The Survival Garden Part 2

The first part of this post is a seed schedule how-to guide to get an indoor “survival garden” going. As a health care worker, I could be an asymptomatic carrier of COVID-19 and I don’t want to spread it to my community. So, no one from my family has gone to the grocery store for about a month. We have only ordered deliveries about once a week – the deliveries cost a bit more, so we’d rather do them as infrequently as possibly. Sadly, I can’t find a way to make milk or eggs in my little garden so we need to keep ordering those items. But we have not needed to worry about veggies too often thanks to our garden. When the virus hit, I switched to growing more green leafy high turnover lettuces and herbs we use frequently.

It’s been great having fresh cilantro and basil on hand when we want them, without multiple trips to the store.

The goal of this garden schedule is to plant varieties that are easy to grow, quick to grow and will provide a lot of nutrients without using up a lot of space.

How to Transplant the Seedlings

Once you’ve gotten your seedlings to start to grow, you’ll need to get them transplanted. Unlike traditional gardening, I get my seedlings planted fairly early. About 2-3 weeks after they sprout they start getting a little too tall and start bumping into the lights (which are very low). That’s when I like to get them into the self watering bins. There, they’ll get more nutrients and have more room to glow and thrive.

Unlike traditional gardening, I get my seedlings transplanted pretty early. About 2-3 weeks after they sprout, I get them into the self watering bins.

Prepare the space

First, run your fingers through the soil to turn it over a bit. Add a tablespoon or two of organic fertilzer or bone meal. Mix well into the soil so it doesn’t burn your seedlings. I like Jobe’s organic bone meal and Dr. Earth’s vegetable herb and tomato fertilizer, (which I once got for a smokin deal in the bargain aisle at Home Depot). Here I’m using the fertilizer. I switch them up each time and do an amendment like this about every three months.

Plant the seedlings

Soak the seedlings first so they slip our of the trays more easily. Hold the tray upside down and squish the bottom to get the roots to dislodge. I don’t usually pull on the seedling itself because I am transplanting them fairly early and don’t want to kill them. When you are done planting them, water them well. This will help ensure the soil packs down around them.

I really do like to pack most plants in as tightly as I can. I place everything about 6-8′ away from other plants unless I am planting something that will get really large like broccoli or tomatoes. So for lettuce and spinach especially, I can get a really nice thick crop in a small space.

Think about what you are planting and what that adult plant will look like to make sure the space is appropriate. For example, I plant tomatoes in their own self watering pots and place trellises in the pot early. I plant peas and beans in the sides of a container, next to a wall, where I can easily place a trellis to let them grow up and out. I try to plant short fast-growing vegetables like lettuces right next to taller, slower growing vegetables. That helps make the most efficient use of both the space in the soil, and also the light. By the time the slower, larger plant is big enough to shade the low plant next to it, I will have already harvested that one.

Here you a see just how densely I plant my crops. On the right are 6 arugula plants and 6 iceberg lettuce heads. They are all about 5 weeks old. On the left is slow growing parsnips.
This is an example of how densely I pack my plants in. On the left I have a tomato plant that I trim aggressively so it doesn’t occlude the light to the plants below. On the right, you can see I have beans and pea plants that can grow up the wall. In the middle, I have some low, fast lettuce crops. Once the neighboring crops get too big, I will already have harvested the lettuces.
The tomato plants are going to get HUGE, so I plant them in their own bin which is lower than the rest of the garden so that when they are large, they still get an adequate amount of light from above.

Keep planting new seeds

I keep planting new seeds every two weeks or so. (See my post on seed starting for some help in keeping this a clean and easy process.) This way, if a crop isn’t working out, becomes diseased, or has already been harvested, I always have something new to put in the space immediately.

The type of indoor farming I am doing here relies on the principles of succession planting, intercropping and plant pairing. Ultimately, the goal is to find the most efficient use of your space, time and resources.

Good luck out there! I hope you find these posts helpful for getting an indoor garden started to get you through these tough times. I don’t know of many gardens, even outdoors, that could truly support a family of four exclusively. At least not in a garden that was started just a few months ago.

But this type of indoor garden has certainly helped us survive without going to the store by having access to fresh lettuces, herbs and other green things which are scarce in these mountains in march.

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