Friday, June 29, 2007

Indoor gardening, some thoughts

If you read swedish you can take a look at "Livet i en lagom stor stad" (Uppsalaliv) has proclaimed Parkettodlaren (Indoor Gardener's mother blog) blog of the week. I'm honoured, and feel it's time to sum up the experiment so far.

My biggest enemy isn't a gardening thing at all. It spells boredom. You know; suddenly your interest in the subject dips and you start working on other things instead. I've had one serious dip so far. The causes were full time work and illnesses, but they could have been a need for playing the accordion, learning cymric or drinking non-alcoholic colourful drinks. These dips are one of the reasons I use selfwatering containers and long time working fertilizing tabs. In this way the basic needs are covered.

And how did my plants do during this dip. Not bad. My strawberry and iceplant seedlings died a dry dead. The others were replanted and lives pretty well. The nasturtiums I planted on the balcony are fighting a tough war against the pansies in the same container, on the other hand they are the healthiest of all plants. The nasturtiums inside are among the plants with thrips and are sprayed with soft soap every other day.

I've started to experiment with smaller containers - although I still build them myself out of plastic boxes from IKEA (cheaper that way). The bins you see on most of my pictures are dimensioned for growing root vegtetables - carrots, turnips and tiger nuts for exemple. The best crops for indoor gardening have turned out to be leaf vegetables, however, and they don't need as deep layer of soil. The question is if I ever will have patience to wait for a turnip to form its root. It doesn't matter that they grow fast, they grow very slowly anyhow. The last turnip I harvested had a root thick as a finger. The carrots did better though.

Two things have proved to be important; extensive notes and extreme hygiene. When it comes to notes I see myself bying a book with black covers and writing minute data with blue ink and longhand. Since I know myself the reality looks quite different. I write data with water proof black ink on paper tape and stick the strips directly onto the sides of the container. This really makes my gardens look like experimental cultivations, and for a long time now I've ponder on a way to make them look nicer. The plan involves fabric matching the curtains (which I plan to sew), velcro tabs and me getting off my butt...

Growing vegetables indoors are more like growing stuff in a greenhouse than outdoor gardening. You may know that a greenhouse should be washed thorougly at least once a year? You do that to get rid of different pests that are hiding in cracks and minute getaways. Perhaps it's good to do the same with indoor gardens? I've cleand the window where my thrips ridden garden is placed using soft soap. I haven't had an entirely problem free garden in years, so it will be interesting to see what'll come out of this insight.

The most important thing I've learnt is that nothing is A Big Catastrophy (tm). You are allowed to be the greenest of amateurs, and you are allowed to stay like that for as long time as you like, untill you feel ready for higher learning. You can even digest this higher learning in the smallest portions possible. As long as you provide the plants with enough water almost anything will grow.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Hmmm... thrips

Having thrips is no fun. I spray the affected plants with soap water, and I'm starting to suspect that all my gardens are contaminated. Thrips thrive in dry places so I've started to spray the plants with water a few times a day. I feel like an old aunt. You know, one who have prize perfect house plants (although unedible), who only gives them the best fertilizer and polishes the leaves. On the other hand it's worth it if I can escape having soap on all my plants.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

A happy day

My bin haunted by thrips. I've just sprayed it with pesticide and am cutting away the leaves with most injuries.

I've had an outburst of energy today. Not only did I sterilize seven litres (two gallons) of leca (and I did it without burning down the house, jay!), I washed two plasticboxes, cleaned a window and boiled my bridal veil. (The veil is made of nylon and is normaly the separating barrier between leca and soil in my selwatering containers.) Appart from that I've treated my nasturtium/tiger nut/purslane garden for thrips. I was hoping to sow something in my boxes too, but the evening came faster than I thought.

You've reached an higher level of gardening when you recognize more pests than aphids and takes the trouble to fight them. It was a strange feeling to think
"Shiny, dry areas on the leaves... aren't that thrips?"
I took a look at the back side of an dry leaf, and when I knew what to look for I spotted those cigarrlike little animals at once. A quick glance in my small garden pest encyclopedia proved me right. I was right! I knew something! Spooky...

Tomorrow I'll plant a bin with vegetables - nothing special, just turnip, carrot and onions, if nothing gets in the way. When you spend your life together with a bearded man and a twoyearold anything can happen.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Smoke gets in your eyes

Right now I'm tidying up my little gardens. They have been abandoned while I've been battling flues and eyeinfections. Every now and then I stop and ask myself if I've really been that ill. In some cases I've been driven to desperat messures. To save the bigger part of my seedlings I planted the tigernuts and nasturtiums in the same container and the same soil as I used for the carrots and the turnips. You shouldn't do that, I've been told, and now I know why. Some desease in the soil, or perhaps some bug on the purslane, have now affected all of the plants in the bin. The leaves of the nasturtiums are all bumpy and have dry areas drained of all moist. Only now do I realise that I should spray them with something, or at least figure out what the problem is.

Unfortunately I'm not coherent yet, and the reason is my eyeglasses. They are sixteen years old. My last pair of contacts was infected with the eyeinfection so I'm forced to use my glasses instead, and they are not up do date with my eyesight. My brain has to put a lot of extra effort on interprete the pictures delivered, and less power are left to actual thinking. The last days have been full of Duh! moments. For one thing I've lost about five dollars paying doubble fees on the bus.

But the worst accident was with the aluminium pan I found in the metal recycling bin. You know; you need some kind of container if you are going to sterilize soil in the oven. I don't want to use our regular kitchenware, and it feels wrong buying new stuff. So, when I found the pan in the metal bin I thought "Bingo! Finders keepers!"

I won't be ashamed of using this pan for soil. The teflon layer inside has been ript several times, the outside is burnt black, and how does a pan like this end up with all those dents? What did they do? Slammed the cupboard door on it? Jumped on it? Ran over it with a car? Perhaps they did all this and some more too, but I can never know for sure.

The pan was smeared in something sticky. The dishwasher would take care of that (dishwasher detergent is extremely corrosive) so I didn't worry about it. On the other hand I smeard some of the goo around while carrying the pan, and when I used the kitchen cloth to remove it I didn't feel like using the cloth for kitchen chores any more. But a stRong woman knows what to do; I decided to boil the germs out of the cloth.

I've actually saved an old saucer just to be able to boil my kitchen cloths. I took the saucer out, filled it with water, added some washing up liquid and the cloth, put this on the stove on the hottest area and myself in front of the computer...

I woke from my computer coma about an hour later smelling smoke. I warned my hubby and returned to the kitchen to get some nose spray (to be able to detect the source of the smoke). I didn't need to sniff around. In front of me I found an dry saucer with a charcoal cloth glaring at me with its embers.


I'm going to the optrician at tuesday, and then I'll have to wait a week for my new contacts. Untill I get them I'll try to stay out of the more firery chores of gardening. But I'll sterilize some leca tomorrow - those of you who can; pray for me.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Podcast for the eyes

Podcasts are good things! The last days I've had a severe eyeinfection. For most of the time I've only been able to lay down with my eyes shut. I asked hubby to download this year's Odla i P1 podcasts (Odla is a swedish radioshow for amateur gardeners) to at least have something to listen at. So I listened.

And listened.

And before I knew I was up and about, planting my new herb garden. That was not one minute too early since the plants had been left for some days in their plastic bags (I bought them shortly before I fell ill). Unfortunately this means that the plants doesn't feel well, but I'm still glad the job's done. I even put lables on the box recording the names of the plants, the dates they were planted, date for fertilizing and that I've forgotten to hollow out the layer of leca. The last thing irritates me, since this means the self watering container wont work properly. The soil in the hole is supposed to work as a wick, sucking up moist to the rest. I'll leave the container for now to see how it works out.

It was fun to use the new soil. "Änglamarks balkonglådejord" (Änglamark is Coop Sweden's ekological brand, and Coop is our second big grocery chain - think Walmart or Tesco) is the lable I use now, and the feel of it was different to the cheep seedling soil I've used earlier. It was softer and had a better texture. It will be interesting to see if I have a better result with this. To this soil I added a pellet of "osmocote tabs" per plant. I still don't own a vermicompost, so I have to make do with this.

And to answer an unspoken question; the nice doctor gave eye medicine yesterday. In the future I'll listen to Odla while tending to my plants.

Friday, June 08, 2007

What's in a rose...

Oh, waily, waily! My dearest Polstjärnan is dying. What I thought was the result of drying out seems to be the result of bugs, deseases or a pot too small. No matter how I fertilize or water branches and buds are withering away. There are almost nothing left on it that lives. I regret that I planted some pansies (johny jump-ups) around it, because they are so cute. Do I really need to dig them up just to plant a new rose? Definately. I hesitate on it, and tell myself that we really can't afford a rose right now.

Ah well, a rose won't cost me more than eight dollars, but who thinks I can go to a nursery and buy just a rose?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Stuck in life, stuck in reality

My rose almost dried out, but the pansies (Johnny Jump-Ups) do very well.

I haven't been posting here for a long time. It's because I've got Other Things To Do In My Life (tm). A full time job steals a lot of time from the hours you thought you had for your hobbies; cooking, cleaning, caring for children and laundry, everything are supposed to fit into the few hours you have left. My flowers have suffered from it, and some of my home made selfwatering pots are a sad sight to see. But I'm not ready to give up on the project. A fulltime job is a reality for most of us, and I want indoor gardening to be a possibility for all of us. The problems I'm pondering most on right now are how to fit in the gardening into the Real Life.

An other thing that keeps me going are all those nice comments you've written on my posts. Thanks to everyone who tried to save my basil and sage with various recipes and suggestions on freezing the surplus. The thing with indoor gardening is, though, that you'll (hopefully) have access to the plants all the time. If you start saving the surplus you'll soon drown. I'll plant new herbgardens, and when I do I'll plant sage and basil in an amount more fit to our needs. And I'll add chives, dill and parsley - herbs used in the kitchen by my grandma and quite the ordinary stuff in Sweden. Exotic herbs are fun to grow, but in the end I don't know what to do with them, so I've learnt the hard way to stick to the 'boring' common routine.