Home-grown greens in March

Salad makings 2

I just picked these greens — or at least, I had just picked them when I started this post last night, but then I had to make the dinner for which they were destined, and seeing as how it was Abdoulaye's birthday and he's never seen The Sting, well, there went the evening, and the post languished, neglected. (Abdoulaye, our visiting potato specialist from Mali, has a terrific sense of humor and excellent taste in movies, as witnessed by the fact that he likes all our favorites. When I mentioned recently that his English comprehension is excellent–much better than it was when he first lived with us back in the fall of 2005–he credited the movies I gave him for a going-away present back in 2007; especially, he said, My Cousin Vinny.)

To get back to the greens, the subject of this interrupted post: the harvest pictured above is the second picking from a tiny basement garden I planted in January, which grows under a cheap florescent light in a room which averages about 55-60 degrees.  

Basement garden #2

This is a pair of 4ft. full-spectrum florescent bulbs in a wide reflector, but they're Home Depot or Lowes quality, not the fancy (and pricey) sort you can get at garden supply stores. The whole set-up cost about fifty bucks. I did invest in a timer (spending less than $20, I think) and it was well worth it; it has saved not only the plants, but my sanity as well. For the first two months the lights were on from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. This is significantly more than I've seen recommended, but I'm not arguing with the results.

Below the light are two plastic planters and a bunch of small pots, all reused. I measured everything for this post, but the numbers are so odd I wonder whether my measuring tape (though metal) has stretched or shrunk. The planters measure not 30" by 6", but 29" by 7", while the pots, which I assumed were a standard 4" square (isn't 4" square standard?), actually measure 31/2" on each side. Maybe this is like 2 x 4s, which aren't actually 2" by 4" but significantly less. Or else I've got weird pots, which would make sense.

Everything is planted with parsley or with greens: chard, lettuce, and above all, spinach. "Above all" refers not only to quantity, but to height, for some were brushing the lights above them. (They had good stout stems and were quite bushy, but they'd gotten BIG.)

For the first salad a week or so ago, I snipped off individual leaves; this time, I cut back the biggest spinach plants pretty drastically, leaving just a couple of leaf nodes where the second growth has already sprouted. These are densely seeded planters, so if and when the spinach seems past its prime, I'll cut it off at dirt level and let something else take over.

In the meantime, the parsely has precedence for a while; sometime soon, I'll use it in a pesto. (AND I've just discovered that I never posted about last fall's parsely pesto. Hmm. Got some catching up to do.)

This basement garden is a pretty small-scale experiment, but overall, I'm pleased.

7 Responses to Home-grown greens in March

  1. My guess is that the pots are actually 5″ squares. Square grower pots (and probably fancy pots too?) are measured along the diagonal, not the side. 3.5^2 + 3.5^2 = 5^2, give or take a little. An actual square 4-inch pot should have sides 2.8 inches long.
    For what it’s worth.
    Your set up looks a lot like the one I’d envisioned for growing lettuce inside; I haven’t started it because I can’t get time and opportunity to coincide so far. Perhaps eventually.

  2. Soon I will be harvesting my first greens from my basement too. I used a plastic tote with clay pots for even watering and put it in a sunny south window. An updated photo will be on my blog in the next couple of days if you want to check it out.

  3. It’s like a mini jungle. Lots of atmosphere as well as lots of eats!

  4. Wow, that’s amazing. I didn’t think plain old shop lights could produce such nice looking plants. I had some started indoors under lights like yours, but didn’t think they were growing fast enough, so I moved most of them to windows or outside. Congrats on a good looking harvest!

  5. Abdoulaye CAMARA

    Hi Kate
    How have you been? you know now in Mali is so hot almost 120 degree F I am try to survive. Be prepare right now because I am coming with Steve second wife in July I think that you have time to clear the garage and move all your staff. You done with your compost or no? How about your seeding let me know.

  6. Boy am I behind here. Sorry, people.
    Dead on, Mr. S.; thanks for clearing that up. Now, when someone asks me, What do gardening pots have in common with TVs? I’ll know the answer: both are measured on the diagonal.
    I’m astonished to learn that I’ve done anything with inside gardening that you haven’t done.
    I’ll definitely check it out, Amy. Isn’t it great to have salad in winter?
    Thanks, Esther. It is rather junglish, but the plants seem to thrive, so….
    I also thought it impossible, Joseph. Outside wasn’t much of an option here in Montana in winter, and good south windows are scarce in this house, so the garage seemed like the way to go.
    Abdoulaye! Greetings and welcome. It snowed in Bozeman yesterday. Probably today too. So warn that wife about the weather. As for moving my stuff to the garage—forget it. The compost is cooling down, and should be ready in a month or so. Greetings to Mariam.

  7. These look amazing! I wish I could get my home grown stuff that pretty! I guess I just need to take a bit more care of things! Cheers~

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