Charming, isn't it?
Actually, the big difference is that for a plant to be able to produce fruits or replace munched leaves, it requires more energy then when it just has to stay there and "be pretty". This producing plant will need more of everything (fertilizer, light and sometimes even warmth).
|A bunch of cherry tomatoes leaning lazily against the next planting pot.|
A suspended garden
The first source of inspiration that allowed me to consider seriously the possibility of having a winter edible garden inside is the discovery, in january 2011, of the website Windowfarms, a site that proposes nothing less then to create a vertical hydroponic garden, simply hung in a window, at a very affordable price.
Water bottles or soft drinks bottles are recycled,
small basket filed with clay pebbles are the nest for plants,
a bit of silicone tubing, metal wire and hooks for hanging the structure,
artificial lighting (depending on the vegetables you want to grow and your situation) and a sunny window.
|The growth of my plants|
has been fast from the beginning.
We were in February.
On the middle level, two nasturtium plants are nestled comfortably.
Finally on the third level, two cherry tomato plants found their home ("Christmas grape" and "Yellow Pear Shaped ").
Except for the nasturtiums, all of these plants were taking so much space that after a couple months of growth, a single more plant would not have survived in this window!
|One year after construction, my vertical garden produces vegetables that|
are entirely organic, vegetables we can eat fresh while watching the
snowflakes fall just outside this very same window. And this without any artificial light.
During that winter, I read almost every archived article on windowfarms.org
(it's a lot of material to read). When I became more self-assured, I started to work on a more ambitious project.
|My windowfarm, built at the end of the 2010-11 winter.|
Made of porcelain pots.
On this picture, it was just starting in function,
being only a couple of weeks old.
Taking inspiration in all I read, I decided to use glazed porcelain planters, made of the same material as an ordinary coffee mug.
I am very satisfied with the result, even with some corrections still needed on the overall conception and functioning of the system.
My three main goals have been achieved: my irrigation system is made of durable materials; it works without electricity (by gravity only) and barely contains any plastics. (This fall I replaced my plastic reservoirs with nice buckets made of galvanized steel covered in a baked paint.) Furthermore, this construction is really pretty (at least it is to my personal artistic sense).
Finally, it can acommodate a lot more plants than my plastic test model, since it contains 22 planters. But of course, these plants must be small enough to live together, so I made the wise choice of choosing dwarf varieties. It's one thing to plant parsley and lettuce close together, an entirely different one to plant a pumpkin plant in such a facility !
But the possibilities are still surprising. For example, there's no way I can install a zucchini plant in there, but I found a dwarf variety of cucumber called "Space Master", recommended for... small spaces (the vine still grows to a healthy 1 to 1,5 meters long). My plant took all the space on the bottom of the window and only gave me... one cucumber before meeting its death, most probably caused by my inexperience.
|This swedish turnip was already growing in a container outside|
with two kales. I brought it inside so it could fatten a bit more.
It ended in a soup, leaves included.
|This used light garden cost me 175$ with the|
fluorescents and the plastic trays.
At 40W per tube, it cost me about 28 cents
of electricity per day for 16 hours of light.
This installation gives me
24 square foot of gardening surface.
Thyme and strawberries (they both eventually died), mint still going strong, kale, a couple of young eggplant and peppers (they are having trouble), onions, garlic, calendula and rosemary (that are all ok), oregano, tomatoes and swedish turnips grow well. A couple of ornementals and I just finished sowing strawberry spinaches.
From this portion of my indoors garden, we occasionnaly eat eggplants, peppers, sorrel, kale leaves, cauliflower, broccoli and pelargonium leaves (yes, it's edible!).
|Front view of the garden. Notice the small orange peppers |
hanging from the green plant on the right. The two big plants on the left are eggplants.
My plants in the attic are less vigorous than the ones in the hydroponic system, but these ones had to spend some energy to acclimate plus the insects that came with them did some damage.
|A tiny pepper... but so fresh, so delicious!|
|An eggplant, ready for harvest. |
Its tiny sibbling, left, needs a little more time to ripen.
Bringing these eggplants inside to save them from the frost
rewarded my with a dozen of fruits.
Winter gardening inside doesn't beat outside gardening in the summer of course, but still, I find that between germinations from the kitchen and the summer vegetables that I either froze, dried or prepared one way or another, being able to put fresh produce on my table, even if only ponctually, blesses me with infinite gustative satisfaction. Even more, I can still garden in winter!
I won't even try to deny this : the simple fact that these produce come from my home and were nurtured by me modifies my perceptions about their taste and makes them oh! so much better!
Check my next article on windowfarming to learn more about it!