Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Fluorescent Lights and First Plantings!

My dining (well, living room) table has now become a fort for future plantlings! Matt brought over his drill two weekends ago and we put some hooks in the side beams of the table and strung up the new fluorescent lights.

Matt doing some measuring and drilling...

They are hung with slip-knotted strings so the height can be adjusted (the lights should always be about three inches off the leaves- thanks Mom!) I also bought a timer, so now they are set to provide sixteen hours of light per day (7 AM to 11 PM) and I don’t have to do the turning on and off. I’m feeling particularly good about this efficient use of space- I like simply making use of what I have, and this was the only possible place where the lights and plants would not take up extra space (which is at a premium in my flat) and where there was an overhang with enough height to accommodate growing plants. Also, it means that I will have lots of little green growing things right in my living room, they are close to a heat source (my gas fireplace), and my living space will have lots of extra light in it for the next few months, which will be an extra boost in helping fight off the winter blues.

The only downside to having the plant fort under my table is that it makes actually sitting at the table a little complicated. Knees and ankles bump into the lights and will potentially jostle the seedlings a little, but ultimately I think it is a good setup and it is of course temporary. The other obstacle I am seeing is that when my dear friend Lydia comes to visit next month with her 20-month-old daughter Maya, we will have our work cut out for us keeping curious toddler hands out of the dirt and away from the lights and their electrical cords. Luckily my apartment is so small that one of us will always be sitting next to the table anyway, and can act as a human baby gate!

An undertable plant fort! (click to enlarge photos)

Matt ponders soaking up some rays himself.

I planted my first starts this past weekend- onions (Nobility from Nichols Garden Nursery), standard white scallions, and red cabbage (Ruby Perfection from Nichols).

First tray of starts!

I was so eager to plant something, anything, and these are veggies that can go out into the garden earlier than most. We have been having a very mild winter here since Christmas, and spring appears to be just a few weeks away, so I am getting antsy to put things in the ground! I made the potting mix with a combination of compost, peat moss, and straight soil from the garden.

I also sat down and organized my seed box and wrote out my planting schedule-I will be keeping busy planting until late May, when most things will be transplanted out or already sown directly into the ground. Thus goes the cycle- the chaos of getting everything started and then planted into the garden, then weeding and mulching and fertilizing until everything grows strong enough to manage on its own, and then suddenly it’s harvest time, and then time to plant for fall crops, then after the fall harvest the garlic and kale go in and everything gets mulched over, then after a couple months’ break, the lights go up and it all starts again!

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