Growing food indoors: update

Back home in Massachusetts, farmers and backyard gardeners would be getting ready to put plants in the ground this weekend and next week. Mother’s Day was usually the “in the ground” marker. But, here at my new home in Jaroso, Colorado, nothing goes into the soil until June 1, so I am told. The season is short on both ends (June-Oct) for most food crops. Cold frames and hoops will be put into our beds and at my house this Fall to extend the season for kale, chard, and root veggies. Lettuce will be grown hydroponically (Kratky method) because I’ve had such success. And herbs, we’ll see. Container planting has had problems with aphids. (Where do they come from!)

Squashes are started. They’ll be perfect size for early June planting.

Here are the heirloom lettuces. This is the third harvest of them. Neighbor and friends have received some of the bounty.

Though I use recycled containers as much as possible, I had to figure out a way to do the hydroponics that was more efficient and space conscious. Dollar General Stores has a long plastic “window box” for $3. On clearance, they were $1.12. Score! You can see that once the lettuce were set as babies, they grew well. The only maintenance was to turn the container a couple of times a week and top off the water/fertilizer solution. These are Grandma Hadley lettuce and Salad Bowl, both heirloom thus smaller and more loose heads. I’ve harvested half the box on each of them. These varieties would grow well in containers with soil too, I imagine, due to their smaller size.





The experiment with tomato and tomatillo plants started in February as shown me a lot. The flowers have been pollinated with a feather through the indoor months. Fruit is on the vine and slowly ripening. These plants have had to be brought outside each day for a few hours because the path of the sun rose higher as the days have lengthened. Therefore, the sunlight no longer comes directly in the window. This has been labor intensive, no doubt, and has required help from my friend and neighbor, Jane. The primary lesson is that yes, it worked, but next time a container variety will be the way to go. These are four variety of heirloom (grape, cherry, green zebra, and a red/green full size), but they are full size plants. Same for the tomatillos. New babies are started for June outdoor planting.

All in all, this indoor gardening experiment has been fun. Eating fresh picked lettuce, chard, and some herbs through the Feb., March, and April was delightful. The produce tasted amazing, and the lettuce still does. The two golden cherry tomatoes that have ripened have been like candy. This will definitely be done again, with slight moderations. And, yes, research is being done for a green house appropriate for this climate and altitude. I’ll be talking to a local organic farmer soon. He’s full out with his own work right now.

About Donna Mitchell-Moniak

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