Friday, February 29, 2008

Japanese gardeningshow

One of the thing I like with gardening is that it's an international hobby. Take a look at this japanese gardening show, broadcast over Hawai and then uploaded to YouTube. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The tropics, elephant ears and oxalic acid

I'm pondering naming my two indian spinach plants Seymore 1 and Seymore 2. Have you ever seen more brutal seedlings? When Impecta mentioned that these needed big containers they weren't joking. I'll need to replant these, eventhough I put them in pots 14 cm wide (5 1/2").

Indian spinach are one of the plants I've started growing since I took some time evaluating my indoor climate. The most common temperature range in the flats I've lived in is 20-24¤C (68-75¤F), most often closer to 24¤ (75¤) eventhough we are shutting down all radiators. For some reason we've always chosen homes on top level, and are warmed by the flats below. Today we are living in an appartement with most windows to the south, so between ten o'clock and two o'clock in the afternoon we reach 26¤ (79¤) or higher.

Does this sound like swedish outdoor climate? Nope, it's closer to the tropics. So why not try out some tropical plants? I picked indian spinach (Basella alba) on the name. India is warm, right? I'm pretty exited about this experiment, and the plants seems to thrive so far.

Next plant will be elephant ear or taro (Colocasia esculenta). I picked it in the same way; one of our seed catalogues mentiones that it's used as food in the tropics. It resembles a monstera and I wouldn't be surprised if it's already grown as house plant in Sweden.

But if you are going to pick foreignish plants like that you have to do your resaerch. There are plants that are toxic in their raw forms and have to be treated to be edible. Yams is the most typical exemple; a root tuber which preparation takes days of pounding, leaching and drying before the toxins are removed.

I discovered that elephant ear is toxic in raw form due to high levels of oxalic acid. You find oxalic acid in vegetables as spinach and rhubarb, so it's hardly an unknown substance to swedish culture, and anyone who has eaten rhubarb pie (traditional swedish summer dessert) knows one survive. I do suspect elephant ear is easy to cook safely, but I'll do some more research before I buy the seeds.

And how's my wood working projects going? It's a slow but steady progress I'd say. Today I brought out our foldable workbench and cut out the bottom piece to the nursery. I took some time since I had to bring the bench out from its hiding place under the stairs. Can you see it? It's in the furthest corner...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A day in my life

This is a still-life over my day. My brain feels like that grey fluff in the plastic box, so I've spent a great part of the afternoon making more of it. It's egg cartons and mug stabilisers that I patiently tear appart. The plan is to use the fluff as bedding in my future vermicompost. I hope the worms will eat it - they can live in woodchips too, but then they don't eat it, and this stuff is something in between wood chips and teared newspaper. Whatever happens making carton fluff is just the right level of activity when you are tired and are watching a movie.

The eggshells displays the reason why I'm in a hurry. These are the tomatoes I sowed ten days ago. Since I'd gathered the seed myself my expectations where low, and I have to admit that I'm surprised. Not that it has discouraged me - this afternoon I collected some more seeds from mini plum tomatoes that happened to be lying around. These have been organically grown, so it'll be interesting to see how they make it in the competition.

The magazine is a swedish gardening mag "Allt om Trädgård" (~Everything About Gardens) and symbolises my shopping spree. I'm now the proud owner of a jigsaw, a flourescent lamp, some chains and extra wood. But I don't have all I need yet, so I suspect I'll need to do another spree soon. Another reason for chosing "Allt om Trädgård" is that the swedish mother blog of Indoor Gardener (Parkettodlaren - it's hard to translate the title, but it would be something along the lines of "Indoor Floor Gardener") is mentioned in an article. It's a good one about growing herbs and vegetables indoors, written by Lena Israelsson, who is one of my big inspirations in gardening. If I was rich I'd buy every book she has written. And when she calls herself "parkettodlare" I'm tickled pink! I'm very honoured and glad that our number is increasing.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

It always takes more time

There it is! This is the ladder I tell myself I'll climb - me being a tad afraid of heights. I'm not afraid all the time, only when I stand on slightly instable contraptions that accentuates the vibrations from my knees.

But there is a cure. You hop on the ladder untill you grow accustomed to its movements. I've used this method before, and I will do it again. This time I'll do it bit by bit, though.

My morning started off pretty good. I dragged out some of the wood and my rough sketch of the nursery I'm planning to build. Then I took a picture. You know, being pedagogical and all by documenting my work step by step. After a glance at my rough sketch I concluded that I needed a jigsaw. Why haven't we bought a jigsaw when I'm constantly planning woodworking projects? Is this a clue to why these projects never get done? Probably.

But I thought that I at least would do those things that were possible to do. The rough sketch should be transplanted to a neat one - with front view, side view and view from above, just like a professional construction drawing. After hours of thinking and measuring the work table looked like this:

I've measured, I've made ergonomical studies and I've thought... Correction; I've tried to think. Hubby and I have been burning midnight oil for too many days now, and today I reached the point where my brain didn't cooperate. Remeber that: if you want to be a successfull indoor gardener, make sure to get proper sleep. At nightfall my construction drawing looked like this:

I have to make some extra purchases - some of the wood proved to be of wrong dimensions. And I want to use a special decoration called "pearl staff" in swedish. I googled it, and found out that this was a name for... Well, being swede I wasn't chocked when I found out it was the name of a certain device sold on places with higher hit percentage than the ordinary wood working stores (as well as a considerable higher 'blush potential'), but it was awfully hard to weed out the usefull sites. Thank God I already knew about Slöjddetaljer (mail order company selling hobby wares and wood working tools) because I was starting to get annoyed. Anyway, I've arranged for a drive to Bauhaus (european version of Home Depot) tomorrow. Time to shop!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Where do I put it?

This is my miniature nursery. The triffids in the row front are Morning glories and Moonflower vines growing like weed. In the eggshells you find tomatoes from seeds I've collected myself growing together with carrots, chives and sallat 'Tom Thumb' (normally they are shielded by my giant glas bell, but this photo was taken while I 'aired' them). The plastic box contains six plants of Fedia cornucopiae thriving like crazy. The terracotta pots in the background is the plants I repotted more than a week ago. They don't do as well as the new seedlings, and I suspect they need more light. It's easy to plant, but now I do need to put up more lamps and build that nursery bench I made such nice plans for.

In about a week I'll sow a new row of seeds. Then I have to move my first plants somewhere else. I already eye the best windows and count the flouroscent lampfixture I have (one). The thing is that the best window is placed two meter (2.2 yards) above ground and have a pointy top. I can't use the normal procedures for putting up a shelf and hang the lamps from it. But I have a plan! Tomorrow I'll balance on a stepladder while I screw brackets to the wall. Or, I may change my mind and use our plunge router for the first time. In either case: pray for me...

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Vegetable science fiction

Indoor Gardener's Sunday movie is an old classic; Store Wars

(This video contains quite a few of my current interests; organic growing, Star Wars and broccoli. Jay!)

Saturday, February 23, 2008

the Vegetable orchestra

If the vebetables don't sing, and you have a gift with carpenting tools, you could use them as instruments instead.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Singing vegetables

I do try to free myself from my muppet addiction, but it is friday, and deep inside, don't we all wish for something like this;

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Unvoluntary vacation...

I've been unable to blog for some days. This has to do with me registering my company and a close to buy an appartement experience. Administration in other words. The company is the biggest time thief, not that it's hard to register - such things are a breeze these days - but I've had the most magnificent angst over hitting the "register" button on the IRS's webpage. It's as if they would send a vampire the next second screaming "NOW I got you!" and taxate my down to my last drop of blood. To win over a fear like that takes an average of one hour per key pressed down on the keyboard.

If you say "Wait a minute! That means a battle that has lasted for years!" And you are completely right. This company has been brewing for several years and have been almost registered several times. Only the bait "nice flat in an area we want to live in" could make me fight that angst demon. I still have some scary things to do, so I hope you'll forgive short blogposts the next couple of days.

I know it's not a vacation. But blogging will be a big part of my job, so I don't really know what to call it. "Another time thief"? Penal servitude? Vacation do sounds better.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

We can't all live in the country...

...and that's one of the reasons I'm executing the experiment this blog records. However, I'm not going to the same extremes as this man in New York City.

(The guy has to have the kindest bees on earth!)

Friday, February 15, 2008

First replanting for the spring

So, I've replanted my first batch of plants for the spring. The nasturtiums were about to jump out of their tp-rolls and demand eligibility to vote, while other seeds hadn't even poked a sprout above the soil. All the plants that had been in the glas bell were moldy and I realised today that I should have lifted it off for a quarter or so every day to allow for some ventilation. Duh! I already knew that! Why didn't that piece of knowledge surface earlier? Well, I'll use it the next time I sow something - which ought to be tomorrow.

I've used terracotta pots for this batch as you can see. I'll running around and water the plants every other second, but I grew tired of finding rotten soil at the bottom of my selfwatering containers. And these pots looks good, which is a big plus when you are gardening indoors. The climbing aid I made for the nasturtiums is my big pride this time - don't you love the charmingly charred look barely noticeable here? I used sticks left from the fireworks at New Year's Eve. With a bit of luck I'll become a trendsetter and Wal-mart will start sell hobby craftsmen precharred sticks by the dozen :-)

Since it's friday I'll end this post with a small film. It has nothing to do with gardening, I just found it fitting since I have recieved compliments on blogging in both english and swedish. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Octopus's garden

Today is my birthday and I do preciseley what I want to do. Secretely I wish for a big size aquaculture but since our economy and our living quarters are on the smaller side I'll stay content with an octopus's garden for now.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Uppsala my Uppsala

(This blogpost is the result of a challenge from Jodi de Long at Bloomingwriter.)

Every summer the staff at the Orangery at the Botanical Gardens carry out the plants to give them some outdoor sun. The plants includes laurels, ginkos and fig in natural sizes.
(This photo is called "The courtyard at Linneanum in June - WOW", and the photografer is The County Clerk. You find more photos and his profile here.)

I live in Uppsala, Sweden. I moved here from Stockholm when I was twenty and fell in love with the place because of its tolerance towards geeks, plus because of the many book sellers around. The thing about universities is that they tend to spread books in the way dandelions spreads their seeds. They doesn't grow that fast, but I dare say that Uppsala University is the result of a seed from Paris.

Speaking of the university I can't leave Linnaeus out. He was born in Småland, and spent many years here as a professor. Eventhough I am a gardener I haven't spent much time pondering him and his works. He seems to have been a nice chap with a feeling for greenery. I managed to avoid the jubilee last year, as I manage to miss the Linnéweek (in swedish) celebrated every year. On the other hand I like spending an afternoon at Linné's Hammarby.

My big gardening love in this city is the Botanical Gardens with the baroque garden (they are situated on both sides of a street). The baroque garden is a good place for picnicks and on a fine day you'll find several groups dinnering there. Since this is Uppsala it isn't unusual for one of them to carry funny clothes - for exemple we have a local Sherlock Holmes clubb with a taste for portable wind-up phonographs and croquet (and, of course, period clothing).

On the other side of the way you'll find the Botanical Gardens (eventhough the greenery in the baroque garden are neatly labled with latin names, common names and origin too). It nags me that a big condominium complex is being built between the gardens and the Uppsala castle, because it's a clumsy addition to the environment, hopefully it'll turn out alright when all is finished (and with the current trends in architecture I say Ha! to my own hopes). I think I'm becoming an old curmudgeon.

Anyway, the Botanical Gardens sports plants from all around the world, planted according to current classification system. You'll find the vegetables close to the entrance, and can take a convenient tour around the world of cabbages as well as admire the herb gardens. Every now and then I pay the fee to get into the green house and look at the main diva, the Victoria waterlily. Well, I look at the leaves since Victoria mainly blooms in the night. Then I stroll off into the inner sanctuaries, dreaming about being able to grow as big plants in my home.

Since I'm an indoor gardener it may be in place to say something about swedish indoor climate. Indoor climates vary from country to country in almost the same way as the outdoor climate do. In Sweden it's generally about 20-24¤C indoors and very dry. My own flat is 22-24¤C warm in the winter, and since it's in a sunny spot 26-28¤C in the summer. Up untill last years Sweden was a place where winter could be freezingly -20¤C cold, and my theory is that as soon as we could afford it we built buildings insulated enough to keep those temperatures out. I have no explanation for the dryness though, perhaps a way to keep out mold since swedish buildings tend to be almost watertight.

The more I grow plants indoors, the more I abandon my original plan to grow old swedish cultivated plants and switch to the field of exotic - and edible - plants. They are more suited to the climate where they will grow. And I'm starting to look longingly at the Uppsala allotment gardens. I still fear the sturdy Uppsala clay, that are hard to work with and build up mounds under the shoes (no, not lumps, mounds), but some more root vegetables in the diet would be nice!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Born: a planthead

I'm not only an indoor gardener, I like bizarr, animated movies too. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Organic indoor gardening

This guy is a tad nervous, but he is well worth listening to.

Friday, February 08, 2008


Rats! The evil blogdemons ate my post. Here's a small movie instead. Sesame Street forever!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

More sprouting

Dang! I had to throw away the amaranth sprouts. Apparently I wait too long since I'm accustomed to alfalfa. (Those sprouts fills a half liter container on a deciliter of seeds.) At least I now know what to expect, so I'm putting some more quinoa on soak, and this time I'll harvest in time.

There are quite a few instructive movies on sprouts on YouTube. This one are closest to my own method. The size of the sprout varies with the seed. The alfalfa sprout is about five centimeter (two inches), which means that the volume doubbles five times or more. The beans we see here grow three times their volume, which seems to be the case with quinoa and amaranth too.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Water and drying

Half of my seeds have grown so far. Unfortunately I neglected to ventilate the glass bell, which means mold grows on the pots inside. It's probably not a good thing, but I wont do anything drastic. Last time I paniced, removed the cover completely - and all the seedlings died. After a bit of pondering I think a combination of dehydration and darkness killed the poor little plants. I've put up a table lamp to illuminate my new seedlings, and put the glass bell on matches to let some air in. Let's see if this is enough.

The tiger nuts have recovered in one of the two gardens I planted, and it's time to cut them down. My plan was to dry it and use as bedding in my vermicompost, but how do I do that without a drying tray? Luckely enough I don't need to care for colour of active substances so I can put the cuttings in broad daylight. It hit me that one of those bags you use for your bras when you wash them in a washing machine would do. It may not look romantic, but I'll put it in my study where I won't be much (fact is I'm mostly working in the library...).

The next item on the shopping list is neither drying trays nor seeds. It's carnivorous plants, we are all sick and tired of the 'flies' my garden generates.


List of plants that have grown, in chronological order

  • Kyona Mizuna cabbage (under plastic bag) 2008/02/02 after four days
  • Basil 'Genovese' (in glass bell) 2008/02/03 after five days
  • Leaf amaranth 'Calalo Red' (under plastic bag) 2008/02/03 after five days
  • Nasturtium 'Alaska' (under plastic bag) 2008/02/05 after seven days
  • Salvia (in glass bell) 2008/02/05 after seven days

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Another kind of English Country Garden

Remember the small movie I posted a week ago - the one from an english allotment garden. The music played in the background is called English Country Garden. Now, what would happen if you let muppets loose on it, like Fozzie Bear and Rowlf for exemple...

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Patti Moreno builds an indoor garden

I like Patti Moreno (GardenGirlTV). She thinks in the same ways as I did when I started my indoor gardener project; we can't all live in the country growing our food. She's way ahead of me though, and she has an outdoor garden to use too, so everything isn't usefull to someone of my kind. Her five programs on building an indoor garden has a lot of interesting stuff though, so I post them here.

Part 1 Building the indoor garden
My comment: Oh, I want one of these porches! They are extremely unusual in Sweden. In metrics hers is about 2*4m. Speaking of Sweden, the fact that she are using GORM shelving units from IKEA makes me smile. Been there, done that - on the balcony.

Part 2 Sowing and storage
My comment: It's possible to use an ordinary pen for making furrows, but that thingy Patti Moreno uses is actually quite nice - if only because it saves you from drisseling your notes with soil...

Part 3 Making more space and seed delivery
My comment: Dang, her heap of envelopes is bigger than mine :-)

Part 4 Recycling pots for sowing
My comment: Patti Moreno says it doesn't have to be expensive to start up growing stuff. I'd add that you should always start cheap. By recycle things into your new hobby you are forced to concentrate on the actual process and what's supposed to happen (since you need to figure out what of your stuff you can use). Besides, you may not like growing stuff, then you'll be broke and surrounded by stuff that bores you.

Part 5 Water and replanting
My comment: This part was a real eyeopener to me. I've always regarded replanting as unneccesary work, but here I can see that it actually saves up on space. Duh! Important information on handling water and seedlings, but I still don't understand why she cuts the tips of the roots. Anyone who knows?

Friday, February 01, 2008

Quinoa sprouts!

The quinoa sprouts did fairly well, although not to the extent I'd expected. Perhaps I soaked them for a period too short, or perhaps this is the amount to expect. What you see in the picture is the result of 1dl (2/3 cup) quinoa, and I think the amount is about 3dl (2 cups). (Alfalfa would've filled the entire jar.)

Unfortunately I waited too long before I harvested, since I expected the sprouts to behave like alfalfa. Instead, they fermented. Fermented vegetables are not unknown, but I have to admit I only nibbled a bit before I threw the rest away. The taste was good, so I'll make a new batch. Right now though, I'm soaking a batch of amaranth seeds, a way to vary the food.