Time for a new garden – A Living Room Garden. I’ve been into gardening for a few years now, and I’ve had a variety of success with both outdoor setups as well as indoor setups. My last garden was powered by a 600 watt metal halide in my kitchen – boy was that something – hopefully one day I’ll get around to writing an article about it. This time around however, I’ll be going much smaller – some peppers and herbs in the living room lit by T5 fluorescents.
Project Living Room Garden
Chapter: 1 – Introduction
Cost So Far: $200 CAD
Timeline: Day 1
What is Project Living Room Garden?
Project Living Room Gardens goal is to raise a few hot pepper plants, a tomato plant, some herbs, and a few typical houseplants. I’m not sure what I can expect with regards to yield, using only fluorescent lighting – this will be a fairly big limitation compared to my previous metal halide setup, so we will have to be patient and see what can be accomplished.
The Current Setup
My living room has some basic wooden shelving occupying a corner – this will be the main area for the living room garden. For lighting, I’ll be using 4 foot fluorescent lights – 4 of them, all T5 high output models with reflectors. The bulbs, ballasts, and reflectors are all Sunblaster brand. The lights are all connected to a timer to give the plants about 15 hours of light per day.
There is also a large south facing window that provides lots of sunshine in the spring and summer, however, given the setup of the shelves, the majority of light will not reach these new plants.
There is a small reservoir of water on the bottom shelf – this has a small circulation pump on the inside that is always on to prevent stagnation. A digital timer turns on a second pump for a minute or two 3 times a week which pumps water up through a main pipe, to 3 drippers, which have been watering two vines and a spider plant successfully for the last 3 months. Once the main plants get going, I will add additional drippers to water everything automatically, and we will talk a little more in detail about the irrigation setup and fertilisation.
Step One – Soil Preparation and Planting Seeds
One of the most common ways of producing great plants is to use some kind of small greenhouse or nursery. Plant about 50% more seeds than what you need in individual seedling containers, let them sprout, and then before transplant to their actual pots, select only the strongest of plants.
In this case, I’m not particularly concerned about selecting the absolute strongest plants, so I’ll be planting seeds directly in their home pots. I will be over seeding, and removing the weaker plants as they develop. The idea is to have 1 or 2 pepper plants in each pot, and a single, strong tomato plant.
Here are the pots that I will be preparing:
- 3 pots with assorted hot peppers
- 1 pot with assorted herbs
- 1 pot with assorted flowers
- 1 pot with tomatoes
In addition to these main pots, I already have 2 ivy vines, a spider plant, and a Strawberry EcoCube. There are also 3 smaller pots that I will be preparing for my girlfriends place with a combination of herbs and flowers.
For my soil mixture, I’ve mixed about 90% Promix BX that I had leftover from my previous indoor garden with a bag of Promix Premium Potting Mix. I’ve added mushroom compost, worm castings, some epsom salts, kelp meal, greensand, and bone meal as additives. We’ll talk about these in detail in another article.
I first began by filling each of the pots to about an inch from the top with my soil mixture. I then added seeds liberally, sprayed it down with a water bottle, and then added another layer of soil on top. Once it was tamped down a bit, I then gave it a full watering.
So here’s what was planted:
- In the herb pot, we’ve got chives, basil, rosemary, and cilantro
- In the flower pot, we’ve got a combination of Smagliczka, Maciejka, and Kwiaty Letnie*
- In the tomato pot, we’ve got one variety of cherry tomato
- And finally, in the hot pepper pots, we’ve got some combination packets for Mexican, Caribbean, and Portuguese hot peppers. These will be a fun surprise later on.
*These were purchased during my trip to Poland, hence the unusual labelling. I was not able to find much on their English names.
Well, now we wait! In a week or two we should start seeing some healthy sprouts, and then within the month we’ll be able to tell which ones are strong, and which ones are faltering.