Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Just In Time Gardening

One of the biggest problems with traditional gardening is that it produces too much food all at once. This last year I lamented that I didn't get a full garden in after we moved. I shouldn't have worried, my next door neighbor had so much produce he brought us a bag of veggies about every other week, and he still has tons of food still on the vine.

The idea of a "Just In Time" (JIT) supply chain is that you get what you need without needing to store extra in a back room. In gardening this stored food is usually wasted because it spoils. In an effort to avoid food spoilage, while still harvesting in a "year round garden" is to change the way we plant. This can be solved by asking and answering a simple question:

"So, when should I plant (insert vegetable here)?"

Well, how often do you want to eat it? If you would like lettuce every week, I would plant 2-3 every other week. Then in 8 weeks you will begin your JIT lettuce supply chain. Why the third plant, you ask? Every so often a seed won't germinate, or you may want an additional salad that you weren't planning on. This extra head of lettuce will cover you in these circumstances.

How much room will this take?

According to the Square Foot Garden (SFG) technique, you can plant 4 heads of lettuce in one square foot. So if you choose to plant 2 lettuce plants each week, one square foot will cover you for four weeks. By 8 weeks, you have harvested your first lettuce and can reuse that square! See the following chart (or the image above) for an example of one complete rotation:

Lettuce Rotation Example

Week1: Plant 2 Square 1
Week3: plant 2 Square 1
Week5: plant 2 Square 2
Week7: plant 2 Square 2
Week8: harvest 2 Square 1
Week9: plant 2 Square 1
Week10: harvest 2 Square 1
Week11: etc... etc...

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Gardening in September?

September is a great time to start a garden.... right?

While most gardeners start thinking about planting in February or March, I am going to start my journey in September. To prove that I'm not insane, I started an indoor garden in January 2012 and have had one in some form or other since then.

I started with tomatoes and green onions on the windowsill, and have since moved on to a small metal shelf lined with reflective material and two CFL lightbulbs, where I have grown bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, radishes, spinach, and peas.

So where am I going with this? As you can see in the pictures, I was using milk jugs as my pots, which worked pretty good for most plants, but the peppers and tomatoes were always small because the plant wasn't able to spread its roots and grow to full height.

This time I am going to reconfigure my indoor garden and start almost from scratch. I want to have at least 2 full sized plants which means larger pots and more height in the garden shelf. I will also have to stack my growing spaces on top of each other to stay close to my 5 square foot goal.

Monday, August 10, 2015

I experimented with an indoor garden for about a year and had some really good results. We moved recently and most of it has since died, but I plan on restarting it soon. The indoor garden was made from a metal shelf that we mounted two 100w CFL lightbulbs in. We lined the shelf with solar curtains that we mounted on cardboard to make them less likely to tear.

With this setup we successfully grew all of the following: Green Onions, tomatoes, radishes, bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, peas, green beans, spinach, carrots, and strawberries.

The biggest thing that I learned from this experience is how important it is to give plants enough space! I was growing everything in about 5 square feet, but the containers for each plant were not the size they needed to be. As a result the peppers were not as large as they could have been, and the peas and tomatoes kept snaking their way around the other plants, causing problems. When I restart this garden I plan on making full square foot boxes for the larger plants, and I will build a shelf for the milk jug pots to sit around the side so we still have 5 square feet of growing space.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Cookies in the Solar Oven

Made some chocolate chip cookies in the solar oven last week, and they were fantastic! Our second batch didn't cook as well because we had some cloud cover move in. But we still maintained between 150 and 200 degrees F. Each batch took about 2 hours to bake.

With a solar oven you need to adjust the direction it is facing about every 15 minutes to maintain your maximum heat.