Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Updates and Eating Salad From My Indoor Garden

My tomato plant is taking off. This is one of the two I had from last winter. You might recall they were in pretty rough shape when I started to revive them. The plants struggled for the two months of November and December before the solstice when light was at a minimum. especially for us way up north. Now here is the plant today and it has really taken off. The  tomatoes that were only a small green dot inside the flowers are now filling out nicely. This tomato plant is in the window, not under grow lights.

This is one of the first cloning plants that I started. Pretty impressive growth rate compared to the seeds I started which are about 2 inches tall.

You will find me cloning every chance I get from now on instead of using seeds. That means I will be trying to bring in a pepper plant into the house along with a Siberia tomato just to try and keep them alive long enough to clone off of for the garden outside in 2017. They are two plants that could really use the jump start of root growth and size.
I was so impressed with the growth rate of the cloning project that I sacrificed the shaggiest tomato plant of the two I had from last winter to cut up into four more plants and started them. The cloned tomato plants and the ones started from seeds are under a grow light. I  am really impatient for red tomatoes. There is just no way of going back to store tomatoes when you can have garden fresh flavor in the winter too.
The peas are looking good and soon I will be able to snip a few of the leaves off for salad. I have never tried that before but this type of pea recommends giving it a try. Maybe you can do so with most peas for all I know. I see another experiment in the making, don't you? These are also not under a grow light but simply in the window.

For the second winter I am growing Tom Lettuce and loving it. We are so enjoying the fresh taste. This one is a winner because it is a cut and come again lettuce. That means I get three crops from it before it no longer produces. I have decided that most of my lettuces have to be cut and come again. They grow back so much faster the second and third time in comparison to starting from seed. With the very limited space in my sunroom it has to be used to its full fruition and a long waiting period does not accomplish that goal.
I just cut the Cardinale lettuce last night and though it is a bit slower than the Tom lettuce to grow, it looks like it might also be a cut and come again lettuce. I sure hope so. One thing I have learned from cutting the lettuce is to leave over an inch and better yet two of growth on the plant. DO NOT cut down to the nubbins. Plants are nourished from sunlight as well as from the soil.
The Argula and Spinach that I planted a couple weeks after the lettuces are growing nicely under the lights and had I not labels them well I would never have been able to tell the difference between them at this stage.

The garlic is growing nicely. The article I read about growing garlic indoors recommended trimming the green shoots down to four inches and then when they grow tall once more doing it again. at about four inches. The garlic is suppose to die back after this stage and the garlic cloves should be full. We shall see as a few plants had their first shoot cut and are growing out once more. The stems are quite garlicy tasting so they would be good to cook with. Since I had so few I just gave them to the rabbits with their wheat grass. That leads us to my next blog which should be up shortly on growing wheat grass for the rabbits.
Every couple weeks I get around to starting a few more plants for the sunroom. Next on the list is radishes. There are some that will produce in 18 days in ideal conditions in one of my recently arrived catalogues. That is just over 2 and a half weeks. That would be a great addition to my indoor garden. I may not get to a cucumber and eggplant this year but time will tell. So much to learn this body can not keep up with my brain.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Growing Peas, Carrots, Lettuce and Garlic Indoors

    (Tomatoes growing in the sunroom. The flavor is divine. We may never be able to eat tomatoes from the store again.) 
Wednesday when I went to the grocery store. I became VERY motivated about growing our own food. Cottage cheese was over 5 dollars a container along with a significant price hike in all other dairy products. Unfortunately it did not stop there and one of the shockers was cereal up over 5 dollars a box. Boxes that keep getting smaller along with bags of chips.

This fall I tried bringing in more money with sewing and lets just say it ended in disaster and my Addison's Disease in full blown anger from the stress and lack of sleep. The slap in the face turned me in a new direction. Why was I trying to make more money when I will never keep up with inflation. Kirk's work income has not. The answer has to be to watch our spending more carefully and make more of our needs ourselves. 
(Garlic is peeking up their heads.)
The area in which this would make the largest difference is in food production 12 months of the year. 12 months of the year though in Wyoming with a zone 3 growing season is not going to be easy. Yes, I know what the map says, zone 4, but they have got to be kidding. If you look at just the area around us you can see a big enough difference in temperatures, elevation, and growing season length that you can quickly see you need to figure out your own growing zone. 

I am presently studying winter gardening. Something I am told was common in our great grandparents day. Most of my books are from  milder climates but they still have good information in which we can adapt to our situation. I admit when they talk about it being tough in zone 5 or 6, I laugh out loud. With books in hand and searches through the internet I have been scouring the seed catalogues and thinking on how we can economically put in cold frames and greenhouses. The actual building won't begin until summer because right now we have a calf shed to tin.

 What I'm doing right now is planning. I'm looking at cold hardy varieties of crops. There are very, very few. Not surprising if you think about it. How many people do you know that garden in the winter? Demand equates to supply and no demand equates to extinction.
(We are picking fresh lettuce right before we eat, YUM!! Who knows how many vitamins are left in the lettuce you buy at the store after it has taken the long journey to your table?)

I am looking at locations in the yard where we might push a zone 4 or 5 growing area like the front flower bed which is on the south side and protected on the north by the garage and west side by the house. The south side of the house under the kitchen window might be a second place. We grew tomatoes and peppers this summer in the kitchen spot and found the season was extended for them by the protected, south location and heat that radiated off the house.
(Carrots, I think I planted them a bit thick. The seed was older and I questioned how well they would sprout. Oh well, I can thin them.)
I am trying new seed varieties in the house and with the night temperatures in the fifties in the sun room, I am getting an idea just how fast they sprout along with having a taste test. We have decided that we like Arugula with its peppery taste. I have three lettuces going right now. One I grew last year, Tom Thumb Lettuce, and a couple new varieties. Cardinale I am not impressed with so I will use up the seed and not reorder but Cimaron is doing very well and with Tom Thumb will go into the winter cold frames next winter for the second leg of trials. They are suppose to be cold hardy. I have others I am going to try first in the house to see their growth habits, texture, and flavor; how close together I can plant them and how quickly they grow.
(These peas are to grow between 6 and 8 inches tall with leaves that are great in salads along with the peas themselves.)
This first stage of experiments will give us a small bit of immediate relief nutritionally and economically. Plus it will test the limits of what I can grow and how much I can grow in the sunroom. This still leaves quite a bit up to outdoor gardening.

It isn't just lettuce that the sunroom is growing but Tom Thumb peas are sprouting, the garlic has peeked its head up, the spinach is showing its first leaves, and the carrots are up. More of the herbs has poked their heads through the soil and I have a few more to start. I am for sure going to start a cucumber but which one is not yet decided. I also am thinking about a zucchini and an eggplant just for the sunroom, not ones for the cold frames. 

I am having so.... much fun with my indoor garden. I think the satisfaction and joy is much greater with the contrast of snow covering the ground outside. It is a reminder of just how bland the vegetables from the store are. My husband emits a loud, MMMM!!!! when he bites into the cherry tomatoes with their burst of summer. I don't think we will ever be able to go back to bland.

It is not easy to find miniature varieties that are cold hardy. The second concern is how to coordinate the growing of crops for us to eat and the starting of vegetables in the house for planting the first week of June. It could get rather crowded and complicated with a few years needed to work out the problems.

Will all of this come to fruition? The motivation is sure there for each bite pushes us forward. Some things may have to be postponed to a more distant future. Isn't that the way of things? Some other more pressing matters will raise their heads but as long as we keep moving forward, though at times at a snails pace, we are still moving forward none the less and year by year we are becoming a little more self-sufficient.

Stay tuned for an update on the tomato project. The pictures will tell it all amazing difference. Plus I grew my first wheat grass for the rabbits and with the knowledge I'm tweaking my second batch to hopefully perform even better. The stackable cages came and the rabbits are indoors in the chicken coop. You just have to see.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Wheat Sprout Update

 Since I am doing updates I will continue and tell you about what I have worked out on sprouts. Once more the temperatures are dipping into the single digits and there is no green in sight, okay except the evergreen trees. Even though the chickens are free range there just isn't much to scrounge up.  I do find them in the hay stack pecking at the alfalfa leaves but with slim pickens, I think I need to supplement their diet. That means I am back once more sprouting wheat. It does not make sense to do so in the summer since they barely eat any grain during that lush time of year but now they are heavily downing the grains in the coop and the pocket book feels it. That ups their maintenance costs especially when they are laying fewer eggs because of the decrease in sunlight.

Just three plastic gallon ice cream buckets at a time though because it seems to be about all I can squeeze in time for. It is hard enough to keep them rinsed once a day let alone any more and keep up with the needs of the grandkids. This means that the stock does not get sprouts daily but a few times a week instead. This isn't all bad since it helps keep their interest peeked.

The change is that I am not only feeding the chickens but some to the goats and a handful to each of the rabbits. It satisfies their hunger with less feed in comparison to the same feed dry. With the increase in nutrients and lower costs it is a win, win deal.

Whitey, our buck, goes nuts when I pop the lid and he gets his first whiff of the wonderful stuff. With life waa.....y too busy recently I fed too much commercial feed and my rabbits are obese. One of my New Year goals is to feed the rabbits a little less packaged rabbit food and a whole lot more of a natural diet. That means for now a big helping of alfalfa / orchard grass hay each morning. I also started trying my hand at growing wheat grass this week. Just one tray at first. The blades are barely up so we shall see how that goes. I am hoping the kitchen garden will have some extra produce along with some from the winter and summer gardening planned in the future with rabbits in mind.

Most things are still in the planning stage but for sure rabbits will be a part of our diet. I butchered a few and was really impressed with how much meat I got in a short period of time. It also was yummy and needless to say nutritious.

Three new indoor rabbit cages came this week and when I have them assembled then we can put all the rabbits in the chicken coop. Yeah!!! for I will seldom have to worry about their water freezing or if they are comfortable enough when I know I definitely don't want to go outside. I have one rabbit hutch to rebuild and one already in a spot in the garden so that will bring the total to 7 cages. I would like a couple more outdoor ones and we shall see how that goes since the one outdoor one I need to rebuild is quite large.

I asked at the feed store today if they had any millet or barley for I have not tried sprouting those grains, alas, they did not have any. I will head the other direction in a few days to a different feed store for my favorite rabbit food. It put weight on far, far better than the other three varieties I tried. I will inquire there. They say that rabbits like black oil sunflower seeds. My goats do too and the chickens also. Maybe I should pick up a couple bags as two of my daughters are wanting totes made from the empty bags.

I think I will try oats again and start one bucket tomorrow. They were not quite as easy to sprout as wheat but variety is always a good thing. Maybe I should try some oat grass too. Hmmmm..... so many things to try and so little time. Good thing there is a time and season for everything under heaven because one simply can not do all things all the time.