Indoor gardens | SteamboatToday.com

Indoor gardens

Melinda Myers







With Steamboat's short growing season, why not extend it to produce fresh produce year-round? From microgreens to tomatoes, it's easier than you think with a small scale indoor garden. While it won't yield the same results as a sunny outdoor garden, the flavor can't be beat when outdoor growing isn't an option.

Microgreens: Microgreens are a quick and easy way to add flavor and crunch to any wintertime plate. Just plant seeds labeled for sprouting or microgreens in a shallow container filled with a sterile potting or seed-starting mix. Within two weeks you'll be harvesting nutritious mini vegetables and herb leaves for salads, sandwiches or snacking. You can also grow your favorite herbs on a warm sunny windowsill. Select a container with drainage holes and set on the appropriate size saucer to protect your woodwork. Fill the container with well-drained potting mix and plant seeds or transplants. Purchase basil, chives, parsley, oregano and rosemary plants from your local garden center or the produce department.

A testimonial to tower gardens

Ever since seeing a tower garden presentation with the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council in 2012, I've been smitten with this growing system. I've been a hobby gardener for 20 years and love getting my hands dirty, but high altitude growing can be hard. Enter the Tower Garden, developed by Tim Blank of Disney's Epcot Center as a "plug-and-play" system to make growing food indoors easy. The result: a food-grade plastic tower that holds 20 or more plants, combines aeroponic- and hydroponic-growing techniques, sits atop a 20-gallon reservoir that circulates water to the plants' roots and produces tower-to-table produce from the comfort of your living room.

In Steamboat, we're lucky to have 60 days without frost and often lose what we grow. With the Tower Garden, you don't worry about seasons, weather, frost, watering, leaving town or pests. The plants grow in one-third the time and use only 10 percent of the water of traditional gardening (20 gallons per month), all while letting you eat homegrown salad in January. It's also a wonderful learning module for students, with most schools in town having one, allowing students to grow their own produce for classroom education and special events. Tower Garden has also created an online sharing center, educational training materials and class learning modules to help teaching the next generation to grow sustainably. Info: http://www.andreakennedy…

— Andy Kennedy

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Greens and vegetables: Green, like lettuce and spinach, will also grow in a sunny window or under artificial lights. Grow them in a container filled with a well-drained potting mix similar to your windowsill herb garden. Plant seeds according to the seed packet. Continually harvest the outer leaves when they are 4 to 6 inches tall. While a bit more of a challenge, vegetables such as compact tomatoes, pepper or eggplant can also be grown indoors. For the best production, use a combination of natural and artificial light or full spectrum lights.

Lighting: Natural sunlight and full spectrum lights contain the variety of light plants need to grow, flower and fruit. Blue light promotes leaf and stem growth, while red combined with blue promotes flowering. Invest in energy-efficient and long-lasting, high intensity grow lights for the greatest yields when growing tomatoes, peppers, eggplants and other fruiting plants indoors. Leave lights on for 14, but no more than 16 hours, each day (plants also need a dark period to grow and thrive). Use a timer to ensure the right light duration. Also, keep the lights 6 to 12 inches above your plants, and use reflective surfaces under and around the plants to bounce light back into larger plants.

Growing space: Increase your indoor growing space by going vertical. Shelf units with built-in light fixtures like the Stack-n-Grow Light System provide multiple layers of growing space, increasing your yield with the same footprint.

Shake things up: Once your tomatoes, peppers and eggplants start flowering, shake things up. Gently shake the plants daily, or at least several times a week, to move the pollen from the female to the male parts of the flower so fruit will develop. A gentle breeze from a fan or vibrations from a battery-operated toothbrush also work well.

A testimonial to tower gardens

Ever since seeing a tower garden presentation with the Yampa Valley Sustainability Council in 2012, I’ve been smitten with this growing system. I’ve been a hobby gardener for 20 years and love getting my hands dirty, but high altitude growing can be hard. Enter the Tower Garden, developed by Tim Blank of Disney’s Epcot Center as a “plug-and-play” system to make growing food indoors easy. The result: a food-grade plastic tower that holds 20 or more plants, combines aeroponic- and hydroponic-growing techniques, sits atop a 20-gallon reservoir that circulates water to the plants’ roots and produces tower-to-table produce from the comfort of your living room.

In Steamboat, we’re lucky to have 60 days without frost and often lose what we grow. With the Tower Garden, you don’t worry about seasons, weather, frost, watering, leaving town or pests. The plants grow in one-third the time and use only 10 percent of the water of traditional gardening (20 gallons per month), all while letting you eat homegrown salad in January. It’s also a wonderful learning module for students, with most schools in town having one, allowing students to grow their own produce for classroom education and special events. Tower Garden has also created an online sharing center, educational training materials and class learning modules to help teaching the next generation to grow sustainably. Info: http://www.andreakennedy…

— Andy Kennedy