Spring is on Its Way!

The seed catalogs have all been arriving in a steady stream in the mail. It’s not even January yet, and I’ve already ordered this year’s seeds, and they have safely arrived. Now I just have to wait for planting time, and that’s the hard part. But with plenty of time for waiting, that gives me a little time to think about the Apartment Farm’s setup for the upcoming season. We’re likely moving this summer, right in the middle of peak growing time, so portability will be key. Organization is also something I’d like to improve upon, as well as unifying the containers I use so everything is more esthetically pleasing.  

We don’t currently have a good shelving or bookcase unit in front of our large living room window, but I think I’ve come up with an easy fix that will look good, not cost a lot of money, and we can take it with us when we move. I’d like to mount a plywood shelf about five feet long by two feet wide underneath the windowsill by putting it up with ornate Victorian-style brackets. I’ll likely paint both the brackets and the shelf white to make it look like one unified piece of furniture. For planting containers, I’d like to use wooden wine crates set on top of shallow enamelware pans. At our local wine shop, they sell these crates for $3 a piece and I usually run into the pans at thrift stores. I figure I’ll do four of the crates on this shelf. In the kitchen window, we’ll turn our table so that the short end is up against the window and set a wine crate on that end, giving us enough room to sit for meals at the other end. In the windowsills themselves, I’ll do small pots of herbs. In the bedroom windowsill, I’d like to construct a similar bracketed shelf, where I will use deeper (if I can find them) wine crates or round planters, likely four of them. This shelf will also be slightly shallower, maybe one and a half feet, to allow for a smaller space around our bed.  

I’d like to improve upon my seed starting techniques this year as well. Every thing will be direct sown into their growing containers. Instead of covering the tops with aluminum foil, this year I will use plastic wrap. This will allow me to see (by condensation on the wrap) that the proper moisture and humidity is being maintained, and it will also allow me to see when the first sprouts have germinated. The seeds will be able to get light if I fail to notice and take the covering off right away. I think I lost a few seedlings last year by taking the aluminum foil off a couple days after sprouting, therefore not allowing the little seedlings to get light right away.  

As far as what I’m planting this season, I’m really excited to be trying to new things. I used an amazing amount of self-constraint when placing my seed order! With so much to choose from, it was really hard to pare it down to what I’d be able to grow in my limited amount of indoor space. I’ll also be growing some of what I grew last year. In two of the bedroom containers, I will have two Tiny Tim tomato plants (from last year’s seed). And I learned a great lesson about tomatoes last year—it’s true they need a deep growing container! The ones I had in smaller pots just did not get as big or produce as much as the ones in the deeper containers. So the more room the better, but at a minimum you can get away with about a 9-10 inch deep container and still get a good harvest. In the remaining two bedroom containers, I’m going to try to grow two Envy soybeans. They are a two foot bush plant, so we’ll see how they like growing in the indoors! I love edamame, so if I can grow enough for one really great snack this year, I’ll be happy. In the living room window, I’ll do one flat of Tom Thumb lettuce (from last year). It’s a beautiful, smooth butterhead type, and makes a great salad. I’ll also add a new lettuce in another flat—Lollo Rossa. It’s a red frilled crisp lettuce, and you can grow four of them to the square foot. In another container, I’m going to try my hand at growing some Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch Kale, which grows about one per square foot, so I can likely fit two into the container. In the remaining container, I’m going to try the Miniature White cucumber, which is a small bush variety. In the kitchen container, I’m going to grow a flat of Music Box sunflowers, which is a dwarf variety that grows to about two feet high. In the window sills in my milk glass pots, I’ll try again this year to start oregano, thyme, and chives from seed. And I’ll throw in a little garlic as well, because you can never have too much of that around.  

So, it’s an ambitious plan, but I like to plan big and try new things. The amount of light from my windows last year was enough to make the tomatoes happy, so I’m not worried about that for everything else. If the tomatoes like it, then everything else should be fine. So, I’m excited to get started! In the meantime, I plan on making some photo plant tags to put in all of the containers and some seed packets (because I have so much extra seed I’ll share it!).