Why Plant an Indoor Garden?
Some of you may be wondering why I’d bother to set up an indoor garden? Don’t I want a break from gardening? (It’s winter, after all.) Winter is a time when prices for fresh produce soar. The pandemic’s just made things worse, and I like to eat a lot of fresh food – especially greens. It seems like a great time to start a garden.
My mission? To grow a continuous supply of fresh greens just steps away from my kitchen with a minimal amount of set-up time and inputs (materials, energy). Can I grow tasty salads all year around indoors – not only in the winter, when greens are expensive but during the summer when the heat fries most of my greens long before they reach the wok? An additional challenge: space in our apartment is limited and light from available windows is filtered by the presence of a concrete overhang.
Enter, my writing studio! With a few shelves, this window could be the perfect growing space for an indoor salad garden.
Crops and Growing Methods: An Introduction
My primary focus for this garden is micro greens, which apparently don’t need full or supplemental light to thrive (we’ll see). I plan to add in two pots of lettuce and a window box planted with spinach. Both the spinach and lettuce will be grown under energy-efficient, florescent grow lamps. I’ll be growing in a closed-loop system (ie composting and recycling spent micro greens soil to reduce waste and cost). The real trick will be figuring out how much to plant and when for a continuous supply of greens for two people. Can we extend our salads and slash our bills by adding winter (or summer) vegetables, which are cheaper when bought in season?
These are some of the questions I’ll explore throughout this series.
Build The Garden: Shelves
The first task is installing a double row of shelves across the window and another atop the desk. I’ve been putting off this step for weeks because I have a terrible lack of confidence when it comes to measuring anything accurately. I’ve always had poor spatial perception skills. No matter how many times I measure before drilling or cutting, I’m ALWAYS off.
Still, we’re talking about installing shelves, here. And poor skills can improve with practice, right? (We’ll see.)
I start by measuring out the placement for four, heavy duty metal brackets, which are fastened to the edge of the window frame. Because I’m using 1 1/2 inch wood screws, I drill holes with a slightly smaller diameter drill bit to save myself the labour (and pain) of driving in the screws by hand. Although I’ve measured three times, I forget to check that the inner edges of the brackets are flush with the window frame. I try to make it up by eye. (As I said, spatial awareness is not my strong suit.)
I add a shelf and check the level.
Rinse, repeat with frenzied measuring (which seems to change every time), further fiddling with the inner edges of two more brackets. I add another shelf…
Check the level….
But I don’t really want to drill new holes.
So I scrounge a spare shelf for the top of my desk from my partner and voila! One growing space, ready for micro greens.
Normally, I’d have done a bit more scrounging for supplies. I first started collecting materials in 2020, during the pandemic. Scrounge-worthy materials were in short supply then, wood had become the new gold and we were being cautioned to disinfect all surfaces. For these reasons, I decided to – gasp! – buy the supplies I couldn’t find at home. I also wanted to make sure that the brackets and shelves could support multiple containers filled with wet soil. I chose 3-foot shelves rated at 50 pounds/12-inch segment, and 12-inch brackets rated specifically for heavy-duty storage applications.
They were not cheap.
In non-pandemic world, I most likely would have scrounged the shelves. I still would have sprung for the heavy-duty brackets. No point in building a garden just to have it fall down. Here’s the breakdown:
Rubbermaid 12-inch x 36-inch laminated shelves (x2): $30.00
+Everbilt 12-inch heavy duty brackets (x4): $48.00
(Top desk shelf, plant saucers, wood screws: re-purposed from home.)
I’ll outline further costs in the next segment in the series: choosing containers for planting.