Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Urban Indoor Gardening

Urban Indoor Gardening

I will offer no excuses this time as to why it took me such a while to write this blog entry other than sheer idleness. I’ve finished writing it, however, and I did it just in time for the first day of spring. Granted it’s snowing outside right now (and I should add that all the meteorologists this morning said it was going to be a “passing flurry”), but I shouldn’t be all that surprised considering the kind of winter we’ve had.
I guess I should start this, by talking about the inspiration for this particular entry. It was just a little over a month ago that my cousin invited me to a get-together over at her house in Long Island. It was yet another frigid winter day and we were barely going to make it into the thirties. When I got to her house, my aunt told me that I could place my coat and bag in her bedroom. As I walked in a caught a glimpse of what was a pretty delightful sight. She had nothing short of a mini-farm growing at the foot of her bed. There was a massive avocado plant, a couple of tomato plants, and several pepper plants all grouped together and growing very nicely, especially considering that her bedroom only has one small window and not that much light. She told me she grew all the plants from seeds that she had gathered from vegetables and fruits she bought at the market.
It was amazing to see how she managed to make the most of her small bedroom space. It really made me realize that just because many of us live in cramped and possibly dark N.Y.C apartments with no backyard; it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy all the perks that come with having your own garden. What perks exactly? Even a small indoor garden can help clean up the surrounding environment by absorbing CO2. An indoor garden can also provide you with naturally pleasant herbal scents as well as be a source of organically grown produce which will taste infinitely better than anything you buy at the local grocery store since you get to taste it at its ripest and freshest. Best of all the variety of plants that grow well indoors is quite extensive so you can try out different plants each year, completely changing your home d├ęcor look at a very small cost, especially if you grow your plants from seeds.
There are lots of starting points. One of the most convenient and economical is just taking the produce you bought from the supermarket and getting the seeds from them. In doing this you’re definitely getting the most from your trips to the market. If you’re going to get your seeds this way, you might want to splurge a little to get some organic produce, either at your local grocer or a farmers market since most of the produce you find at larger supermarkets are hybrids or have been genetically modified and as a result their seeds won’t be that great for growing. Once you’ve gathered some seeds you have to let them soak for about 48 hours in a shallow dish of water. Discard the dried up seeds that float to the top and take the seeds that sink to the bottom and place them on a towel to dry out. Be sure NOT to throw away the produce container since they make for really good planters for planting the seeds in.
If growing plants from a seed isn’t quite what you’re into than an even easier process starts once again at your local grocer or farmers market. Right about now many local grocers and farmers markets are starting to bring out various herbs and vegetable plants for growing at home. If you want a really easy, low maintenance and very useful plant to start with, definitely go with the herbs. They are beautiful, grow very quickly, are great for adding to recipes, and can leave your house smelling amazing. Better yet, herb plants love a good trimming and will actually grow more vibrantly as you use them in dishes and aromatic bouquets. BE WARNED, HOWEVER!! I learned the hard way that you can definitely go overboard when it comes to cutting your herb plants as I did with a poor dill plant which I cut beyond repair. Some popular herbs to consider growing indoors are Rosemary, Thyme, Spearmint, and Lavender, just to name a few.
There are also several vegetable and fruit plants that are easy to grow at home, my favorite being strawberries. This particular plant grows like crazy and from all directions, so be sure to have a really large planter ready for it. You can also let it grow in a hanging container and let the vines flow downward. It looks beautiful. Best of all they’ll give you the sweetest berries from the very first year. By the way, you can snip the runners and give them to your friends to pot in some soil so that they can grow strawberries of their own. I can’t compliment this plant enough! But many other fruits and vegetable are a pleasure to have as well, so you might also want to consider tomatoes, peppers, lettuce (they grow in low planting beds), and eggplants (your actually better off growing eggplants indoors, since experience has taught me that squirrels can’t resist them and they will eat the flower buds before they even have a chance to produce a fruit).
Once you start growing you plants it’s really important to develop a plan for ridding yourself of some nasty plant pests. It won’t take long for all sorts of harmful insects to appear and attack you growing plants, but luckily there are many natural bug repellants out there. For starters you might want to consider growing some bug repelling herbs like Rosemary, Bay leaf or Lemon Basil next to your more vulnerable plants. The smell these plants give off will scare the bugs aware. Another option is creating an organic bug repellant spray made with water and a few drops of herbal essential oil (try citronella,rosemary, or cinnamon, just to name a few) placed in a spray bottle. Doing this should help keep the spider mites, aphids, and white flies from nibbling at your plants.
It’s never too late in the season to start bringing plants into your home, but the best variety of plants can be found right about now, so they’re no day better than today to start working on the indoor urban garden.

NEXT INSTALLMENT: A Guide to Urban Wildlife

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