A lovely bunch of floret cinnamon basil on a dinner table

Tub Garden Winter Update. The Indoor Garden Apparently Has A Mind of its Own.

It has been a while since I’ve written here. Back in December, for a month or two, I just didn’t have the energy to garden anymore. I took up my knitting again and laid about. But my little indoor garden apparently kept on plugging without me.

The tomatoes unleashed their indeterminate-ness, taking over their corner until they butted up against the ceiling. Feral lettuce heads grew weirdly tall and sprouted unappetizing flowers. A cucumber vine grew into every nook and cranny it could tendril into, wrapping itself around other plant’s stems, and even climbing up into the lights themselves. Obviously, chaos reigned.

Welcome to the jungle, now looking much tidier and civilized.

Throughout January and February, I slowly ventured back into the indoor Tub Garden and started to hack it back into domestication. We pulled up the enormous onions from our bulbing trials and discovered, to our delight, that we actually had some bulbs. I hauled away the carcasses of a few sad and dusty cucumber vines. I discovered perfect, shiny eggplants hiding underneath massive tangles of leaves. We found that our Floret Basil Cinnamon seedling had turned into a sprawling heap of flowers and foliage that filled an entire garden bin on its own. I chopped it down to one stem and brought the fragrant blooms out to our dinner table. Never mind the fact that they wilted to death immediately…I was feeling that garden-y feeling again.

By early March, the garden was starting to look a little more cared for and I was enjoying gardening, for gardening’s sake…with no real thoughts of writing about it anymore. There is nothing weirder, or more therapeutic I suppose, than getting dirt under your fingernails and doing a little weeding in January. Or eating home-grown tomatoes in February. Or getting snap peas fresh from the garden, despite a coming snow storm.

And now, Spring is full-on “springing” here in the mountains, and even normal people (and by that I mean normal, outdoor gardeners) are starting to think about gardening again. So, I thought I would dip my toe back into this writing world. Because I can’t help it. I want to keep chronicling which plants sputter out, and which ones end up thriving, in my odd, little garden experiment. With or without me, apparently.

Tomato. The Old Man of the garden.

This grizzled-looking tomato plant is now nearly 3 years old, and has lived the entirety of its life in the weird forever-summer we’ve created for it, under the lights. You can see it’s tired, leathery-brown leaves look exhausted from always having long days, with no cold season to rest and replenish. But it still pops out the most lovely red tomato or two, a couple of times a year. Recently, I cut it back to about 12 inches tall. I plan to take this Old Man outside to live one summer under the real sun. And then he can die a respectable, tomato-y death when the cold comes for him in October.

Onions. The trial is over and we have two winners.

The amount of onions we had growing in the Tub Garden bordered on hilarity. Their unkempt leaves made the garden seem wilder than it was, and some even started to flower at the tips. I was almost afraid to go in and whack them down in case some woodland creature had found his way into the garden to terrify me. But I bravely pulled them all up, and composted the pounds of greenery. The garden had the most delicious, onion-y smell lingering in the air for a day or two after that. Like someone had smuggled an Everything Bagel in somewhere.

It took almost a year – but yes – we did finally get some onions to bulb under the indoor lights. You may remember my frustration at the lack of bulbing going on in the Tub Garden last spring. So in august, we trialed three intermediate varieties, two short -day varieties and one long-day variety to see which would grow best with the constant 16-hour days we provide under the lights. It was two of the intermediate varieties, the Sierra Blanco white onions and the Expression onions, that finally bulbed in the indoor garden. Interesting! They’re not the hugest bulbs in the world, but we’re still counting them as a win.

Cucumbers. We finally got some female flowers, but it wasn’t meant to last…

After my post about our Tub Garden cucumbers and zucchinis only making male flowers, lo and behold, I leave the garden alone for a few months and they start producing fruit. I guess they just needed a little privacy. We’ve since gotten lots of lovely (though small) zucchini and even some nice yellow squash to fruit.

And look at how cute these teeny, tiny, little cucumbers were. I could just start to imagine teeny, tiny salads and miniscule pickles. But sadly, the day after I took these pictures, the whole plant turned ashen grey, and seemed to dissolve instantly into dust. I can only think it was powdery mildew, and quite an aggressive case at that. Not to worry, I have more cucumber seedlings waiting in the wings…endless varieties to trial under the lights.

Eggplants. A great crop for the indoors, weirdly.

We’ve grown the mini-size Hansel eggplants in our indoor Tub Garden. And now, with no help from me, this Jaylo eggplant churned out some lovely normal-sized ones as well. Despite our well-documented family’s disaffection for eggplants, my husband dutifully cooked these beauties up in the pan with his breakfast eggies, and felt quite healthy about himself. Well done.

The “sexy cauliflowers” and other fun players in the Tub Garden.

We’ve got some of the most interesting varieties of cauliflower coming up. I almost forgot what unique seeds we had planted until I saw them starting to open. On the left (below) is the fractal-looking, lime-green Puntoverde which will be a Romanesco variety of cauliflower. On the right is the Cheddar Variety of cauliflower that is already starting to look an inviting, downright-cheesy, orange color.

In addition, we have mound after mound of these delicate alpine strawberries that somehow refuse to die, despite the neglect. The berries were left too long, and many have rotted underneath the foliage. I think I will bring these happy little plants outdoors this year, and plant them along the riverbanks to help hold the soil. So far, the strawberry varieties available to grow from seed have been too small to be worth planting in the limited indoor garden space, but they have been a fun experiment.

And finally, we have peas, peas, and more peas. They were growing up the walls and clogging up the ventilation. And they weren’t producing a lot of peas any more. So, I hauled them down and planted some new ones in the spot. These are always a family favorite, and even the dog sneaks in every now and then to steal one off the vine.

So that’s it for now. If you have any questions or comments, or if there is something you’d like us to try out in the Tub Garden, we’d love to hear from you! Or follow us on instagram (@tubtotable) where we now seem to have more knitting posts than gardening posts. But hey, we are mountain people. That’s why I garden indoors in the first place. And we mountain people need a lot of knitted sweaters.

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