Indoor Gardening

For the first time, I'm able to start seedlings indoors before transferring them to the ground for spring. I've been an avid amateur gardener for a couple years now, but last year I was making the move to St. Louis at the end of May. So when we started our garden, Rebecca and I had to largely purchase established seedlings because it was already June. And hot.

But this time around, we're planning on having even more ground space and we're hoping for a milder summer. To take advantage of this, we're starting the seeds off indoors.

What we needed most of all was lights. If you search Amazon for grow light fixtures, you'll find mostly fluorescent fixtures with light bulbs for 50 bucks or more. And even though fluorescent light bulbs are reasonably efficient, we're talking about having these things on 12 hours a day for months. Right away it was clear we wanted LED lights so we didn't run up the meter. We picked up this, a two pack of 2 Watt LEDs with a combination of red and blue diodes for good growth. Less than $30, they'll last forever and I calculated their addition to our electric bill at about 19 cents. Fortunately I found a couple cheap clamp-on light fixtures at Home Depot. The lights give out an eerie pinkish glow that frankly looks unhealthy. But it's supposed to be good for the plants. 
The only place safe from our cats is the laundry room. Fortunately it's also warm because of the furnace, so we set up the lights there. We hobbled together a collection of egg and milk cartons, produce containers and other assorted fiberboard to start the seeds in. We have some small pots laying around we can transfer the bigger seedlings to before taking them outside if needed. 

Although we had a couple seed packets leftover from last season, we had to go on a major seed hunt. Fortunately the Central West End has a fantastic nursery called Bowood Farms whose cafe is good for an exceedingly nice brunch. In fact, we spent our time on the restaurant wait list looking over our seed options.

We may have gone a little overboard. We've got two tomatoes (variety of cherry strains and a regular pole tomato); two varieties of carrots; red onions; beets; broccoli; cauliflower; sweet and hot peppers; Swiss chard, spinach and kale; green beans and snap peas; and too many herbs to count. Oops. Notably absent is a summer squash. We're going to be joining the Lee Farms CSA this summer and think we'll have plenty of zucchini, thank you very much. 

We got home and immediately got started. We've got three egg cartons and a leftover plastic planter going for now. We were already 'behind' schedule on some of the cold-weather crops like broccoli and cauliflower so those went in. We've got a whole 'flat' of onions going and then we used the taller plastic planter for beets. These will go in the ground next month. If we need more space we can probably swing the lights down and grow a bigger group on top of the dryer.

It was a wet and chilly day, but already the days are getting longer and I'm excited to harvest my first-ever spring crop in a couple months. Soon we'll get the warmer crops like tomatoes and peppers going and really take off!

I'll keep posting updates on this project. Already little hypocotyls (the embryonic stem that supports the embryonic leaves, cotyledons) are poking out and they should be turning green soon.