Sunshine is one of the immediate benefits of moving to Jaroso, Colorado this past fall. From my handicapped apartment I dreamed of getting my hands back in the soil and experimenting with growing produce on the window sill or thereabouts. I figured baby greens, micro greens, herbs, and maybe kale and chard would work with winter sun. I had watched and downloaded various YouTubes on standing-water hydroponics (the Kratky method) and thought that this too would be within the first months of experimentation with growing edibles in my new home.
Well, let me report: “so far, so good!” Microgreens are easy. I, more or less, follow Mike VanDuzee’s method but use recycled containers rather than ones from the Dollar Store. I’ve also started bok choy and head lettuces that way. Then, talking to each baby plant, one by one they are put in either a Kratky container with hydroponic solution (bok choy loves it!) or in a light soil mix.
So far, kale and chard have not liked the standing-water method. All are now in soil and doing much better.
But, the big surprise has been how this particular sunlight is with the variety of plants. I live at 7600 ft. elevation in the San Luis Valley of south-central Colorado. The winter sun has been intense for only a few hours, waxes to that intensity and then wanes precipitously. The temperature at the window ranges from below freezing (no joke) to about 75 and wilty by 1 o’clock to 40 on the window sill by 4:30. Then it plummets again to below freezing through the night. This person’s needs are taken care of by a blanket that has been rigged to easily be put up at sunset each day and is not taken down until about 10 am the next. By then, the sheet of ice that has covered the only single-pane window left in the house is melted and caught in the two folded towels strategically placed each late afternoon. But the plants did not like these fluctuations. Of course, the delicate greens don’t like harsh sun even in New England, but almost nothing has basked luxuriously. Rather, some tolerated it, others moped. Very soon, the three-shelf unit that had been brought from New England was put together and most plants were kept out of the intensity of the sun.
Then, I wanted to experiment with heirloom tomato seeds that I harvested last fall. I just wanted to see a) would they grow and b) could I possibly get indoor tomatoes just as outdoor planting season would begin. Well, again, the light was the issue. So, I got out a lamp that has five moveable “heads” (rather like a hydra). My friend, Jane, had educated me on “lumens.” I like light that is like the sun rather than soft light. Increased lumens signals light that is more like the sun. It is also cooler, whiter light rather than warmer and off-white. Well, the tomato plants immediately stood up and took notice. They have doubled their size in five days. The broccoli rabe and kale are much happier also. So, this led to the next layer of experimentation.
This is an old night stand, kind of, from the Goodwill. I’m going to turn it into a small raised bed of indoor plants. Plastic sheeting on the outside protects the environment from water dripping and ruining anything. I’m going to put a variety of food plants in here, just like a raised bed outside: potatoes that have sprouted eyes, kale, chard, parsley, thai basil, probably one tomato, too. What fun! I’ll keep you posted
Oh, BTW, I’ve harvested bok choy, baby salad greens for my neighbor/friend and myself, plus grown microgreens for three of us. Arugula grows easily and well as do the baby lettuce types. Very little money has been spent but lots of fun has been had and fresh greens with meals.