When we moved, I abandoned the cobbled together grow light setup I had been struggling with for years in favour of beginning again with a much improved, bigger and badder system.
In the old place I had to stuff the grow light shelving system into a corner nook of my office. Consequently, it couldn’t be more than 2ft wide. Have you ever tried to buy a shop light that is only 2 feet wide? Good luck. Yes, they are available, but they are built in a boxy shape and are meant to be wired in as under-cabinet lighting. I had to do a bit of precarious electrical wiring in order to attached a plugin cord to my lights. Because they were mounted and stationary, I had to lift my seedlings up to receive the necessary amount of distance between them and the bulbs as they grew. This meant regularly adding and subtracting stacks of books that I had placed underneath flimsy trays that wobbled and spilled liquid whenever they were shifted.
As you can imagine, this method did not always work out well for the books.
And then there was the shape of the shop light boxes themselves. Boxy shapes with sides that come down straight don’t reflect light well. I made due, but the set up was what it was. At the time I was happy to take what I could get.
So when we moved I abandoned that mess of wires and spare parts with the dream of something less ramshackle in mind. And then… work, life, moving, stuff. Finally, it all came to a head during the Holidays when the unheated front porch froze and several plants that should not have been out there but had no where else to go, froze. I needed a lighting system stat.
Here’s what I built.
Two of my oxalis plants are blooming and at least one more has buds that are on the way. First up is Oxalis obtusa ‘Buttercup’.
Here’s a photo of the plant, back in November when it was still in the process of emerging from dormancy.
I used to keep the oxalis in my unheated porch, but had to move them into the basement under lights when pots started to freeze. It’s still chilly down there (they like some cold), but I think it was the lights that prompted this big wave of blooms.
UPDATE: The winner is commenter #116: Kaitlin.
Seed starting season is in the air and I must say that even though it is early days yet, having a handful of pots on the go gives me something new to look forward to everyday and brings the gardening season that much closer as we slog through these last weeks of winter. My naranjilla seeds germinated yesterday. Hooray!
Hudson Valley Seed Library is a small-scale seed company located in the greater New York area that specializes in beautiful packages designed by local artists. Besides making a gorgeous product, they have a commitment to producing seed from heirloom varieties that have been adapted to their climate. As a result, all of their seeds are grown by a group of farmers and gardeners from the surrounding region (including their own farm).
My favourite packets.
Hudson Valley Seed Library have provided me with one Gift Membership Pack (10 seed packets of your choosing) along with a handful of individual Art Packs that will enable one reader to get a very good start on their garden this spring.
To enter, simply leave a comment below. Any comment will do, but I’d love to hear about the plants you intend to start from seed in the coming months.
I will choose a winner at random on Thursday, Feb 3, 2011.
Disclaimer: In the interest of transparency, I have not been paid to do this giveaway, nor have I received any sort of compensation for it.
I’ve had my new lighting setup in place for a while now, and last week I finally got around to sowing the lithops seeds I purchased almost a year ago. Here they are this morning, a few days after they first started to emerge from the soil.
Based on the size of the vermiculite, you can see just how tiny they are. So adorable.
Those of us in the northeastern reaches of North America are something like just past the halfway mark to spring. The days are getting longer, and even though I am thoroughly discouraged by endless applications of boots and layers of heavy clothing, there is some hope. Spring is within a reasonably foreseeable future. There are times when it feels like I can almost touch it and smell it, and yesterday afternoon I realized that I can! It’s growing just behind my desk.
On Twitter, I mentioned the tomato plant I am growing in my office. I don’t know which variety it is as it came up as a volunteer in one of the houseplant pots that I must have put out on the roof last summer. It’s got to be one of the determinate varieties that I grew, but who’s to know? It’s a mystery. When it was sturdy enough, I carefully pulled the little seedling out of the soil it was sharing with an epiphytic cactus, no less, and gave it a new pot with more appropriate soil.
As of now, in the dead of winter, the variety isn’t important or worth speculating about. What matters is the smell, that beautiful, invigorating, strong tomato smell. It is probably the smell I miss most through the winter months.
I try to spend a few minutes with my plants each day, not just for their sake, but for my own. I keep many of the most aromatic and softly textured plants in my office where I have easy access to touching and smelling them. They keep me going.
I’ve always considered tomato a productive, workhorse plant that is grown with the expressed intention of producing an edible crop. But yesterday I realized that their usefulness goes above and beyond the food we put into our mouths.
When I mentioned my plant on Twitter, a few people chimed in immediately about the smell and how much they missed it. It’s still a bit early to start tomatoes in my area, and yet I’ve been enjoying mine for over a month already. It got me thinking that there is no reason why we can’t or shouldn’t grow a tomato plant indoors, in the off-season, for no other reason than our own pleasure. Even if we can’t provide it with a strong enough light that can take it all the way through to spring and a life outdoors where it will produce tomatoes… so what. Isn’t it worth growing for the smell alone?
That’s cheap therapy.