Sunday, May 31, 2009

An interview saves the worms

This friday journalist Åsa Kjellman Erici interviewed me for Sveriges Radio (Sweden's Radio ltd. - Sweden's national publicly funded radio broadcaster) and a program about city gardening in all it's various forms.

Among other things we smelled the vermicompost. It stunk. Åsa Kjellman Erici was a nice journalist who put up with everything I put her through, and I've learned one thing - if you want to record background sounds to put local colour to the interview, then indoor gardening is an extremely silent hobby.

The stinking vermicompost has bothered me this weekend. Vermicomposts are supposed to be odourless, and mine had very few worms in it. Then it struck me; that was the compost that had fewer airholes in it. Now when I have started to put bokashi in the vermicompost I raised the level of organisms needing oxygen in it dramatically, so the compost doesn't get enough air. Thus I spent some time on IKEA today to buy boxes which will be turned into new and airier homes for my wormsies.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Guerilla Gardening

Guerilla gardening is not big in Sweden - yet. I hope it'll grow, since we do have abandoned public spaces that needs tending to, and it'd drag people away from the computers for a while ;). I found this vid about it on YouTube, and you can read more about it here, so when you need some change from the indoor vegetables you can go outdoors and paint the city with flowers ;).

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

A lot of life right now - and aubergines!

Well, talk about pressure. We've got a bank giving us a formal promise of lending which means we can bid on the flat I talked about. Now it's time to keep all available fingers crossed / pray that this will work out, and that we'll get as much money as we wan't from this flat. Thanks for your support, this is more exciting than watching scary movies on a roller coaster.

Today I found the beginning of an aubergine (ie. an eggplant) on my aubergine plants. These plants are quite old (about six months) and have been heavily assaulted buy the thrips, so I had given up hope. But there's still time for wonders, so if I take care of my plants I'll soon be able to make baba ganoush!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

While I'm waiting

We've just returned from an open house - we're about to move. Perhaps it'll be this flat, perhaps something else, all depends on what the bank says and what kind of competitors we have. No matter what happens we know one thing; we'll move to something smaller, about one third of the space we are now occupying.

So, what will happen to my indoor gardening?

It'll be more of a challenge. Right now I can use an actual lay-out, so I'm furningshing the prospective flat with tomato gardens, leaf gardens and everything else needed for this. I'm glad I've been into indoor gardening a few years and know what to opt for.

The good thing about moving to something smaller is that the experiment gets closer to reality. To be honest we don't live in a normal flat today, it's too big and in two stories. Next one will fit us better, so I'm causiosly hopeful. After all, this is a good chance to get rid of all the junk I've collected through the years.

But. We haven't bought this flat yet. Please pray that all will work out - this one would fit us extremely well.

Friday, May 22, 2009

This and that

We've made our monthly groceryshopping and cleaned the entire first floor. I shouldn't be surprised that I don't have strength enough to water the gardens. After all I've got a flu and have less strength than I usually have. But it irks me, it really do, since I can see that all plants are thirsty. Tomorrow I'll take another day to just clean up and make everything easy and fun to care for.

As for my harvests I can now take 100g (3.53 ounces) tomatoes every other or third day. I've only harvest cuttings once, and that was 40g (1.41 ounces) which may sound little, but it filled a litre (1/3 gallon) so I got enough for a (small) family sized sallad anyway.

Last but not least; we may not have won the Eurovision Song Contest, but a swede won best in show at Chelsea Flower Show. Ulf Nordfjell designed the Daily Telegraph Garden at the show, and you can see it on the first picture here. Thing is, how should I celebrate this? Hmmm... a cup of herbal tea and a sandwhich, I think. Tallyho!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Lemon balm and thyroid hormones

A new flu. Lemon balm is said to be good against viruses - and I've tried lemon balm tea during previous flus and think I've noticed a difference (though I wasn't scientific enough to be able to tell if it was because of the herb of because of placebo). I'd like to quaff said tea right now, but I can't;

1. I don't have enough lemon balm.

2. I'm on levaxin.

For those of you who don't recognise the name levaxin it's basicalle thyroid hormones. I eat it since my own thyroid gland doesn't work properly. Lemon balm prevents the body from absorbing the medicine, which means I need to limit my use of the herb to stay generally healthy.

Think of this as a simple exemple on the fact that herbs too are "chemical" and may react with conventional medicines (with unwanted results). Keep that in mind if you are growing herbs for health reasons indoors and buy a good herbal encyclopedia.

(I'm a friend of books, but while you're looking for the perfect paper version you can take a look at Plants for a Future's website. Here's their page on lemon balm.)

Monday, May 18, 2009

Back to selfwatering containers again?

I've been watering my jungle. After my cleanup last week and with some water thriftyness I ended up using only ten litres (~3 USgallons) - plus. Still I'm not content with my 'gardens' - now when I have a day job I'm not always have the energy to dote on plants in the evening. Or the time, there's a continuing fight for minutes between my different projects.

So I may be returning to selfwatering containers on a large scale, eventhough I hesitate. There's a shortage of air around the roots in the containers I've used, and the soil smell bad when I clean them. On the other hand they save space and weight - and time. I toy with the thought of making some of my bigger terracotta pots into selfwatering containers. Should work for bigger plants like aubergine, nasturtium and herbs. Perhaps I'll use them for cuttings too. I prefer terracotta in my windows.

I'm not sure about which alternative I'll choose, since, after all, I need to find time to do this major reorganisation...

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Seventeenth of May ie. Syttende Mai

Today it's Syttende Mai, which is Norway's national day and the day after their team won a record victory in the Eurovision Song Contest. To say "Congratulations!" is like using a pea when a melon is needed. I take the chance to post two of my favourite norwegian vids here. The one above is the chef Andreas Viestad from New Scandinavian Cooking making smoked trout with nettle soup. He boils them in pure cream, deary me!

Below is the winning song of the 2009 Eurovision Song Contest. It'll take a while before I grow tired of watching it. The song is good, but take a look at the dancers! I want to be able to make musical push up sommersaults and jump onto hand stance and flail with my legs like that! Hmmmm, if I start now and train hard I may be able to do it when I turn fifty. Do you think Frikar will take a trainee?...

I think the common denominator of the vids is 'More of Everything'. That is a recipe for success if ever I saw one!


Friday, May 15, 2009

Thrips and fungusgnats are really trying it...

My oilseed pumpkin has been eaten. Soon, I say, soooooooooon, I'll have money to buy some biological antidotes*. The they'll get it!

*Or should that be "dotes"...?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Maize cuttings

I promised a blogpost on how to grow maize cuttings. It'll be a short one, since it isn't that complicated.

The first try with maize was to sprout them in the classical way (put them in a jar, rince them with water a few times a day and wait until the sprouts have become large enough to be tasty). Worked well, and the taste was moderately bitter with a curiously sweet aftertaste. The problem was the the most of the seeds were left, and they were hard as stones. Perhaps I could have boiled the sprouts in some sort of warm dish, but I chose to try out the next batch as cuttings instead.

Since cuttings are supposed to be watered from below I built four selfwatering containers out of IKEA plastic boxes (SAMLA). In this way I could use the space on the windowsill better, but any selfwatering container or system to water plants from the rootlevel will do. Then I put the maize seeds in water for in between six to twenty four hours (I don't remember the exact time) to speed up the growing process. This worked well, I could see tiny sprouts through the shells of the seeds when I sowed them in the containers. An advice in a swedish gardening magazine (Allt om Trädgård #6) made me cover them with sand instead of soil.

Twenty liters (~8 USgallons) of sand is heavy, btw. My fight to lift the leftover sandbag, leftover since I made balcony sandboxes for my son, should be written about in epic songs. Of course I didn't use all of it this time.

The seedlings were above soil withing fourtyeight hours. This may be because of me soaking them beforehand, but it may also be because I bought them as "popcorn" in the local mall. Commersial growers tend to favourise fast growing crops. Whatever the reason I could cut myself a healthy sallad within seven days. The bitterness as well as the sweet aftertaste was milder, all in all the cuttings were very much edible.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Tomatoes and thrips

It'll be a short blogpost today since it's getting late. I've got two unexpected free days from my job and am planning to take one of them to tidy up my indoor gardens. My first plan was to pick nettles. With a loaded mp3player, clothes from head to toe (including gloves), a pair of scissors and a plastic bag I pick 10 - 15 liters (3-5 US gallons) in an hour. Cleaning and parboiling the harvest for the freezer takes the rest of the day. Remembering the summer by eating nettle soup in the winter is golden!


When I did my usual watering round today I could see that my gardens had been more neglected than they should have been. A lot of stuff had wiltered and should be taken away - other plants need repotting badly, or else they'll strangle themselves with their own roots. In addition the thrips have ruled the grounds to the extent that I almost feel like giving up. Big plants have shadows of leaves that waves sadly from wiltered stems. *Sigh*

Thus something has to be done. As far as the times allow I'll be throwing out the old and replanting the new. And there is light in the dark. Today I harvested 90g tomatoes (3.17 ounces). Judging by the state of the plants this is just a small taster of bigger future harvests, so I keep my fingers crossed. And the son happily ate the tomatoes he was given for dinner and the few left over after the meal. Is it possible that I've found a third vegetable that he likes?...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A worm composting horror story

My worms are live and kicking (metaphorically speaking at least - I would be very surprised if I found that they'd grown legs), and they stays in the bin even though they are kept in the dark. This lady wasn't as lucky with her first batch, and she still kept on vermicomposting. Perhaps you need that kind of chock in the beginning of a hobby to make it last, my first indoor vegetable gardening experiments were... well... perhaps I should take that in another blogpost ;) .

Friday, May 08, 2009

The Indoor Gardener is back

I'm feeling better and my life is a bit slower so I think I'm on the right track again. To start up a new period I'll give a walkthrough of the gardens.

The Indoor Gardener herself. This is what I look like when my son takes the picture. (Not bad for a four year old, I'd say.)

The herbgarden in the kitchenwindow needs some renovations, hence the plants in the forground. The only herb thriving in the current line-up is the lemonthyme - barely visible behind the chives.

From the right hand side: rosegeranium, lemonbalm and... popcorn? Yupp, this is my sprouted corn (from an ordinary bag of popcorn corn) - turned out to be rather tasty. Tastes like lawngrass, not a big surprise there, but I actually like it. The quinoa at the left is not feeling well. My son watered it before I'd a chance to show him the little watering pipe in the container. Someone's put a curse on my quinoa experiments, they always end in disastrous ways.

The Indoor Hubby complains that we have a shrubbery* in our library, but I'm actually rather proud. As usual I've haven't been able to properly care for my gardens during my illness, and yet they looks like this. The dark cloud is the thrips that have killed some of my plants. On the other hand I'll soon have a record harvest of tomatoes - there are almost more fruits than leaves on the plants in the window.

Chard. It doesn't get much bigger than this when you grow it indoors. These plants needs thinning, though, I was a bit eager when I sowed them. A pitty I didn't have strength to do it earlier, the stalks are probably too fibrous now to be boiled like asparagus (one of my favourite dishes).

Sorrel in a terracotta pot. It belongs to the son, which means I haven't got the heart to pick from it. Looks very much like a classic indoor plant - could be some kind of araceae.

My sallat garden. The sprouting trays contains ruccola and peaplant babies, nasturtium 'Alaska' grows in the terracotta pots. Sprouting / baby leaf trays is a clever idea - one shelving unit with these and our entire need for leaf vegetables would be cared for. If I only can convince the rest that popcorn baby leaves are edible I'd be able to call this experiment a win.