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.

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