I end almost every day with a quick trip into my garden, just to tell it goodnight. I don’t need shoes or slippers, or even pants, because it’s inside. I can garden all night with plenty of light and no creepy spiders, because it’s inside. And I never need a jacket or sunscreen or bug spray, because it’s inside. Just as the rest of the world is getting ready for spring and “real” outdoor gardening, I also am spending more time outdoors during the day and less in my inside garden. But at night, when the kids are in bed and I actually have time to garden, I remember why this garden is so cool, because it’s inside.
A lot of people ask me if my indoor garden is a lot of work. Truthfully, it was a lot of work when I first got started because I had failure after failure, and not many resources to rely on. I was constantly fighting pests and disappointments as I was learning how to make my plants stronger and happier in a completely indoor environment. But over the last few years it has become very easy to maintain and not really much work at all. In fact, when I get busy with long hours at the hospital, my little garden thankfully stays pretty much on auto-pilot and I can just pop in before bed to make sure no Jurassic Park-level disasters have happened during the day.
My Simple, Daily Gardening Routine
The key to keeping the indoor garden on auto-pilot is adhering to a simple daily (or every-other-day-ly) routine so that nothing ever gets too out of hand. My nightly visit in the garden has become quite easy and mellow. I usually just walk in and make sure it smells good, that it is a comfortable temperature, and that there are no puddles or leaks anywhere. I check the seedlings to see if they are too dry, or if any are getting too big and need to be transplanted. I’ll look at what is getting close to harvest and make a mental note to tell my husband that we’ll have that ingredient for dinner soon. If any plant looks a little droopy, I’ll feel the soil with my hands and if it’s dry, I’ll give it a gentle watering. I’ll remove any dead or yellowing leaves and prune anything back that’s getting too big or crowding it’s neighbors. I check (and shake) every single plant for pests and if I see any, I’ll spray the plant hard with water to jettison them off. Then, I’ll take a good look at that plant to see why it was vulnerable; if it needs more light, less heat, more space for airflow, or whatever it might be. Shaking the plants alerts me to any buggy presence, and also pollinates anything that needs a little help with that. I’ll always stop to make a few notes in my log if I transplant anything, or notice something about the growth or size of any new vegetables. Then I’ll breathe it in and call it a night.
- Check the air quality. Nothing smells foul, not too cold, not too hot.
- Make sure no leaks. Because, well, that’s NEVER good indoors. I don’t care who you are.
- Water the seedlings.
- Inspect and shake the plants.
- Remove any dead or dried leaves and prune anything too crazy.
- Make notes, smile, feel pleasant.
The whole routine is really just about checking on each plant and carefully making sure it is getting what it needs. It’s actually quite meditative time. All in all, the whole thing takes about five minutes and I walk out feeling calm and in touch with nature. Even though I haven’t actually been in nature at all…But this is my own version of nature, in my own little tub garden.
In this post I wanted to provide a short update about what is growing in the tub garden right now. I’ll put out individual posts as we harvest all of these vegetables with notes and tips learned along the way, along with favorite recipes meant to celebrate their home-grown (hyper-local!) flavors. Hopefully this might inspire you to take up indoor gardening in a nook or cranny, or guest bathroom, in your own house!
Beans. We are trialing several varieties right now including Provider (Bush). Dragon’s Tongue. Toyha (Soy). So far the beans are growing really well and we’ve started harvesting the first few rounds. I can’t wait to see how long they continue to set fruit with no winter frost to stop them. The sky seems to literally be the limit, as I keep having to cut them back as they start to bump against the ceiling.
Carrots and Peppers. We’re doing a fun trial comparing Danvers, Rainbow, and Little Finger carrots for growth and taste. The kids keep asking if they’re ready. Not quite yet…Peppers growing right now include Ace, Olympus, and Sprinter. The first crop of peppers ended up never getting bigger than an inch long, so we moved them a little more under the lights and are currently trialing Sprinter and Ace part 2. These are staying healthy and aren’t looking like micro-peppers. They are a lovely color of green and a dense and heavy fruit.
Cucumbers . The cucumbers Diva and Space master are both growing vigorously. After a slow start and some tweaks, they are finally starting to set fruit even without any hand pollination.
Eggplants, Herbs and Lettuces. The eggplants are still growing like crazy. I didn’t think they would be up for a second round of fruits but they are busting now with so many flowers on each plant that I’ve had to trim them back a bit. Too many flowers will be too many fruits and I’d rather get the plants to concentrate on fewer, bigger fruits. We’ve also got heaps of fresh cilantro, basil and thyme for all of our cooking needs. Additionally, we’re continuing to do various trials of different types of lettuce, spinach and mustard greens, all to come soon.
Squash and Strawberries. We have about three different trials of squash and they are all coming along well. But one in particular is thriving indoors and has taken over a whole container, almost twice the size of its neighbors. Right next to it is a lovely, dainty strawberry plant just starting to peek out some sweet blossoms. I’ll have to keep whacking the squash back so it doesn’t overshadow the strawberry.
Tomatoes. I’ve been waiting to post our tomato results until we’ve had several different varieties to compare, but the tomatoes have been an unabashed success all along. I’m very excited to share the varieties we’ve been growing. We have two of the most perfect tomatoes about to ripen and they are actually both the size of store-bought tomatoes! We’ll share tips and tricks on indoor tomato growing very soon, but it has been SO REWARDING. You would never guess these tomatoes have never seen the sun, because they taste like a golden bite of summer.
It’s fun to have so many vegetables ready to harvest when most outdoor growers are just starting to put their seedlings in the ground! It’s fun to have plenty of vegetables and lettuces and green things without having to go to the store too often. And It’s incredibly fun to watch these things grow completely in the environment that we made for them. It’s fun to have an indoor garden.