Posts Tagged ‘Indoor Gardening’

Indoor Garden Update and Insights

I promised to give an update about some of my indoor gardening experiments, like growing lettuce by the window and cultivating pink oyster mushrooms in the kitchen. I deemed both projects a partial success, but ultimately decided not to continue with either.

The mushrooms grew like magic. I think this would be really fun to do with kids, because you could see the growth, hour by hour. The only trouble was they made me sneeze! The morning after the initial setup I felt like I had pepper inside my nose. I must have sneezed thirty times in three minutes. I suspected the mushroom substrate, but I didn’t sneeze again during the rest of the growth process.

We finally harvested beautiful pink mushrooms and made an Asian dish of onions, cabbage and mushrooms sauteed together and added to butter lettuce wraps. It tasted good, but after a few bites, I lost my appetite. I took a break, then tried again. My appetite evaporated the moment I picked up the lettuce wrap. This is a dish we’ve made many times with shiitake mushrooms, and I never had that experience. We took it as a sign that I had some kind of allergy or sensitivity to pink oyster mushrooms, and I composted the rest. Oh, well! They did grow. They looked great. They just didn’t agree with me.

The lettuce grew and turned out DELICIOUS! I love fresh lettuce in the middle of winter, and intend to try a different method next year. Unfortunately, the self watering window containers created sand gnat love caves, and I got tired of trying to monitor the birth rate. Those little guys are super annoying. They loved to dive bomb my head while I sat at the computer, or fly behind my glasses and tickle my eyelashes. Trying to bat them away meant cleaning my smudged glasses all day long. Putting the containers outside during temperatures above twenty degrees but below freezing slowed things down, but not by much. At some point, I realized this tasty lettuce required most of my time and attention. It just didn’t seem worth the effort.

What’s a Crazy Plant Lady to do?! David suggested we remove the former desk I had repurposed to grow lettuce by the front window. I gasped! “No, no, I LOVE the table! I love having more plants in that room. The solution is more plants.” He humored me, and now our living room feels very much alive:

I realize there are all manner of dystopian scenarios unfolding in the world right now, but it also feels right and important to focus on signs of life. We cultivate and nurture “reality” into being. Creating moments of peace, growth and light within ourselves and within our own sphere of influence helps us to show up in bigger and more positive ways “out there.”

Not every experiment works. Sometimes good results require too much effort to justify them. Other times, we throw ourselves into the process because it feels right, with no guarantee of the outcome. What matters — and creates matter — is the process of choosing, engaging, nurturing, cutting our losses, creating and engaging once again. Moment by conscious moment, we build our world.

And, no, I’m not just talking about gardening here. πŸ™‚

Winter Garden Update

I miss gardening, so I thought I’d give a quick Winter Garden Update. Longer days and lots of worm compost finally triggered the window greens to start growing:

Unfortunately, these self-watering trays seem to breed gnats. We don’t have too many, but it’s a little annoying. Next time we get a day in the upper 20’s, I’ll probably put the trays outside for a few hours to get more light and hopefully discourage the gnats from hanging around in ideal conditions. The greens will handle the cold, but I don’t think the gnats will like it. I haven’t decided if I’ll repeat this experiment next year, or if I’ll do this easy peasy and perhaps more productive setup in the backyard:

Meanwhile, indoor gardening livens up the January house. Our Christmas cactus continues to bloom, and this succulent also offers a yellow blast of cheer:

Crazy Plant Lady loves her blooms! Wishing you some cozy cheer from gray and snowy Kalamazoo.

Happy Plants and Happy Holly Days

I just caught sight of these as I returned from a morning walk:

Garden Update: Indoor and Outdoor Abundance and Beauty

Happy 11/11 and Happy Veteran’s Day to all who served!

I haven’t given a Fall Garden Update in awhile, and today’s colors are too pretty to keep to myself. From the front yard of edibles mixed with ornamentals:

From the backyard, including some of today’s harvest from the Garden Tower 2:

From the newly expanded indoor garden:

On the weekend, I mentioned foundational shifts. In addition to switching the locations of two portal doors, I moved my old desk behind a painted chest, so that I could add trays of spinach, lettuce, cilantro, parsley and chives along our large South facing window. I love my new L-shaped desk and new extra ergonomic office chair, but I really love having this extra growing space. We don’t have window sills, so this fills a formerly unavailable planting niche.

I’m also pleased that you can barely see the edible additions from our entryway. Except for the reflection in the window, it just looks like a bunch of houseplants:

The additional planting space brings the outdoor garden in. When David first saw what I had done, he said, “You’re going all Frank Lloyd Wright on me!”

I started the little sprouts outside, many weeks ago. Because of the cold temperatures, they grew very slowly — but just the right size for transplanting once I decided to grow inside. Here’s hoping they get enough light to give fresh herbs and greens all winter!

New Indoor Garden Fun

Last week, I spent time gathering and planting some cold hardy annuals outside, but it seemed time for an indoor garden expansion, too. These newbies are playing nice with the old timers, while bringing me great joy. When David returns tomorrow night from his two weeks away, he’ll have some new friends to greet:


We’ve had the spider plant for years, but the bright moss is new as of last week. Also new last week, Continue reading

Winter Wonderland Garden Update

First snowfall yesterday! Today, the yard looks like a winter wonderland, in delightful contrast with the lush and flowering indoor garden. Here are some photos to cheer you up on a chilly day. Well, it’s chilly here, anyway! A perfect day for vegan aronia-quinoa-cacao scone biscuits:

aronia quinoa scones



Flowering geraniums, a budding Christmas cactus, peppermint, a living palm screen, lettuce microgreens, aloe and jade in the southern window of our house:


The blue house offers a less sunny southern window for oregano, thyme, parsley, chives, aloe and a tree collard cutting, while Mr. Meyer Lemon seems to prefer my sunny southern office window, along with jade and snake plant companions. The office is still not finished, but at least the plants and crystals are happy!

Tonight we’re making a stir-fry and topping it with these homegrown Chinese artichokes, affectionately known by me as “the little dudes,” which I harvested on Friday alongside these self-sown carrots. Gotta love self-sown carrots! I harvested a few more before the snow arrived.

carrots and Chinese artichokes

Chinese artichokes are related to mint and will hopefully be a perennial if I harvested them right. The little dudes grow from the roots, and they taste a lot like water chestnuts. You can eat them raw, as I did yesterday, and we think they’ll make a fun topping to a mixed veggie stir-fry. They required zero work, just a contained plot and some water, until harvest, so I hope the remaining roots prove vigorous enough to grow again next spring.

Flowers in December

My very merry Christmas cactus ... happy for lengthening days

My very merry Christmas cactus … happy for lengthening days

Garden Portals: From Imagination to Art to Full Bloom

Our downstairs bathroom is a magical place inside a magical place. When we first decided to move into this little cottage, I had some major decorating concerns. I loved having a downstairs bathroom, but the thought of someone leaving the bathroom door open and even (gasp!) the toilet lid up with a view from our kitchen table literally kept me up at night. I’m a bit of a feng shui freak because I am so sensitive to energies that I really need a beautiful, well designed and ordered space in order to function. I gave so much attention to the poor toilet that the poor thing actually clogged up during our second phase of move-in. It turned out not to be just the toilet itself but the entire line to the street, which hadn’t been flushed in who knows how long, since this renovated property was formerly the neighborhood blight.

When David mentioned to me that my thoughts had manifested a pretty severe plumbing problem, I realized I needed to make peace with the downstairs bathroom. I apologized to the toilet. I put kyanite in the bathroom to help bridge above and below and to help “the little bathroom that could” live up to the rest of the house’s potential for delight. The plumbing still didn’t work, so I upped the ante. I agreed to make this downstairs bathroom the most magical, childlike place in the entire house — quite a tall order, because we live in a faery cottage, complete with faery doors, lots of plants, crystals and painted portals. But I do live by the Faery Rule, “A person’s word is bond,” so I set about creating this space.

I hung a beige curtain outside the bathroom door so that at no time could I ever see the toilet from the kitchen. I hand wrote and framed a sign to please close the lid before flushing. I put ivy in there because I heard that ivy purifies bathroom germs in a matter of minutes. I had already leaned Door Number 9 in the corner, but I set about hanging whimsical paintings by myself, my friend Tania Marie, my nephew, and a sun wearing sunglasses, painted by a young boy (now teenager) whom David had taken under his wing in Madison. People giggle when they go in that room, because the curtain makes things dramatic, and then they’re met with walls full of embroidered or painted childlike delights.

This was all by design, but today, even I gasped as I suddenly noticed the everyday view from the “pot.”

First, a picture of the full portal door, a picture which I managed to take by sitting in the sink.

First, a picture of the full portal door, a picture which I managed to take by sitting in the sink.

The message on the bottom reads: "Remember, my friend, you must go down the road to know, it is as above as so below." This is a variation of the typical phrasing of as above, so below, which works on subtle, Runic levels -- kind of a magickal pun.

The message on the bottom reads: “Remember, my friend, you must go down the road to know, it is as above as so below.” This is a variation of the typical phrasing of as above, so below, which works on subtle, Runic levels — kind of a magickal pun.

Here's the part that made me gasp. I painted this door in 2010, way before I ever had my own garden or ever thought of growing sunflowers. I have no idea what those fuzzy white, purple and bluish flowery things are underneath the sunflowers.

Here’s the part that made me gasp. I painted this door in 2010, way before I ever had my own garden or ever thought of growing sunflowers. I have no idea what those fuzzy white, purple and bluish flowery things are underneath the sunflowers.

Whatever those flowers happen to be, though, they were part of a bee-friendly yet unknown mix of wildflowers I planted with my sunflowers. I literally have this part of Door Number 9 growing outside our house!

Whatever those flowers happen to be, though, they were part of a bee-friendly yet unknown mix of wildflowers I planted with my sunflowers. I literally have this part of Door Number 9 growing outside our house!

I took this all as a lovely affirmation that my Winter garden plans will come to fruition, too. As usual, I’m currently reading 9+ books. Here are some of them, along with an heirloom collection of Fall/Winter seeds I bought in Madison, and a bag of wildflower seeds my friend Suzanna recently gifted me:

The Frugal Gardener, Lasagna Gardening, Four Season Harvest, The One-Straw Revolution

The Frugal Gardener, Lasagna Gardening, Four Season Harvest, The One-Straw Revolution

I had read an excerpt of The One-Straw Revolution, a part that talks about planting desired crops just ahead of the weeds sprouting. Ever since then, I’ve been obsessing over when and where to plant those wildflowers. Can I really have a less dandelion-filled yard next Spring if I prepare a bed for them this Fall? And when, oh when is the perfect time to plant those seeds?? I’ve also been gobbling up Four Season Harvest, even to the extent of purchasing a new raised bed just for planting Fall/Winter crops. You see, our Summer garden is simply too lush to offer any room for seeds that need planting now:

Where Does the Thyme Go

If you look carefully, you can see a pot of thyme that I pulled from this overcrowded bed only to wander around the yard unable to find another suitable place for it. David was cutting gopher wire to go under the new raised bed and asked what I was doing. When I explained my dilemma to him — in all seriousness, mind you! — he completely cracked me up by saying, “Where does the thyme go?” Right now it goes in a pot, awaiting transplant to the new bed. πŸ™‚

The Guarden

The Guarden

This new 4′ x 8′ bed is called “The Guarden,” and it comes with a detachable cold frame. It is extremely easy to assemble, although I still managed to mess it up. πŸ˜‰ Thank goodness David’s more mechanically inclined and, um, direction reading than I am! He managed to salvage my goof. As you can see above, I’ve only filled it about 1/3 with a mixture of peat moss, vermiculite and various mixes of compost. We still have bags of compost cluttering our driveway:

Let me just say, that Chickity Doo Doo is really fun to say but much less fun to smell! LOL, it really *is* chicken shit. :)

Let me just say, that Chickity Doo Doo is really fun to say but much less fun to smell! LOL, it really *is* chicken shit. πŸ™‚

It will probably take more than these to fill the new bed, but I’ve located someone to deliver organic compost to me for my lasagna gardening projects this Fall. If need be, I’ll either get that delivery early or convince someone to take me to buy another car load of compost bags. Our homemade compost isn’t finished yet, but I can dump even partially finished compost in a lasagna garden, then cover it with more straw, leaves and yes (!) another free load of wood mulch.

As I’ve pondered the possibilities for our yard, I’m also excited to plant things our neighbor children will love. Our next door neighbors love our cherry tomatoes, and they are always asking permission to run around our yard looking for butterflies. I’d love to take cuttings of some people’s butterfly bushes and surprise them with an entire butterfly garden next summer. Of course, I don’t wish to be a watering and weeding slave to these new beds, so I’m using my research and planning ways to increase soil fertility and moisture retention, both ecological and “lazy” on the back end, although they do require some extra smarts and labor on the front end.

Recognizing the sunflower/bluish feathery flowers/Door Number 9 connection urged me to look around at other garden and decorative manifestations. In addition to the potential view of the toilet, our kitchen table offered a pretty ugly view out the window on the other side. I immediately began to strategize ways to distract the eye from ugliness with more vibrant, attention grabbing loveliness instead. We placed David’s hand wrapped crystal frames in the window, and I manifested a bunch of free plants from various friends, old and new. This Spring we found and bought decorative trellises that will offer pretty views even without the morning glories on them during the Summer and Fall. I like the sparkles on the butterfly and flower trellises, but right now they are covered in morning glories!

Room with a View

This photo doesn’t really do it justice, because of the outside brightness, but we couldn’t ask for a prettier view! Between indoor plants, outdoor morning glories, David’s crystals, my nephew’s handpainted hummingbird window hanging, a faery chandelier, and a bird hanging from Grandma Van, we’ve got feasts for the eyes whichever way we turn at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I do love how imagination sparks the art, which leads to planting, sprouting, growth and bloom — sometimes quite literally.


Nettles and Chives

Nettles and Chives

Spring has sprung in Madison, and I’ve got the garden goodies to prove it! Well, as you can see from the photo, I’m a Lazy Gardener as well as a Lazy Raw Foodist. I go for the perennials and not so much for the raking of leaves. Weeding? Um, since I actually prefer to eat wild things, I planted those nettles myself last year, having invited them to me energetically. One batch arrived from a potluck/foraging friend of mine via an unknown neighbor who dropped them off during a 2011 Reiki 1 class — just as I had mentioned how Reiki hones your manifestation skills. TouchΓ©! The other batch came as a gift from the same potluck friend after their own patch had grown beyond the capacity of nonstop nettle infusions and mortar-and-pestle’d salads. Here they are again, tender little leaves, spiking their way vigilantly through the ground as some of the first signs of spring.

I love nettles! And yes, that’s stinging nettles to you. πŸ˜‰ These little ladies do leave quite a burn if you ignore them. David and I took a foraging walk in April 2011 with Kathleen Wildwood of Wildwood Institute, and she described it like this: “Nettles like to be noticed.” If you can remember that, you’ll be fine, but if you ignore them, or walk carelessly through their territory, they’ll hurt instead of heal. Fortunately, if you take the time to know nettles, then you’ll find that they contain their own antidote. Softening the leaves and rubbing nettle juice on the stung spots removes an otherwise lasting pain. I find this process so symbolic of life! How many people do you know whose seemingly sharp tongue belies a deeper character of total softie and powerful ally? When you go deeper than the sting, you discover all sorts of gifts and blessings.

Nettles nourish the blood, especially when boiled and allowed to sit in an infusion overnight. In this form, they contain high amounts of iron and other nutrients particularly strengthening for women. They improve skin texture and tone and can enrich just about any kind of cooked dish, if you prefer cooked food. Heat softens the stingers, so you can safely eat them. Last year, we attended a wild foraging dinner, and nettles appeared in everything from pasta to ice cream! I love wild foods because they’re beyond organic. Nothing messes with these superstars, and they help us to become stronger, wilder and free.

Fresh, freeze-dried, in a tea, or juiced, they alleviate allergy symptoms, and Kathleen Wildwood even uses them to help arthritis. On that same wild foraging walk, she shared how one troubled knuckle gets a purposeful early Spring nettle sting (without the juice), and that seems to numb the pain for the rest of the Spring and Summer seasons. She provided me with the herbal maxim, “When in doubt, use nettles,” and I do! I enjoy nettle tea all winter, sometimes plain and sometimes cooled and mixed with a bit of raw cacao powder and vanilla stevia. In the summer, we blend fresh ones in smoothies, and if we ever get out David’s Greenstar juicer instead of always buying fresh juice at the co-op, we might even juice some nettles this year! I like them so much, I gave them raised bed status and planted another patch on the other side of the house:

Backyard Nettles

And what about those chives?! They’re just fresh. We love them. I had been growing some inside the house, but our December and January travels took a toll on them. The batch in the first photo came from a starter plant last year, and it took off in the backyard garden, where only certain things agree to grow. We love them on salads, and I enjoyed reading about their magical and medicinal uses here. Grown outside they take very little care, and again, perennial gardening makes this Lazy Gardener very happy.

I do have plans for the sunny side of our house, armed with knowledge gleaned from last year’s many experiments. We will be building up the soil with compost and worm castings; shifting our garbage and recycling bins to the North side for the summer; and not allowing an accidental pumpkin patch to take over the top sunshine real estate this year. I’ve already started various kales, ruby red chard, oakleaf lettuce and, hopefully, some fairytale blend sweet peas to mix in with greens in the front window boxes. Coming soon to a mini-pot near me: more greens, heirloom tomato plants, a red pepper plant, and as soon as the frost leaves for good, I’ll get some cucumbers and the moon and stars watermelons planted in the ground. We started those melons too late last year, so they never fruited. This year, I’m determined to have not only a wild edibles yard, but also add some more magical elements to our evolving, 3-side of the house garden. My indoor herbs have done well, except for the chives. When it warms up a bit more, I’ll let the parsley, sage, basil, rosemary, thyme and oregano outside — probably right around the time our wild violets start blooming.

Mmmmmmhmmmm! It’s almost super yummy, just picked from the lawn salad time. Cheers!