Monday, June 30, 2008

Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Vatican Rag

This man taught mathematics at Harvard and political science at MIT. For a long time I couldn't go to communion without giggling, and that's his fault. Still I could have payed for listening to one of his lectures.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Home Vegetable Gardening Part I & II

You need some training in academic long sitting since these two videos are a two hour lecture from University of California. I have to admit that I pause the professor every now and then and read some webcomics instead (I'd died for this possibility when I was a student!) but the vids are well worth it. Here you get a two hour introduction, or repetition, on vegetable gardening. Many thanks to UCTV for posting these (and lots more fun) on YouTube!

Home Vegetable Gardening Part I

Home Vegetable Gardening Part II

Friday, June 27, 2008

Why my balcony looks... well..

Birds! They've eaten the first ripe cherry on my cherry tree. My move? To buy eight laserfoil windwheels. It's war!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Does the vermicompost smell?

Definately! And believe it or not, it smells lavendar. The understairs cupboard smells like granny's wardrobe when I open it to get something. However, this is not because of the worms, a few bouquets of dried lavendar were accidentaly left in the bedding, and I discovered them too late.

I cultivated lavendar on the balcony two years ago, but left the plants to die when I discovered that they were a hybrid with a strange, sharp smell. Since the original lavendar smells pretty sharp this was not a humdinger, and yet I dried some bouquets in my study. Interestingly enough they smell pretty good in the vermicompost.

If you feel the urge to throw fragrant herbs in your vermicompost I'll remind you that lavendar once was used to fend off moths, and is probably not a healthy diet for other insects and crawlies. For this reason I'm worried about my new multipet. I couldn't find any dead worms when I dug around in the compost an hour ago, which I think is a good sign. On the other hand I could'nt find any live ones either - only one that crept away surprisingly fast. This uncertainity about my wigglers' fate should make my compost a Schrödinger's vermicompost, at least until I've learned how to dig for worms.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Roses and worms

The worms arrived today! The company told me last week that this was the day, but it was still exiting to open a padded envelope to find a sealed plastic bag with some soil, white root fragments and a few motionless red worms. Gently I turned the bag around to see if any of them was alive. They couldn't be all dead, could they? Suddenly one of them stretched out and pointed its head (?) to burrow from the light.


The sight made me shudder, eventhough I regard myself as tough when it comes to yucky things. I put the bag aside and started drilling holes in the vermicompost to be. Forgotten were the earpains and the feebleness, at least untill the battery of the driller died. Sometimes I dearly wish for better tools than this cheap mailorder stuff.

In the meantime the roses started to bud on the balcony, and I paused ever so often to look at them. I've waited for these flowers for over a year. The vermicompost has been planed for less than a year, it's only fair that they shared my attention. Then I moisturised the vermicompost bedding and the time had come for breaking the bag.

Inside the lump of soil I found wriggling worm spagetthi. And again I shuddered, but why give in to basic reactions like these? (They serve a purpose, I'm sure.) I broke the lump and scattered it over the bedding to leave the worms to fend for themselves. It's a way to find dead worms. Those who haven't burrowed after an hour are dead.

What I though were white root fragments proved to be worm babies wiggling their tails, or shaking their heads perhaps, against the light. Compost worms don't like light. After an hour I could see that all worms were live and well, since the only thing left on surface was the tip of a tail. I treated my new multipet to a generous prune core and put the vermicompost beneath our stairs. My next project is to build a trap for fruitflies...

(I haven't added a CafePresslink today because of technical trouble. I'll return to the routine shortly, with the addition of highdefinition CClicensed picture downloads.)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Small blessings

The rosebuds on my balcony are starting open! I'll return shortly with a picture!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pondering water

A good thing about being ill is the time for thinking you get. Right now my thoughts circles around effectivisation of watering, planting, nutrition - well effectivisation of everything. Partly because this will give me more time to heal, partly because I'd appreciate some time off even when I'm healthy.

Watering steals most of my time and efforts. A nordic company (Gardena) sells a drip irrigation system that looks nice. (Sorry about the swedish link - this company do only have websites for their customers in the nordic countries, which means I could choose between swedish, norwegian and danish. I hope you have similar systems.)

And expensive.

I could start to use selfwatering containers again, or perhaps build my own drip irrigation system. Hmmmm... that last things speaks to my inner gadgeteer, I think I'll ponder this some more. Like I said, I have the time for it.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Dance off...

No wonder this vid became viral - and yes, I am a nerd...

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Living Walls

Cool thing I'm pondering trying at home. There's more information on the webpage of ELT Living Walls. Their photo gallery is inspiring.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Happy Midsummer!

...from Indoor Gardener.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Plants for a future

Unfortunately my chronic ear inflation is on the go (while I'm not), which means I have to make short posts for a while. Today I'll share my favourite place for checking up on new crops I'm pondering to use for indoor gardening.

Plants for a future

You can do a search in their database on both common and latin name, and every plant is provided with a short fact box and a longer essay on cultivation and uses. I'm quite fond of their rating of edibility in one to five apples. They've added sources and footnotes, which is a very good sign although I have yet to check up on the works they've used.

The group behind the database have some research cultivation sites in Great Britain. Since they seem to have some economical trouble it's a good thing to donate to them - this site is really useful.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

2008 is the International Year of the Potato!

Buy prints of the pic of today here. Look for older pics at Indoor Potager.

This is exciting! Will my potato plant bloom in time for Midsummer? According to tradition swedes eats pickled herring and boiled new potatoes on this day (we eat pickled herring given the slightest chance, mind you), and it would be cool to slaughter the bucket plant for summer solstice...

Potatoes weren't my thing when I was a kid. I remember them as those big mellow lumps left when I had eaten everything that tasted good on my plate. This disgust was shared by all my friends. Spagetthi was held much higher in esteem. Only when I grew up I met persons in my age that actually liked potatoes. When I hade collected my chin from the floor I started to reevalue the thing I loved to hate.

Rårakor (potato pancakes similar to rösti but fried in smaller entities) tastes good. Boiled potatoes are a must when you eat pickled herring. I tried rice once and that... let's just say I won't repeat this. Bread is a better addition, but the herring marinade irritates the stomach - only potatoes will round it off perfectly. And, potatoes satisfy hunger better, whatever any GIguru will tell you. In scientish this is explained as high satiety index. (Unfortunately I have to stop this culinary tale, since my keyboard is in danger from me drooling too much.)

The UN has realised how magnificent the potato is and have proclaimed 2008 as the International Year of the Potato. I'm surprised I haven't heard more about it in Sweden. The only celebration seems to be a photo exhibition in Alingsås. Lame, especially when you think of how deep roots the potato have in our country's customs. Or is this a consequence of the fact that most swedes live today because our ancestors survived on potatoes and herring marinade? A sort of collective cultural fatigue?

I don't know, but I do think the potato deserves an International Year, and I hope I'll be able to eat a lot more tubers in the future. There are many tasty varieties you have to grow yourself to get a taster - and this is possible to do indoors...

Monday, June 16, 2008

Over a cup of tea

Buy prints of the pic of today here. Look for older pics at Indoor Potager.

Isn't this a teacup with nice company? I grew tired of the turquoise table cloth and moved my photosessions temprarily. (Beware! I may become extremely creative and use a red table cloth instead...) It's mint tea in the cup, home picked and home dried. Soon I'll be able to say that it's homegrown too, but this batch is from runaway mint growing around the allotment.

It's been a day with setbacks, and eventhough I'm not a friend of those they certainly add to the flavour of a nice cuppa. Right now I'm pondering those things that's actually works for me when growing things indoors. When my thoughts are taking walkabouts like this the result is most often a mindmap, but for clarity's sake I'll use a list instead.

  • Evaluate the indoor climate; dry? humid? warm all the year around? follows the seasons to some extent (cold while cold outside etc.)?
  • Chosing plants according to the indoor climate
  • Selfwatering containers
  • Terracotta pots + water every day
  • Weekly shower with clean water to wash away pests
  • Eggshells as seed pots
  • Tomatoes
  • Leaf amaranth
  • Indian spinach (works best in tall windows)
  • Spices, especially basil and sage
  • Nasturtiums
  • Common purslane
  • Ice plant

Now I'll lean back and savour the knowledge that I was wise enough to not water the allotment before the downpours of today.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Hamburgers, Cookie Monster and Martha Stewart

We had hamburgers today - homemade hamburgers on homebaked bread with homegrown vegetables and dressing made from homegrown spices, of course we had homemade lemonade to drink to that. After this orgy in homemade good role modelship I need something slightly different. A cookie, for exemple.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Finally something else than pie!

Jamie Oliver makes Rhubarb and Crispy Pork.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Cut the indian spinach

Buy prints of the pic of today here. Look for older pics at Indoor Potager.

I woke up grouchy this morning; thunder, headache and a three year old with a temper... I'm lucky I can let my potted plants take the blows - in other words I started this day by cutting stray vines from the indian spinach. While I was at it I thinned it a bit too. That made enough for a lunch for me and half of the soup we had for dinner.

Since it looked cool I couldn't keep myself from giving you a bonus pic. Guess what's not grown indoors on this plate:

Buy prints of the pic of today here. Look for older pics at Indoor Potager.

The answer: The yoghurt, the salt, the garlic and sambal oelek. Indoor produce are; the tomatoes, the indian spinach leaves, the dill, the parsley, the sage, the chives and the basil.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Tactical rhubarb and mint

Buy prints of the pic of today here. Look for older pics at Indoor Potager.

Not only do I have a master in religious studies, I'm a trained project manager too. Being a project manager I have a big favourit in Sun Zi. Now, you may ask what a general have to do with project management, and escpecially what he has to do with gardening.

Well, Sun Zi wrote down some of his knowledge in a small book called "the Art of War" (I own the comic version...). Two pieces of advice are seemingly contradictory; he thought careful planning to be necessary, otherwise all would be lost to the enemy. On the other hand he says that war is unpredictable, things that seems safe changes in microseconds, and you have to be "as versatile as water". In other words you need a plan you can turn around at the drop of a hat. This may sound difficult, and there are a reason the name of Sun Zi (several of them, actually) are remembered two and a half millenium later.

Yesterday was one of those days when I had to 'turn' my plans so often I pirouetted through life. An injury in my arm made me turn down weeding on the allotment for the choice of a watering session and then some paperwork indoors. Some fresh mint I spotted hiding in the middle of some nettle rugs proved too tempting (of course I'd brought gloves in case I'd need to stand heads down into stinging plants) as well as some rhubarb leaves, so I changed paperwork to handling a small harvest. The fact I couldn't tip the rinsing bowl to change waters made me siphon the water into a carboy for use on the balcony garden. I forgot that the buses has change timetable and missed my ride, but I stayed at the station since it seemed unusually crowded. Apparently the busdriver had forgot the new timetable too, and picked us all up in 'wintertime'.

This could have been the day when nothing worked; a hurting arm, loads of weeding to do and a missed bus. Instead this was a day when I gained a lot; some more lovely mint tea, some groundcover for the container with the cherry tree (I planted some mint roots I mistakenly dug up there), about a litre of frozen rhubarb, the warm and fuzzy feeling of being environmentally friendly when I saved water, and a miraculous catch up at the bus station. Eventhough few of these things went according to the original plan, few of them are entirely coincidences. Buy keeping an eye on my alternatives to the original plan I was able to change actions fast. I did also keep an eye on possible bonuses that may be the outcome, and geared myself to be ready to grab them (but only for them - I didn't carry any unnecessary tools).

As I write this I realise that my life doesn't seem to be the daily struggle it is. But I have to admit it's become more fun ever since I really learned to think
"Obstacles, hm, how can I turn this situation to my advantage?"
and use Sun Zis advice in a creative way.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Some pesticides

I've found three recipes that seems to be good (I've only needed to use one of them). The source is "Handbok för köksträdgården" ("Kitchengarden Handbook") by Lena Israelsson, and since these are reliable housewife knowledge I've decided to pass them on.

Soap water
1/2 dl soft soap (1/2 cup)
1 l water (10 cups)

The soft soap in question is soap made from pine oil - still a very popular all purpose cleaning agent in Sweden. Disolve the soft soap in the water and spray the solution on the plant. Spray all of it, including the undersides of the leaves, untill the liquid drips from it.

Use against: aphids, thrips, powdery mildew, soft skin larvae and other insekts.

Baking soda spray

2 tbsp baking soda (ie sodium bicarbonate)
2 tbsp soft soap
2 l water

Disolve baking soda and soft soap in the water. Spray on plant as described above.

Use against: powdery mildew

Chili spray

1 fresh and very HOT chili fruit
2 tbsp soft soap
1 l water

Cut and crush the chili fruit finely. NOTE: do use protective gloves while you do this! Mix the chili mash and the soap into the water. Spray on plant as described above.

Use against: all sorts of insects.

Monday, June 09, 2008

No smoke in the water

Buy prints of the pic of today here. Look for older pics at Indoor Potager.

I don't use pesticides much. The last thing I want to do indoors is to puff around things that kills. And, I have do admit it, I'm a bit lazy and appreciates an excuse to avoid work.

Are you thinking of all "natural" pesticides that are available now? I do have a spraying can filled with soft soap sollution, ready to be used if the need arise. I have baking soda in my cupboards, and am willing to buy some chili. These are ordinary stuff, easy to mix and to use. They can be troublesome to rinse from the vegetables, and eventhough the body can handle this small amount of soft soap it doesn't taste that good. I write "soft soap" since every swedish recipe on homemade pest control seems to contain a dash of this miraculous substance.

I advice on a healthy scepsis towards things that's "natural". Natural is a selling lable that doesn't say much about how dangerous or how strong the substance is. You may remember my post with BBC's "Around the world in 80 gardens" where the host wanders around Havanna looking at gardens. In one he finds the person responsible for pest control (5:50 and forward) who says he uses, among other things, "smoke liquid" which the host translates as "natural pest control". And it's indeed natural. Since Cuba is big on cigarrs it's a big chance that smoke liquid is the same as nicotine water. Nicotine exists naturally in tobacco plants, even those ornamental varieties that are popular here in Sweden.

The last commersially produced pesticide with nicotine as active substance sold in Sweden, Nicotoxin (link in swedish), lost its aproval 1990 and was made entirely illegal New Years Eve 1992. This was for a good reason, nicotine is one of the strongest nerve toxins we know of, it affects the nerve cells of the entire body and stronger doses leads to paralysis and death. Nature is in many cases a mother with more in common with the violent aspects of Kali* than Mother Mary.

Believe it or not, but of all pesticides I've tried, clean water has proved to be the best. In addition it's non-toxic and may be easy to get and cheap too. You shower the plants with a high pressure spraying can once a week, flushing away any pests living on and on the underside of the leaves. If the water is soft were you live you can lift the plants into the bathroom and use the shower (and if you need to save the precious drops some creative use of the shower curtain and plastic tubs makes it possible to collect the excess). For my own part I soften the water and use my trusty "pflanzensprüher". Showering the underside of the leaves is crucial, and this may take a while. The advantage of indoor gardening though, is that the 'gardens' are so small that this isn't very timeconsuming anyhow. Keeping this routine religiously keeps most problem away - appart from mold that thrive in moist.

It is possible to use this method outdoors. When I finally put my New Dawn in the rose container, a few wads of fluff developed. My last rose, Polstjärnan, was lost to this disease, and I was in no mood for sacrificing another plant to it. I investigated one of the tufts closer, and found the shell of something spiderlike. Now, I don't have a clue of which pesticide to use for them, but I do know that few insects can do harm if they are removed from the plant. Armed with the pflanzensprüher (heeheehee) I attacked the wads and cleaned the rose completely, including the undersides of its leaves. (Remember that I only have one bush, and it's quite small.) I've done this for some days now, and intend to do it for a week or two.

If it works?

So far. No more wads, and as a bonus I have no green aphids feasting on the buds like they usually do. The cherry tree, too big to be sprayed at all, is infested with black aphids, so I know the little buggers are active. (Luckily some ladybugs has decided to make the tree their nursery. Sometimes nature is kind.)

*Kali is mostly known as the violant and destructive goddess she's portrayed as, but there is a school of hinduistic theology the worships her motherly love. This was one of my most fascinating encounters while I was in religious studies.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

In a garden far, far away...

Somehow I wish some swedish horticulture expert would do this...

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Travel with rooftop gardens

I found several of them on YouTube, so I couldn't resist giving you a journey around the world.

Kensington Roof Garden, London, United Kingdom (England)

Private rooftop garden, Korea

Private rooftop garden, Taipei, Taiwan

Shared garden on a multihome house, Sydney, Australia

Relax garden for bankemployees, Hongkong, China

Educational rooftop garden, East Oakland, California

Believe me, there are many more...

Friday, June 06, 2008

Strawberry Pancake Cake

  • Pancakes of the swedish thin type, as many as you like
  • Strawberry jam
  • Whipped cream, 4-5dl/1 (1/2-2 cups)
  • Fresh strawberries

Layer pancakes, whipped cream and jam together, use only whipped cream on the last pancake. Decorate with fresh strawberries. Ready to serve.

If you have any pansies (johny jump-ups) laying around you can use them as decoration - they are edible.

Strawberries are easy to grow indoors. I sugest chosing plants from a variety that sets fruits perpetually and filling a number of hanging baskets to get a seizable harvest. Polinating the flowers with a soft brush may also be a good idea - that's what I do.


I'm pretty fond of Cafe Press. The feeling of seeing one's pictures printed professionally on everything from teddybears to posters is hard to beat. That's why I started a small shop, Indoor Potager, to put up my pic of the day there. If you like the blog or the photo you can buy some prints. (I'm doing this for the fun of it, but this doesn't keep me from saying "Shop 'till you drop!" ;-) )

Prints of today's pic here.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

World Environmental Day 2008

These last two days I've started in between fifty and sixty plants. Perhaps you're wondering why I presow such large quantities - it isn't exactly cold in Sweden now. No, but it's dry, and by presowing indoors I'll save water. This way I'll only water the seeds and a small amount of soil instead of an entire plot at my allotment. Plus I get a large number of plants to choose from when I'm about to select my indoor crops ;P

The drought concerns me. I do have water enough for the allotment and my containers, but I think over the last years a trend of raising temperatures in general are both clear and fast. Sometimes I look at my son and wonder if there'll be any of Earth left for him when he's grown up. The fact that we avoided destruction from global acid rain (the Big Threat when I was a kid) doesn't calm me much. The technology and the knowledge on how to change our foul habits are there, but will we do it in time?

Concern for our environment was one of the reasons I started this experiment. At that time (2006) I thought that the world needed to expand agricultural areas to produce more food. Now, with the food price crisis, I can lean back and say that I was right (but there's no joy in this 'victory'). And if you are to expand food growing areas, why not opt for a place close to the home (no fuel demanding transports), where lots of people already are growing things, and where most plants can live - namely the window sill?

Concern for our environment is also one of the reasons I go on. If I can inspire some more to grow food in their flat, if only a tomato and some basil, this will lighten the pressure on our world a tiny bit - and I get some friends who share my passion :)

Today is World Environmental Day. I haven't seen much about it in media, and I think the day deserves the same amount of celebrations as Earth Day. My melancholic post is not entirely up to partystandards, so I add a link to a swedish blogger's beautiful pictures from Kensington Roof Gardens - the text is in swedish but combine it with the texts on KRGs website and you'll be fine. This blogger (Trädgårdsperiodaren) has been to London, visited this magnificent place AND Chelsea Flower Show 2008. I do NOT envy her!


Not at all!


I'm pretty fond of Cafe Press. The feeling of seeing one's pictures printed professionally on everything from teddybears to posters is hard to beat. That's why I started a small shop, Indoor Potager, to put up my pic of the day there. If you like the blog or the photo you can buy some prints. (I'm doing this for the fun of it, but this doesn't keep me from saying "Shop 'till you drop!" ;-) )

Prints of today's pic here.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

At last!

I don't dare calculating how late I am, but now I have a new seedstarting round on the table! This time I didn't try plan something, rather I shopped around in my seed cartons.
"Let's see nooooow, what do I have here? Fennel, should be a good replacement for those carrots. Buck's-horns plantain, why did I buy that? Well, I'd better sow it and see what it is. Hmmmmm, some leftover sunflower seeds - I may need some new plants for the allotment. Tomatoes! I mustn't forget the tomatoes! And those nasturtium seeds are pretty old so I might as well sow them too."

Fiftyeight eggshells and plastic bottles are now crammed into my two greenhouses (see! I finally got use for that expensive storebought thing!) and tomorrow I'll add containers with beans and nasturtium to them.

I realise I should read my email more often. Last night I found out that this blog has been featured in the latest newsletter of Patti Moreno (GardenGirlTV). Cool! I'm really honoured!


I'm pretty fond of Cafe Press. The feeling of seeing one's pictures printed professionally on everything from teddybears to posters is hard to beat. That's why I started to put up my pic of the day there. If you like the blog or the photo you can buy some prints. (I'm doing this for the fun of it, but this doesn't keep me from saying "Shop 'till you drop!" ;-) )

Prints of today's pic here.

From chemical to natural

Have you ever wondered how healthy you would be if your food consisted of dextrose, vitamin and mineral pills, a shot of cooking oil every now and then and a daily pure fibre cookie? I've pondered this for some days, since it struck me that this is almost the 'mealplan' of plants fed with chemical fertilizer. The solution I use promise to provide every mineral and nutrient a plant needs. Since my plants stays healthy as long as they get their weekly clean water shower there may be some truth in that.

I use chemical fertilizer for two reasons; it's easy to store for a long time in room temperature, and there are limits to how advanced I can be when I'm starting something. In the beginning of this experiment the idea of growing vegetables indoors was odd in itself, I wasn't in the mood of experimenting with "natural" fertilizer too. Now I'm changing into nutrients I can make out of plants and plant waste, and are cheap and easy to produce.

Since I'm growing stuff indoors there are limits to what I can use - I'm reluctant to use anything that smells for example. The dark fluid in the glass above is the water left when I parboiled nettles a few days ago. This is what I use now, mixed one part to ten with clean water (you may remember that I think this fluid contains nutrients because of its colour). It doesn't smell much, and I hope it'll make my iceplant taste better. Since I've only used it once I can't say if it works or not. It's a temporary solution (ahaha), and when I've emptied my fertilizer carboys of this I'll replace it with something made from an old established recipe.

So, are there any old established recipes to use? Well, I know about two which involves fermenting, and one of them is known to have a smelly result (ie. nettle water). The other is easy to describe; you make a hole in the bottom of a bucket, fill it with comfrey leaves and place it over a tin. When the leaves rot a dark brown fluid drips into the tin, and this fuid is then diluted with water (one part to fifteen parts clean water, we are talking strong stuff here) to a liquid fertilizer. Neither do this sound as something sweetly fragrant. But since I live according to the motto "better living through reckless experimentation" I'll try it to see if the smell is something that stays or if it fades after a while.

I've also ordered some tiger worms to start up vermicomposting, and from this I count on having both dry and liquid fertilizer. If you keep your compost in plastic bins, which I intend to do, the worms and the waste will produce fluid that is good for making liquid fertilizer (and we could now say it together "dilute it with clean water"). The good thing about vermicompost is it doesn't smell much, the finished product is said to smell like soil (surprise). I don't know if this goes for the 'composttea' too, but this is my favorite candidate for a future standard solution.

Besides I think plants too deserve a cucumber decoration on their drinks every now and then.


I'm pretty fond of Cafe Press. The feeling of seeing one's pictures printed professionally on everything from teddybears to posters is hard to beat. That's why I started to put up my pic of the day there. If you like the blog or the photo you can buy some prints. (I'm doing this for the fun of it, but this doesn't keep me from saying "Shop 'till you drop!" ;-) )

Prints of today's pic here.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Short statusreport June

I can now harvest tomatoes enough for a sallad from the plants I sowed the twentyfourth of february, and the indian spinach are out of control. That's why I went online and ordered more seeds for my gardens...

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Aquaculture again

This is one of the smarter systems I've seen (building instructions are available as a free download at Faith and Sustainable Technology). Hmmm, it may even fit in my study...