplants!