Friday, February 27, 2009

A look in the green book 090227

Let's see, what have I done lately. Flicker through leaves... ahA!

I've been reconstructing my gardens. When I write this I realise that it's a lot of work, but while I was working I was just annoyed that it went so 'slow'. It took my about a week of solid work, so I'm not sure about that any more.

The twentieth of February I write

Took me two days to sterilize all my soil, Now most of it is gone.

Does this sound futile? It was fun! I mixed the soil with one litre (one third of a gallon) bokashi water and some worm fluid to get microlife and nutrition to the soil. Unfortunately I was out of choir blocks, they would have been just the stuff to improve structure, but since the soil felt fine I hope this batch will turn out alright anyhow.

I have to admit: a couple of day later I bought eight litres of seedling soil and eight litres of container soil (about two and a half gallon) just to be on the safe side.

The twentyfirst of February we find the note

Was sterilizing clay pebbles in the oven but had to stop since the pebbles were exploding.

Oh yes! The pebbles were wet since they hade come straight from the seedling nurseries and in a heat of 200¤C (400¤F) water changes into steam so fast it can't just evaporate slowly through the pores it entered through. The pebbles turned into pressure chambers, and they couldn't take it. From the sound you would've guessed that I was making terracotta popcorn, and this has been the first time I've pondered protective goggles before taking stuff out of the oven.

This is how it looked like when everything had colled and I could open the door.

This week I've also done something I never thought I would do; I've put planted seeds in the fridge for stratification (=putting seeds in a cold place for some weeks to fool them that they've been through winter and can start to grow once out in the warmth again). Keeping soil and fertilizer where you put food is not my favourite idea. On the other hand I really do like to grow ramson and lavender, and they both need some cold weeks before they can sprout. I have to bow to the facts, and view this as an excersise before I sow blackberries...

And last; a small vid for the weekend. I think everyone who have or has had a cat can relate to this:

Simon's Cat 'Cat Man Do'

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Order in a book

I've introduced order in my gardens. Order in the form of a book with cloth binders. The classic thing is supposed to be black oil cloth but I couldn't resist colour coding mine to my study (no matter how hard I try I can't get rid of my inner romantic). In this book I keep track on important things like when I sow my seeds, in what and where. It's not for a scientific study of indoor cultivation, rather a method to remember what's happening.

Untill now I've kept my records on the backside of used envelopes and put the notes on 'good places'. Now I have gardening facts strewn around the house and I have no idea of which ones that really are important and which ones I can toss. You may remember that some of them doesn't even have a proper date on them. It's a relief to finally have everything in one place.

Thus my tip for this time is to buy a book for the gardening records. Make sure it's a good quality notebook and that the binders are tough. When it comes to books quality are relatively cheap so don't be overly thrifty. Your notebook will lay around soil, pots and spades, and may even be treated with a shower from time to time. And you'll want to keep it and read it long after you've written the last line. If you buy a cheap notebook you'll soon have a worse loose leaf system than my recycled envelopes (unfortunately this happened to my first kitchen notebook - a cheap but pretty thing I bought and recorded the recipes I invented when I first lived on my own).


You may have noted that I've updated irregularly for the last weeks. I've had a fortyeight hour life to a twentyfour hour day. The good news is that it seems like everything is clearing up (do keep your fingers crossed, please). To declutter my life I've decided to keep down the updates on Indoor Gardener for a three week period. Untill 18th March I'll be updating Mondays, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.


And a small digression; Since I can't keep from surfing different webaps calculating your ecological footprint I've promised not to fly (it's easy right now; I have no money). Boat and train are my only means of travel. Yupp. But even when I did fly I stayed away from RyanAir because of their dubious personnel policies. After reading this article I've gotten yet another reason to avoid the company.

Ryanair: "Lunatic bloggers can keep the blogosphere"

Monday, February 23, 2009

The Swedish Grande Book Sale Opens tonight

The Swedish Grande Book Sale is an annual event that, admittingly, have lost some of is gala, but still holds its place in the hearts of many swedish bookworms. Because of it I've given my swedish readers tips on usefull gardening books that'll be sold tomorrow - one is the first and only handbook in vegetable gardening written for decades in Sweden.

Gardening books fit for every country in the world is hard to find, I admit it, so my only international tip for today is "Worms Eat My Garbage" by Mary Appelhof. This is a must in any indoor vegetable gardeners bookshelf. (No, it's not sold on the Grande Sale, and Yes, I own one copy - a well read one.)

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Roof garden in India

As you all know by now I'm fascinated with roof gardens. I've showed you the allotment on Harrod's roof as well as private gardens in China. But this is by far the coolest vid I've found, not only because it seems to be normal people who owns it (most roof gardens I've found have been owned buy big companies and have been big and expensive greeneries) but also because the have not only one but two rice paddies on top of the house. Watch out for the cool footwork!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Finally some space for the roots

Took me two and a half day to get it done, and it was worth it. All my soil is sterilized, I've mixed some new potting soil and the bonsai tomatoes has got new homes. Four cuttings from the old tomato plants keep them company - I hope that at least one of the methods will be successfull.

I got the tip about taking cuttings from tomatoes from the Swedish seed preservation society "Föreningen Sesam" (link in swedish only, sorry). Since I'm convinced that tomatoes are among those species that can handle most mistakes and are friendly to newbees I decided to give it a try. I haven't used cutting as a method often so I followed a rough basic plan. First I cut a good looking twig (healthy green leaves, perhaps flowers but not fruits) taking more rows of leaves than I needed above surface. The I cut away the lowest leaves from the stem - if I'm correct new roots will sprouts from the leafe joints - and put the 'deleafed' part into the soil. To finish I packed the soil gently around the stem and then put a plastic bag with a cut off corner over the plant. Now I'll leave everything alone to allow the plants to settle.

The bags you see on the picture are protective packing I saved from those glossy magazines I've subscribed to (and some free ones that are sent to me weather I like it or not). They are pretty sturdy and I don't have the heart to throw good stuff away. Since I don't put food in them (who knows what they put in printing colours these days) I've despared over my rapidly filling drawers. Finally I've found a use for the bags!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Death to the chard, long live the seedlings!

I thought I would sow today, but I haven't got any sowing soil. The best I can manage is that magnificent homemade potting soil I made. I think I overdid myself a bit... When the son returns home I'll bring out my worn pans and start sterilizing used soil from my cupboards. Will be interesting, especially when the hubby returns home and ask what's for dinner.

The true answer to that question is probably "something with chard" since I intend to empty that box today. It's interesting, the leaves have been left alone for quite a while and their stems have turned coarse. Normally you can cook and eat them lika asparagus, but when we tried it last time it wasn't a hit. Today I'll probably make a gravystew (it's a swedish thing I think - you make a bechamel and add stuff to it, like finely minced chard - I can't find any proper english word for it, but I may post a recipe later on) on the leaves instead, and add boiled potatoes and smoked pork loin to it, mmmmmmmmm. (And a thought strikes me, if you're a vegan, how do you replace the pork loin? is it possible to grow at home? indoors? I'll never be able to grow normal potted plants.)

Tomorrow it's time for sowing. I have an abundance of egg shells, a large stack of seed envelopes, for some reason with a majority of strawberry parcels, some funny looking containers and a lot of wild ideas.

Monday, February 16, 2009

I'm back!

Well, after writing about my joy of not having pneumonia any more I took an unintentional blog vacation. I turned thirtyseven last friday (you may not ask a woman about her age, but I maintain that a lady isn't ashamed of how old she is) and spent that day on cafés reading glossy magazines. True, some of them weren't that glossy; british "the Ecologist" managed to get into the bunch simply because I fell for the name. The content wasn't bad either.

Saturday my friends came over for a chatty birthday "fika" bringing lots of chocolate. During Sunday I bought pots, actual terracotta pots. What is an indoor gardener to do with her birthday money if not buying stuff to get more microgardens?

Do I have any magazine tips for you? Well, perhaps not any magazine for indoor gardeners, but I do like the brittish version of "House Beautiful". This is one of those glossy interior design magasines and they have a standing section with tips on how to live sustainably. This is one of the few 'normal' glossy magazines I've found which take a stand for the environment without making a fuzz about it. After all, they have an eco-chic designer...

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The outcome of a pneumonia

If I could say "I will never again catch pneumonia" and know it to be true I would be glad. What you see above is my bonsai tomatoes - I don't remember when I sowed them but I know that they've been sitting in the nursery for about two months. Or is it three. I did a thorough documentation when I started this batch, and when I looked at the papers I had forgotten to put the date on them. The entire autumn is lost in a fog of tiredness.

Today I've finally started to clear up the things that should have been made in December. Some explants have been sent to the green heavens and I've mixed some more soil for the seedlings which have survived and are in need of containers. The salvia in my herb window had wiltered and was close to follow its siblings into the waste bin. I had already pulled it out of the soil when I realised that the core was alive and healthy. Without missing a second I shoved it back into the container again, cut away dead leaves and twigs and soaked it in a bath for a while. It'll be interesting to see if it survives.

My biggest problem is the thrips. To decimate the population and keep it on a modest level requires hard work. Right now I doubt I'll ever get rid of them completely, the other day I realised I've always had them around my plants. Perhaps I'm doomed to an eternity of thripsinfestation. But keeping the air around the plants moist reduces the damages considerably, so I'm hopefull. Some day I'll even gather the determination to wash every window and plant, and then we'll see if the critters survives (mwahahaha).

I think I've written that bokashi fluid can be used for pest control when you dilute it 1 to 1000. That's what I'm going to try now. This will also feed the plants (they are able to absorb nutrients through their leaves, eventhough they prefer 'eating' through the roots), so I've waited a bit to see how my current fertilising habits are affecting them. I need to change, since my plants are overfed and ill. The plan is to interchange worm water with bokashi water (diluted 1 to 500 since it's for daily use) plus one thrips treatment a week. I want gardens so healthy and lush they look artificial.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Short post

I've cleared the Table! One goal reached! Now I need to work on my company's income tax return that is due tomorrow. Then my plants will recieve some well earned extra treatment. Next stop full day plantspa and health hotel!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Rounding off the series on fertilizers

My small series on natural fertilizers have given me some aha-experiences and have generated good comments. I'd like to add them into a post so I've decided to put them in the 'grand finale'. (If you don't recognise them they turned up on the motherblog Parkettodlaren.)

Liquid gold
As soon as I'd written the post on this subject and sent it off through cyberspace I found a recipe for indoor gold water in Hemträdgården, the member's magazine for one of the biggest garden societies in Sweden. The recipe are as follows

1 part urin
20 parts water

Easy as that - indoor liquid gold is more diluted.

Night soil
My readers agreed with me on the fact that manure always contains infections. Ms.noob (link in swedish) writes
"a small parenthesis, if anyone would try to pick manure right out of the pile, just do it if you are completely sure on the horses' owner and are one hundred percent sure on what they eat. If you're not careful the manure will contain remnants of medicine, hormones produced from gestation, nutritional supports for horses like magnesium and iron, different kinds of parasites transmittable to humans, redworm for exemple, rust from water bowls etc (a lot more common than people think). So please, don't just go to any stable taking for granted that all horse manure is good horse manure, be careful."

Annika T, an old analogue friend of my btw, adds
"As a pharmacist I can only agree in caution with horse manure in regard to the fact that medicines don't break down completely, common worm medicines won't break down at all!! This applies to some of the parasite medecines used on bovines, they stay vigorous for years!!"

Hm, you don't want worm medicine in the soil when you garden outside - the common worm is your best friend (especially on clay soil) and is affected by the medication too. Before you pick up manure, do ask some polite questions to your provider before you accept the pile. Organic farmers in Sweden are not allowed to use worm or parasite medication, and if that holds true outside our borders you may be more lucky if you turn to one of yours. Keep in mind that they use as much self produced fertilizer and manure as possible, so don't be sad if they can't offer you anything.

Why using worm and parasite medication at all. Well, becuase parasites and worms causes some really nasty diseases. This area is one of the few where swedish organic farmers are worse of than conventional ones, eventhough they have many well tested methods to avoid infections.

Bokashi Jenny(link in swedish) (the retailer who sold me my bokashi buckets) have been kind enough to send me some facts on making bokashi litter and the microbes that makes the bokashi go around

"I read that you are pondering making your own bokashi litter. It's pretty easy actually and what you need is EM-1 (Effective Microorganisms) manufactured in Holland after Higa's japanese recipe. You can't make the concentrate entirely on your own, you can try but on the other hand it's [the concentrate] not expensive. We haven't put EM-1 on our homepage yet, not because we oppose people doing their own litter, but because most persons I've talked don't feel like it, and we don't want to mess things up for our customers.
If you want to try it I can send you a bottle of EM-1 concentrate and a bottle of molasses, they're on 250ml (~one cup - a big one) each and costs about 100 sek (ie 12 USD) together. Buy pollard locally, preferable organic pollard. It's probably no use buying bigger bottles in the beginning; this is enough for making a year's worth of bokashi litter and the concentrate lasts twelwe months.
Did you have a allotment garden too? Something that works really well is to use EM to improve soil quality. One small bottle of EM-1 lasts really long since you ferment it to produce 20 times as much activated EM (by then it's called EM-A); this is something like bokashi fluid you drain out of your bucket but without food residue. You can make litres (gallons) of it at home (it stays fresh for a month) and it's a wonderful way to add to the microbiological life in the soil. Dilute it in the same way you dilute bokashi fluid. It's fun to compare between two plots, you notice the difference."

In a later email she sent me a link to a good webpage on how you ferment EM-1 into EM-A.
How to make EM-A

Unfortunately I wont be gardening outdoors this year, but as soon as I get the chance I'll try this out - and by then I'll probably made my first homemade bokashi litter. I'm an DIYer to a tee. Google on bokashi or EM-1 if you want to find your lokal provider of boakshis.

As you may know I've already tried the fluid from my own bokashi bucket, much to the joy of my old tomato plants. Kai Vogt Westling on Greenfoot HB(link in swedish) writes

"Just a tip, the fluid is perishable as you write, but it is possible to keep it and store in a bottle in the fridge. You can freeze it too and water it out for the spring farming operations. Dilute it one part bokashi to at least a hundred parts water."

Good to hear. I can't help feeling torn when I pour away surplus fluid. Now I can dilute it alternate worm fluid for bokashi fluid. I'll have the fattest plants in the country...

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Star Trek Meets Monthy Python

You know, I have a nerd related injury - I look for gardens in SF tv series. It's true! I have opinions about the hydroculture 'gardens' Seven of Nine tends to, I keep asking myself why the crew on Serenity doesn't even try sprouting, and I'm almost content with the gardens aboard Babylon5. You can't find plants in Star Trek TOS, unlees a jungle is needed for the crew to tippy toe through, but this vid where Star Trek meets Monthy Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail is so well made I can't resist posting it anyway.

(I know I'm stretching it, but it's Sunday and I'm allowed to be silly :) )

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Wiggly Wigglers, How to Bokashi 1 & 2

The soundquality is somewhat bad, but I like that Heather is brutaly honest when she opens her bokashi bucket, so I can't resist showing you these vids. These are my favourite podradio personalities (download the Wiggly podcast here or from iTunes) showing us how to bokashi.

How to Bokashi, Part 1

How to Bokashi, Part 2

Thursday, February 05, 2009

A minor heartbreak

Today I definately decided to give up my allotments. This because we've decided to move from the area we live in now. Tough decision, I do love those plots. But I take comfort in the fact that I'll have time and strength to concentrate on the aquaponic systems I'm planning.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Plans, plans, plans

You may remember that my single new years resolution was to stick to the plan? It's time to take a look at it and see what's left. If I'm correct it's this

  • Repot seedlings
  • Paint sills
  • Put up sills and added light
  • Put the potted plants in their new places

Seems to be an easy bunch of tasks. I have to clean away a lot of junk before I can paint the sills, but I should manage to do most of the chores on the list pretty soon. The seedlings fare worse, though. They've been standing in their greenhouses so long that algae have started to grow on the eggshells. Some indoor gardener I am...

The tricky part is not the chores but to how to get time for them. I'm working with my company and do full time studies in the same time. To wrestle some free minutes out of this schedule demand advanced time planning. Looks like I need to set up a secundary plan to wring myself out of this deadlock.

  • Clean the Table
  • Take down the tomatoes and the chard.
  • Sow new seeds

Piece of cake, when I've done this I'll have some more freedom - this gives me space to work immediately when I have a free second.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Bokashi fluid

Bokashi fluid is the last one of the easy natural fertilizers I've found. There are more plants and stuff to use, but they are somewhat harder to handle or are more specialised, so I've decided to leave them out for now.

Bokashi is, as you probably know, a way to pickle kitchen left overs. The friendly microbes drissled over the scraps splits the food into its basic compounds and makes it easy to break down in the soil or in a compost. During that process fluid is released (it's contained in the food from the beginning) and must be drained off. My own bokashi buckets have a tap in the bottom for that purpose, which makes things easier.

The fluid is a good fertilizer. Dilute it one part to hundred and you have a humdinger for your potted plants. My tomato plants - which are nearing their one year aniversary so I'm planning to take them down - suddenly grew lust for life and set fruit again when I used it. But it's uneconomical to use outdoors - you get less than a deciliter (less than 1/3 cup) per week and you have to use the fluid within twentyfour hours.

Bokashifluid is a fertilizer I recommend for indoor gardeners for several reasons; it's good for 'hungry' plants, is easy to get if you have invested in bokashi buckets, and it smells very little. In addition to that the pickling feature of the bokashi means you can give meat and protein scraps a better purpose than to be sent to the landfill. If you are growing plants indoor you should definately buy a bokashi.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

The Good Life "Just my bill"

Last Sunday I gave you a tidbit, this Sunday I post an entire episode of "the Good Life". If you can afford it you can the buy the series, either in a box or season for season, from Amazon (and no, I don't get any money for this link).

Selling the surplus vegetables isn't as easy as Tom Good had imagined, but there are still bills to pay. (the Goods should have lived in Uppsala where anyone is allowed to sell their garden and vegetable surplus beside Dombron (the Cathedral Bridge) free of charge. Unless, of course, you have grown it in your allotment, because selling allotment vegetables is illegal in Sweden. There's always something...)


Part one

Part two

Part three