Here we are smack dab in the middle of winter and I’m starting to miss walking to the vegetable garden, snips in hand, to gather ingredients for dinner. To tide me over until it’s time to plant spring crops I’m actually growing a few things indoors. I won’t be harvesting any tomatoes, but at least I can get my hands dirty and enjoy the satisfaction of adding a few fresh ingredients to my recipes.
Here are five edibles you can grow indoors this winter.
- Lemons and Limes
Citrus won’t give you instant gratification, but you can enjoy the sweet scent of the blooms while you wait for the fruits. Look for a variety that is known to thrive indoors and produces year-round such as Meyer lemon or Bearss lime. Place the tree near a bright, southern or western facing window and away from sources of heat. Deep soak the soil every 5 to 7 days. Citrus prefer slightly acidic soil and high nitrogen fertilizer. Feed with a slow release fertilizer designed for citrus plants and follow the manufacturer’s directions.
Soak seeds in water overnight. Drain, rinse and drain again. Place the seeds in a quart sized Mason jar. Cover the top with cheese cloth secured with a rubber band. Set the jar in a dark place propped at a slight angle. Rinse and drain the seeds with cold water twice a day for about 4 to 5 days, at which point you will have mature sprouts. Place the jar of sprouts in indirect light and they will green up. Rinse in cold water and store in the refrigerator.
- Micro Greens
Micro greens are the baby leaves of fast sprouting seeds such as lettuce, radish and basil. The leaves are harvested while still small. To grow micro greens sow the seeds in sterile potting soil, cover with about ¼ inch of soil and mist the soil daily to keep moist. Keep the seeds warm until they begin to sprout then move the container to a sunny window. Ideally the plants need 12 hours of light for healthy growth so a grow light might be required. Depending on the type of plant you grow you should have harvestable leaves in 14 to 30 days.
- Garlic Greens
Garlic greens are a great substitute for fresh chives or scallions. Pot up about 10 organic cloves (ne need to peel) in a 4-inch container. Place in a sunny window and water consistently. Harvest the leaves when they are about 8 inches tall. When the cloves stop sprouting toss them into the compost bin and pot up another 10 cloves.
Growing mushrooms is pretty easy when you start with a kit. Everything you need comes in the package and all you need to do is keep the growing medium moist. Heck, you don’t even have to take these mushroom growing kits from Peaceful Valley out of the box.
Long before social media was even a spark in our collective conscious, bits of “wisdom” have been going viral via word of mouth in the form of old wives tales and folklore.
For me, these stories are interesting because they are part of our oral tradition. For instance, how many of you have heard that it is bad luck to place a hat on a bed or that going out in the cold with wet hair will make you sick?
Of course, my favorite anecdotes are about gardening and some of the best are related to growing tomatoes. It seems everyone’s grandmother had a pearl of wisdom about getting the growing the best tasting tomato.
Here are a few tomato tales that I’m familiar with. Some are based in fact, while others are pure fiction.
- Sprinkle sugar in the planting hole or water your tomatoes with sugar water to make them sweeter. This is untrue. The sweetness of a tomato is determined by the variety. If you want a sweet tomato try planting ‘Sungold’ or ‘Mr. Stripey’.
- If you have a tomato plant that is lush, but doesn’t set fruit, beat it with a broom. The idea behind this tip is that the beating will stress the plant and prompt bloom. More blooms mean a better chance for tomatoes. I haven’t tried this one, but the old-timers swear by it.
- To prevent blossom end rot add crushed eggshells to the planting hole. This suggestion actually has legs to it. The eggshells are a good source of calcium, which helps reduce blossom end rot.How about you? What’s the best tomato growing “advice” you know? Have you tried any of these tips?
You don't need a lot of space to grow vegetables and herbs. In fact, in a 4 x 4 raised bed you can grow enough food to feed a family of four. You can supplement your groceries with edibles grown in containers, hanging baskets, pallet gardens and window boxes.
Need inspiration? Check out these photos.
Wow! Thanks to everyone for participating in the contest. What a great response! Just goes to show how much we all love our tomatoes.
The correct answer is 'Arkansas Traveler' and the winner is Mike Lyons.
Can you name this tomato variety?
Answer correctly for a chance to win a tomato t-shirt from Bonnie Plants. Leave your response in the comments section below. I'll select a winner by random drawing on Wednesday June 6, 2012. Click here for the official rules.
Here are a few clues.
- It's an heirloom that originated in the Ozark Mountains before 1900.
- Keeps producing during periods of drought and hot weather.
- Mild fruits with pink coloring are produced on indeterminate vines.
Need more help? Search the Bonnie Plants tomato selector.
5 Tips for Growing Better Tomatoes
Don't plant too early! Flowering and pollination that occurs when temperatures are below 55 degrees F can result in malformed, poor quality fruits. This is also referred to as catfacing.
Plant deeply. Remove the lower leaves and plant your tomatoes as deeply as you can dig into loose, rich soil. Up to 2/3 of the plant can be buried. New roots will develop along the buried stem. Don't believe me? Read more about planting tomatoes deeply on BonniePlants.com.
Tomatoes prefer a slightly acidic to neutral soil (pH of 6.0 to 7.0) rich in phosphorous and calcium. To increase calcium, add crushed eggshells or a spoonful of bone meal when planting.
Tomatoes don't like fluctuating moisture levels. Water consistently and cover the soil with mulch to retain moisture. Avoid overhead watering as it encourages leaf disease.
Staking is important to expose leaves to sunlight and keep fruits off the ground where they may come into contact with soil borne diseases, or slugs and snails. Get the stakes in early so you don't have to worry about damaging mature root systems.
Seeds are the miracle makers of the garden world. Big things come from such small, seemingly inert packages. A carrot seed is small enough to get caught under a fingernail and yet will produce a delectable carrot in a few months. And what about sunflowers or corn? So much promise!
There's still time to get seeds started. If you live in a cold climate you can get a jump start by sowing seeds indoors. Gardeners who live in regions with long summers and warm falls be sure to buy extra now to start a second crop of blooms and vegetables midsummer.
Zinnia 'Benary's Scarlet Giant'
Gomphrena 'Las Vegas Pink'
Cosmos 'Cosmic Orange'
Polish Amaranth 'Oeschburg' (Amaranth cruentus)
Veggies & Herbs
Carrots 'Purple Dragon'
Lettuce 'Tom Thumb'
Tomato 'Sun Gold'
Yard Long Beans
Pepper 'Holy Mole'
The first week of March definitely came in like a lamb this year with temperatures in the 60s and 70s. It was beautiful weather for working in the staff garden at the City Garden Home.
The soil needed some TLC after working hard all fall and winter. Vegetables are needy when it comes to soil. They require fertile, well draining ground for optimal growth. I like to refresh the soil after each growing season to replenish nutrients. Gardening is raised beds makes it easy. I take the existing soil and mix in well rotted manure and compost or humus. A good ratio is 2 parts soil to 1 part manure and 1 part compost.
As a final step Jobe's Organics All Purpose fertilizer was added. This stuff is powerfully good at breaking down nutrients in the soil for plants to absorb.
This year is going to be the best yet for the staff garden.
From a gardener's perspective a tomato is a fruit. It forms from the ovary of a flower and contains seeds. Therefore it is a fruit.
Now a cook might tell you different because tomatoes are not often used to sweeten a dish. They are served as vegetables so they are vegetables. Right?
Tell me your opinion for a chance to win an awesome Garden Patch Grow Box™ and a packet of 'Jelly Bean' and Roma tomato seeds from my Bountiful Best collection from Ferry-Morse Seed Company.
The winner will be announced Wednesday March 7, 2012.*
Congrats to Debbie Chen! She's the winner of a Garden Patch Grow Box™. We suggest planting it with tomatoes!
*Winner will be selected by P. Allen Smith and his staff based on the merit of their comment. Click here to read the official rules and legal mumbo jumbo.
This year I teamed up with Ferry-Morse Seed Company to offer my top 10 seed varieties that I'm calling my "Bountiful Best." You can find these seeds at any garden center. Just look for the display with my picture. I selected these based on their easy care nature and abundant production. Many are suited to small spaces and even containers.
Give these varieties a try and you'll be in fine fettle for serving dishes made with homegrown ingredients.
Basil 'Genovese' - If you only grow one herb, make it basil. This variety has large leaves that are full of flavor. Summer garden.
Cucumber 'Lemon' - Unusual round, yellow cucumbers. Their sweet flavor makes them good raw, but you can pickle them too. Good for small spaces. Summer garden.
Cucumber 'Spacemaster' - Large 7 to 8 inch fruits are borne on compact plants. All you need is a 12-inch pot to grow 'Spacemaster'. Summer garden.
Peas 'Cascadia Sugar Snap' - This pea has multiple personalities. Harvest early to use as a snow pea or matured pods are delicious snap peas. Spring garden.
Radish 'French Breakfast' - A scarlet and white radish that is as beautiful as it is flavorful. Spring garden.
Arugula 'Roquette' - One of my favorite salad greens and so, so easy to grow. Spring and fall garden.
Squash (Zucchini) 'Black Beauty' - Every garden needs at least one zucchini plant! Dark green fruits are tasty sautéed or used in baked goods. Summer garden.
Swiss Chard 'Bright Lights' - The vegetable garden isn't always the most colorful spot, unless you grow 'Bright Lights.' Neon pink, orange and red stems. Spring and fall garden.
Tomato 'Jelly Bean Hybrid' - This indeterminate, grape tomato produces abundant fruits with delicious flavor. Summer garden.
Tomato 'Roma VF' - These are meaty tomatoes with few seeds. Perfect for sauces, salads and salsa. I selected this variety because it is resistant to both verticilium and fusarium wilt. Summer garden.