The Great Indoor Gardening Experiment

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Here’s how gardening usually works around here.

March: I am SO excited about my garden! Let’s go build garden beds and buy seeds and we’re going to have SO MUCH FOOD!

April: Yay! Winter is over! Plants seeds in the ground!

May: These beans are doing SO GREAT! Lots of the other stuff didn’t come up at all, but look at all these green beans! I am such a good gardener!!!!

June: Wow. There sure are a lot of green beans still. Why are the tomatoes so slow? Why won’t it rain today so I don’t need to go water? Why won’t all these bugs and weeds go away by themselves?

July: Oh, there’s a tomato. I thought there would be more.

August: What? No, I haven’t been out to the garden in a couple of weeks. You?


But the thing is, I really want to be a semi competent gardener. We have a big old sunny yard, and we live somewhere with lots of rain and a long growing season, and I want to take advantage of such things. I really, really do.

And there have been years when I’ve been fairly successful actually, so I know I can do it if I set my mind to it, just like Doc Brown says.

The garden in better days (early summer):


This year, we’re going to be out of town for eight prime summer gardening weeks. So I’m thinking this might not be my year for a wildly successful summer garden, overflowing with peppers and tomatoes and watermelon and all that other stuff that people who can grow things that aren’t beans have in their gardens.

Sorry garden bed that we built a few years ago that doesn’t look nearly so nice now; it’s another year of neglect for you! Or maybe a fall garden. We’ll see.

But I’m feeling a gnawing urge to prepare for the apocalyptic collapse of civilization grow stuff this year, so I’ve come up with a plan to play to my strengths and work around our travel plans. This involves some stuff like fruit trees and landscaping with edible perennials (i.e. things that can better tolerate my enthusiasm for gardening coming in spurts) and maybe/probably even getting CHICKENS again (we had them at our old house, but we’ve been chicken free for five years now, and everyone misses them) come fall.

And also experimenting with indoor gardening. Which is what I’m talking about today!

This is certainly not a “How to Grow Food Indoors” kind of post, because I have no clue how to grow food indoors. It’s more of an announcement that I’m giving it a try anyway, so that you all, dear readers, can look forward to following along and seeing if anything actually grows.

I’m not a gardening expert, but I do know how to use google, and I understand that that’s pretty much the same thing. So I read a bunch of articles and blog posts about what stuff might grow inside and what might not and then I went through all my seeds and made a Home Depot run:

Planters and pots, seed potatoes (I don’t think those are actually going inside, since I think it’s already late enough to plant them outside here), a few more seeds, potting mix, and this ecoscraps plant food that I’m trying out.

I also ordered some grow bags from Amazon, for things too big to grow in pots.

Here’s what I’ve planted so far: a couple kinds of lettuce, basil, oregano, mint, spinach. And tomatoes. The most experimental part of my experiment.

And then I set everything up on those plant shelves we built a long time ago in the sunroom and then didn’t use much at all until now:

As you can see, there’s still a lot more room, but I ran out of potting mix. And it turned out that some of my pots were too big for the shelf, because I’m bad at remembering to measure. So I actually put a couple of things outside, and I’ll just bring them in if we get another hard freeze (it doesn’t seem as if winter is really planning to visit us at all this year, so I’m not too worried):

The grow bag is where I’m attempting tomatoes. I actually planned to do potatoes in there when I bought them, but they were smaller than I expected when I saw them in real life (that happens to me a lot). I have a bunch of grow bags left, so I might try another tomato plant or two, and I’m thinking of a bunch of carrots in another. They can also be used outside. Other things I’m hoping to try include broccoli and kale and….I can’t remember what else. Whatever I want, because it’s all just an experiment! I’d also like to get a lemon and/or lime tree to stay inside in winter and maybe go out in summer.

So that’s what I’ve got so far! We can also build more shelves in our greenhouse-like sunroom if things go well….but I’m getting ahead of myself already/again. I will report back soon to tell you whether anything actually grows!

(That’s Ari’s chia cat there….it used to be growing very nicely, but he hasn’t replanted it lately. But it’s good to know something grows in my house! Chia is edible, too, isn’t it?)





The Great Indoor Gardening Experiment — 8 Comments

  1. I am SUPER aboard the fruit tree train- I’ve got 3 apples and an almond and have been eyeing grapes too. They somehow seem much easier than an actual garden. I am also desperate for chickens, but both my husband and my cattle dog disagree. Perhaps I can live vicariously through you on that front. 🙂

    • We had a cattle dog mix when we had chickens and she did great with them. Just saying :). I have three hunting dogs now, so that might be a little trickier. The new chickens might not be as free range as the old ones were….

  2. Fruit trees are easier than vegetables, because they’re slower. Once I almost bought a rundown trailer forty miles from work because it had an established orchard.
    My attempts to grow things indoors (away from birds and rodents, a plus!) have never come to much, but I’ve never had a sunroom like yours. I’ll be watching.
    I keep telling myself I can think about chickens if I can ever keep up with weeding the vegetables.

  3. First of all, my word to the wise on low-maintenance and fun gardening: berry bushes. Choose what works with your climate + soil combo (raspberries, blueberries, blackberries, loganberries , etcberries), buy bare root starters (get a few extra, they are cheap and some will die), baby them the first year to ensure the root system is established, then send your kids out each day during fruiting time to harvest. And if there’s only one berry, the picker-of-the-day gets to eat it! Even with a heavy frost, generally some berries come through for you. No waiting 5+ years as with fruit trees. Berries are wicked expensive in the grocery store, so this is $ for sq/ft payback. And, really, what is better with a bleary-eyed cup of coffee than a slightly-crushed handful of berries from your (momentarily) favorite child? Sigh. I still miss that raspberry batch in our Berkeley garden.
    Second, my indoor gardening has always worked nicely but for a very short time! If you want harvestable items, I recommend baby lettuce: plant seeds, wait two weeks, eat it. Ideally, keep laying down seeds every week so there’s a continuous supply.
    Yes, I tried herbs (basil: grew to 8 inches and stopped, turned yellow; chives: ditto) and tomatoes (the pot was always too shallow for these deep-rooters and the light inadequate, which led to spindly stalks, pale leaves, and a couple teeny tomatoes at best).
    You could try container gardening…
    Or just plant zucchini outside. Maybe six or a dozen plants. And then try to pick them when they are dainty and tender, about 6 inches in length. Meanwhile behemoths grow to yardstick size under the furry leaves. I remember a (male) college friend confessing to zucchini accidently left to grow so long that they were utilized as baseball bats (splat!). Wish I’d thought of that!

    • Thanks for all the advice! I do have two blueberry bushes outside, but I definitely need more berries. And everyone loves berries! I’ve actually managed to neglect even zucchini to death before (some kind of insect I think it was that I didn’t notice until too late). I mean, I’ve also grown zucchini successfully before, but I’m capable of killing even things that are supposed to be foolproof :).

  4. We actually decided to go MUCH smaller in the garden this year – I always go way overboard and never keep it up. We’ll see how this year goes.

    Good luck with your garden this year, my friend! You are doing great! Cheers for you already!

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