Wednesday, December 21, 2011

'Tis the Season for Chili Peppers!

BathroomFarmer feels like dancing this holiday season because results are showing after failing forward on this project this year! I started with nothing but a willingness to learn and to experiment and I think I'm finally getting my personal permaculture act together!

The peppers have grown much since my last post! The chili peppers have started to bloom. Because of total lack of BUGginess in my garden, I need to help mother nature and "get in the business" with a water moistened paintbrush and pollinate the flowers by hand.

Look at this! Teeny tiny chili peppers are starting to appear as the blossoms fade! The best news is that there are many more buds forming. According to many sources, chili pepper plants will live for several years in containers!

The collards have also begun to develop sizable leaves! They are growing both up and down in this inverted beverage bottle hung on the wall. I'm not sure if I like inverted growing, but wanted to try it anyway. So far so good. It is definitely an option to better use the space at the lower edge of my nailable surface.

Not to be out done, the green globe pepper plants have nearly doubled in size since I added the fluffier soil mix containing peat moss and perlite to their containers. And, yes, I do see buds forming here, too!

The official holiday foliage on the BathroomFarm is definitely chili pepper blossoms this year. No need for poinsettias here. For all of you who prefer a traditional decoration, here's some more musical inspiration from the Red Hot Chili Peppers!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Peppers Look Good!

It has been almost exactly one year since I got the idea to grow a BathroomFarm. I am truly proud of myself for making as much of this happen as I have so far. After all, there is no perfect instruction book for growing a vertical vegetable garden in one's bathroom. I am also feeling serious disappointment for the lack of productivity of the project.

I am doing the only thing I know how to do when there is an obstacle and that is to go right through it. I spent the better part of this afternoon planting new crops. I started a LOT of seeds this time because I have been optimistic in my expectation that every seed is going to grow which is not the case. Being too conservative has definitely hurt productivity. The big change this time was to make a fluffier soil by adding peat moss and perlite to the potting mix. I have noticed that the potting soil I have been using turns into "concrete" and the plants begin to wither and die. The ones that do survive look good, though, but seem to develop slowly. I am not disappointed at all in this chili pepper plant. I also have to take into consideration that some plants do develop slowly especially when grown in containers.

Another big problem that I personally have is the tendency to compare my progress with the timetable of the out-in-the-yard farmers. No matter how hard I try, it's hard to ignore the natural cycle of the seasons even though they don't apply to BathroomFarming. One thing I'm planning for the New Year is to devise a moon-based calendar for my particular activities to focus more on what is actually happening than be constantly distracted by what I think should be happening. The tendency to compare is a bad habit and reframing time will help.

Because winter is coming, I decided to postpone hanging more plants on the wall and started seeds in pots instead. I did plan on cold weather issues and the surface of the garden wall was built with a dead air space behind it to insulate the plants from the exterior wall behind them. I'm just not certain how well this design will work yet. There is a major positive side to winter in the BathroomFarm. As the trees in the south yard outside the windows are losing leaves, a tremendous amount of sunlight is flooding into the room! And, there are no bugs! There were a few issues with insects coming into the room during the summer.

I made a few mistakes simply from inexperience and misunderstood what I should be pinching off the tomato plants. There is a good chance thatI may have been pinching back shoots that should have bloomed. I just won't do that again! I started several varieties of tomatoes and two of the vines already growing are more than four feet long and appear healthy. The green pepper plants appear healthy, too. I am optimistic that I will eventually fail forward to bountiful harvest success!

And, did I mention that the peppers look good?

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Too Much Of A Good Thing!

When planning my BathroomFarm, I often worried that light would be insufficient for growing vegetables indoors. There is precious little information on this subject and the information is often presented in terms so different it's hard to determine how anything applies to this situation. I know I added 7,000 lumens to the ambient sunlight in the room. I'm not sure how that compares to research with results measured in foot-candles or how that applies to the "plant in full sun" on the seed packet.

Apparently, things are growing. That's a good thing. However, I have noticed that as the plants grew toward the light, some leaves would appear to burn. It has been a little bit of a challenge to keep the plants distanced from the light which is intense. I have also looked into companion planting to solve part of the problem. Companion planting is interesting because it can solve a variety of problems just by placing plants in proximity to each other. Because container gardens can be crowded, I'm going to take advantage of many physical and chemical advantages companion plants give each other.

My ceiling baskets were a disaster. I wanted to grow leafy greens in them and nothing was
working. The spinach and Swiss chard seeds died as soon as they sprouted. It turned out they were getting too much light for too long even though both seed packets said "full sun". I browsed random Internet gardening forums for guidance. It turns out that greens aren't that keen on sun worship. My solution is to not keep the light on for as many hours, to lower the baskets away from the light and plant green beans as a companion for shade. After less than two weeks, the results are showing. The spinach has sprouted and started to grow!

The amount of time the light is on may also be
inhibiting the flowering and fruiting of the plants.
My Minnesota Midget Melons have been vining LIKE NUTS but not much more. I read about the forcing of flowers and learned that long periods of simulated sunlight might inhibit flowering so I cut back on the hours and have the room completely dark at night. I had been leaving standard
fluorescent bulbs in the wall fixures on at night, but I stopped that. Voila! In less than a week, the melons have started blooming!

I'm glad I was a little bit conservative in the quantity of plants I started for the initial BathroomFarm because it has been challenging to determine what this system needs as it develops. The plants on the wall are doing well. I have a 5' long tomato vine growing in a gallon milk jug. The changes in light should also benefit its fruiting. I will probably not use milk jugs for future plantings although they do work. I do like the gallon beverage bottles with plants growing up and down.

I have collected canopies from umbrellas that had bad experiences in Indiana thunderstorms for making wall pockets. I feel that I can confidently add more crops at this time. I'm making wall pockets to fill in the space on the wall and using more containers on the floor and on top of the slipcovered
shelves I use for my garden shed. I also decided there is absolutely no reason to start seeds separately from planting them directly somewhere in my garden. Of course, I decided that after starting more seeds! So, when I transplant the seedlings now on the window ledge, I'm going to use that space for growing collards in pots and vining zucchini around this extremely sunny window!

Temperature has also been an issue in this room. I may have kept it a little too cool during the day and a little too warm at night. I'm going to try to maintain 80 degrees during the day and 65 degrees at night and see how that works. The window ledge where the collards will grow IS a little cooler than the rest of the room, but they should be fine in cooler conditions. I'm not so sure the zucchini will like that so I also started some plants in pots on the side of the room with the vertical garden which is warmer and will let them vine on to the wall.

I am always willing to fail forward on projects with uncertain outcomes and the BathroomFarm is no exception. Now that the light and temperature issues have been resolved and results are showing, I can move forward more quickly now. Winter may be an optimum season in the BathroomFarm. There were some insect issues throughout the summer that are over now. *Something* ate an entire basil plant in just one night! There were other casualties, too, but nothing so stunning. I am optimistic that the most difficult parts are over and the fantasy of plucking midget melons from the vine while soaking in a hot, bubbly tub in the dead of winter will be a reality!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My Garden IS Growing

EIEIO! WOW! This Bathroomfarmer is pleased to report that my garden is growing. I spent time this afternoon rearranging the BathroomFarm and being generally pleased with the progress I am seeing. The seedlings I planted were in questionable shape from lack of light and cool temperatures while I was waiting for room renovations to be finished but most of them rebounded nicely and are growing like crazy!

I made a few changes on the wall. Because two more of the tomato plants did not thrive, I discarded them and planted carrot and radish seeds in their place. I have this idea to execute my projects with the phases of the moon in a farmer almanac-y kind of way, so I decided adding root veggies to the wall during the waning moon was a good move keeping with the folklore of farming.

I also compressed the farm into a smaller space to take better advantage of the light I designed. I want to stick to using upcycled food containers on the wall for awhile because this is the lowest skill and cost option. I want everyone to be able to achieve good results with indoor growing with minimum expense.

Some collard greens seedlings were planted upside down in a bottle on the left. The tomato plant originally in there was the first to die. It's better to plant the upside down plants in the bottle first, but I carefully inserted the little seedlings with the help of an ice tea spoon and I'm hoping for the best! The green pepper plant planted upside down next to it was in very bad shape when I planted it but is growing well now!

I tidied up the inside of my garden shed which
is second hand metal shelving covered with upcycled bedsheet. There were already two pots of cucumbers growing on top of it. I added some small terra cotta pots of herbs that I started on my window ledge next to my desk. I noticed when I water the plants in the milk cartons on the wall, the excess water drips through the holes punched into the bottoms directly onto the pots below! There is a south facing window next to the garden shed and I have had good results in the past growing houseplants here. I do have one of the floor lamp bulbs focused on this area, too.

The third growing area is the large pot on the floor in front of the wall with a right angle trellis made from an upcycled display easel behind it. Everything in this pot is doing well. The midget melons are ambitiously vining toward the wall. The tomato, green pepper, and lettuce plants are all growing. I sowed some more lettuce seeds in there and those are sprouting. I added just a few carrot seeds today to see how they would do.

The spinach and Swiss chard greens in the hanging basket by my ceiling light replaced with a grow bulb have also sprouted. I have a few new seeds started on the window ledge next to my desk. The collards were transplanted today, but the only other one that's sprouted is chili pepper. I will be starting new seeds with regularity because the idea
is to have a continuously producing garden. It's nice to be able to disregard the seasons. It's equally nice to garden in an airconditioned room, far away from the dreadful Indiana heat and humidity! I DO keep this room warmer than my bedroom adjoining it during the day but let it cool down a little during the nights. It seems to be working.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Lay of the "Land" in the BathroomFarm

Because most seedlings rebounded nicely with light therapy, I decided to plant the first of my crops in the BathroomFarm and move forward with the sowing of the next seeds. This is just the beginning. Unlike many of my projects, that have a beginning and end, this will be perpetually in a state of evolution. In keeping the project very simple and low cost, I used common materials. The proceeds from my Quality Junk sale financed the purchase of potting soil from my neighborhood dollar store. I collected some sticks on the way home to use as plant supports.

The first containers I used to plant my BathroomFarm were containers I already had and some I made by upcycling food containers. It doesn't matter how pretty the wall looks in the beginning because as I add more
plants and everything grows, The foliage will obscure the containers. It was more important to start the project with what's on hand than to agonize over aesthetics at first. The biggest goal is to make a productive garden at the least expense.

The garden grows up along the whole wall using as much space as possible. I set two pots of cucumbers on top of my "garden shed" made from second hand shelves covered with upcycled bedsheet. I put sticks in the pots to keep the vines under control until they reach the wall and can grow up the twine I laced around nails. Upcycled milk cartons have tomatoes planted in them. There are peppers growing upside down and green onions and green beans planted in the tops of the large beverage containers on the lower left of the wall. A tomato plant that was planted upside down did die but I had suspected that I damaged it during transplanting. I certain of it now.

I have a lage pot on the floor on the left of the BathroomFarm. I upcycled a display easel by lacing twine around its legs to make a right angle trellis
for the Minnesota Midget Melons planted in it. I also planted green peppers, tomatoes, and heirloom lettuces in this pot. Because it's a very large container, I embedded a quart size bottle with the bottom cut out during planting. When I water this container, I fill the bottle to channel water into the lower part of the pot efficiently.

There are two other areas I am making use of for the BathroomFarm. I replaced the ceiling light bulb with a grow light and hung two baskets planted with spinach and Swiss chard leafy greens and suspended them next to the light fixture. There is a fan wired into the circuit which is on when the ceiling light is on so it gives a little extra ventilation in the Bathroomfarm which is good. I am also using the window ledge next to my desk as a seed starting area. I left the grow light in the clamp lamp that I suspended there for reviving my seedlings when I first started moving in. The next crops I planted are terra cotta pots with oregano, chives, parsley and cilantro. I also started yogurt cups with collards, zucchini and chilis!

So far the only problem encountered is that the lights are interfering with our cordless Internet phone! If I don't answer it right away, it's because I'm turning off the grow lights and lying to my crops about having a solar eclipse!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Let There Be Light in the BathroomFarm!

The make or break point of the BathroomFarm is adequate artificial light for indoor vegetable growing. Although the bathroom has two large south facing windows the light is still inadequate because the room is also shaded by our carriage house next door and the many trees in the south yard. My first impression of lighting options made me think the project was going to be aborted before it had begun. There were no out of the box options that fit my needs:
  1. The equipment must be inexpensive to acquire. Most commercially available grow lights are designed for use in marijuana growing. In fact most of the lights are actually illustrated doing exactly that. Needless to say the prices of most lights are better suited to the budgets of persons growing crops worth thousands of dollars per pound as opposed to a few dollars per pound.
  2. The lights must be full spectrum. Plants use the wavelengths of light they need which varies depending on the stage of growth they are in. Early in their life, plants need light in the blue range to develop foliage and later want red spectrum light to facilitate fruiting. Most lights are either/or. Because the idea for the BathroomFarm is to have a continuously producing garden, I will need full spectrum all the time and the plants in various stages of their life cycles can get what they need. I am not planting a crop and harvesting the crop. I am planting/harvesting all of the time.
  3. The equipment must be simple. I just want to plug it in and turn it on. No extra this or that stuff like ballasts and inverters just yet. I have enough to learn about growing a garden without becoming an electrical engineer first.
  4. It has to use as little electricity as possible and produce as little heat as possible. The electricity part is a no-brainer because the path to sustainability is NOT through the obscene use of resources especially the natural ones. The heat part is for personal security because law enforcement regularly flies over cities looking for hot spots in buildings which indicate indoor growing rooms. In their narrow minds the only plants grown indoors are the illegal ones. This is especially important in Indiana where citizens have essentially lost the 4th Right and police can break down doors and come on in without warrant or probable cause! This BathroomFarmer is all about drama avoidance!
  5. The lights have to be suitable for vertical growing. They have to focus perfectly on the plants on the wall and not interfere with getting close enough to the wall to tend the crops.
  6. Because this was starting to look a lot like a do-it-myself project, I didn't want to buy any special tools or acquire any special skills to accomplish it.
The Gro-Lux bulbs pictured above (and listed for sale in my BathroomFarmer Shop in the sidebar) were ideal for the project. I was able to acquire all of the materials for about $90! I made this myself with few construction worker skills and no electrical skills. I designed my "floor lamp" which would focus on the wall and be easy to slide out of the way. My landlord took me to Home Depot on Post Road on the Eastside of Indianapolis. I took my June trip in a fossil carbon powered passenger vehicle to a hardware store as opposed to a grocery store. I want to say that my shopping experience was great there, too. A sales associate named Mike C. accompanied me around the store and helped me find exactly everything on the list I made from the Home Depot website. I was treated with a lot of respect and felt like my project deserved good attention even though it is a little unusual!

The first step was the hardest and the most hazardous. I set a 2 x 4 vertically in a bucket of Quikrete to make the base of the lamp. You HAVE to protect your eyes, mouth and nose, and hands when you use this material. I watched videos on the company website to learn how to use it first. I made the lamp inside of my Bathroom. I scooped the mix out of the bag to avoid dust and because I couldn't pick up the 80-pound bag! Going slowly, I mixed a small amount in the big bucket and put the board in. I used the edge of my desk to make sure it was straight. Then, in a small bucket I mixed little batches and filled the big bucket the
rest of the way up. I left it alone overnight and the Quikrete perfectly cured so I could move it. In addition to taking personal safety precautions while using Quikrete, be really really careful about the amount of water you add. The company videos will show you what it looks like when mixed properly. Doing little odd sized batches required making visual decisions! Adding too much water prevents the concrete from setting properly!

I had a Martha Stewart moment and painted the board white with leftover paint I already had. I then decided where to attach clamp lamps to best benefit the arrangement I
was planning for my BathroomFarm. The lamps are not evenly spaced because there are areas on top of the shelving and on the floor which are included in the garden plan. Where I decided to put the clamp lamps was based on covering the surface

area and making use of the 80 degree beam spread AND maximizing the 875 lumens per bulb output. All things considered, that's a LOT for just 20 Watts of energy per bulb and a life of 10,000 hours. There is really good information on the bulb box about intensity of light needed for different plants including vegetables. Studying the space and considering my plans for crops helped me decide how to space my lamps. Farming is a little bit intuitive and BathroomFarming is not different in that respect.

I tipped the board over and supported it on top of a handy space heater to attach the clamp lamps by securely nailing them into position. They clamped on just fine
but I wanted them EXTRA secure to avoid popping off when the lamp is bumped or moved. Those bulbs are too precious to accidentally break. The bulbs themselves have a reflector so the reflector on the clamp lamp is doing nothing other than providing a socket for the bulb. I bought the cheapest solution for the clamp lamp AND took a bulb to the store to make sure it worked before buying. Mike C.
at Home Depot was very cool about it as was the store itself allowing me to bring merchandise I owned inside!

The last step was to thread the cords through the little space between the board and each clamp (for neatness), screw in the bulbs and stand it up. I used one extension cord on each side and plugged them both into a third extension cord and plugged it in. When upright and ON, I could then shift the reflectors around to focus light where it was needed and distribute that light evenly to emulate direct sunshine.

Less than $100. Sweet. EIEIO!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

BathroomFarm 1.0: Preparation

My BathroomFarm started in November 2010 with an idea about growing a year-round vertical vegetable garden on a wall in my bathroom and has become a project with a life of its own. Since November, it has evolved into a global community with a presence on both Facebook and twitter. You are reading its first blog. There are also Tumblr blogs and a syndicated blog on in the works.

In review, it is not mysterious about why BathroomFarmer is so popular already. Many people are interested in growing their own food for quality and safety reasons. The idea of having fresh vegetables all year long is exciting. Being able to do this at a very low cost is even better!

I am going to briefly review here the major steps in getting to the point of planting my BathroomFarm. Although I read seed catalogs during the winter and was impressed with the infinite variety of specialty seeds for container growing, I decided on using mostly seeds commonly available at the grocery store. I did this because those seeds are available almost everywhere and they can be purchased with food stamps. Until now, vertical gardening has been luxury market priced. I want to make this option possible to anybody with a desire to do it regardless of their income level. For this reason, while planning the garden, I decided to make it mostly from upcycled and salvaged materials. As this project perpetuates in the future, I will add things more costly. For right now, I just want to prove it can be done for very little cash.

During April, I started seeds in toilet paper cores and dollar store dirt and put them on the
plant stand in the back hallway of the house to sprout. This was my only option since the room where the BathroomFarm would be was undergoing renovations because of serious water damage from a house fire several years ago. We had a rather cool and dreary spring. The seedlings did sprout but developed poorly because of lack of sunlight to warm the lead surface. By the time the weather took a turn for the better, the giant ginko tree outside the south windows, shaded the plant stand.

The make or break item for the BathroomFarmer project is the specialty lighting for indoor plant growing. I looked at thousands of options. Most indoor grow lights are designed to be suspended above a horizontal surface and are not appropriate for this project. Even if they were attached to the ceiling on one side and suspended in front of the wall, it would be difficult to approach the wall to tend the crops. Most of the lights are VERY expensive which is not surprising since the most common indoor growing operations are of the marijuana variety. The lighting I need for the BathroomFarm must be so economical, that it pays for itself with savings from food costs. Electrical costs also figured into this decision.

Since the lights are a significant expense, I had a FUNdraising Quality Junk sale to raise money for them to demonstrate that it is possible to accomplish the BathroomFarm even for persons with low income/no income. I sold things that I no longer want to obtain the things I need most. Lucky for me, I live in a neighborhood that does a group sale that 20,000 people come to each year. I want to emphasize that is my personal opportunity and everyone has some sort of opportunity if he truly wants to make a dream real. You have to be creative in your own way.

Assessing my budget after the yard sale, I settled on buying a quantity of these full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs I found on and designing an appropriate fixture for them which I needed to make myself from inexpensive and easy to obtain materials. I have listed these bulbs in the BathroomFarmer shop in the right sidebar. I was also able to acquire enough potting soil for the project from yard sale proceeds. The room was finished in mid-June and I have been moving into it ever since and assessing the situation. I am very fortunate to have a landlord who supports this project and, as a finishing touch to my space mounted parallel 2 x 4s on the wall and screwed a large sheet of particle board onto it! And painted it to match my walls! This gives me an easier to nail surface since the wall is plaster and tile behind it. It also keeps the plants away from the wall in the winter which gets cold because it's an exterior wall in an 1892 house.

Behold, the blank canvas soon to be my BathroomFarm! I will be posting more frequently at this point going forward during the physical build out of the vertical garden. It has taken longer than I had anticipated to actually plant the garden. That did bother me at first, but the indoor grow room is not subject to seasonal growing. My next blog post coming soon is about making the light fixture which I designed myself! It's not pretty, but I believe it will work perfectly for this space.

Monday, May 2, 2011

May Is Garden for Wildlife Month!

While my seedlings are sprouting to life, I am taking the opportunity to explore the great out of doors in Historic Woodruff Place as viewed through the watchful eyes of our wildlife friends! The actual real estate developed into Woodruff Place was once a dense forest appropriately named The Dark Woods. There are still remnant ancient trees in the neighborhood. I am proud to say that my neighbors are avid planters of new trees, too. Our canopy is so lush in places, there is no need to use an umbrella in light rain. I feel like I am living in a forest paradise!
Our own yard is springing into naturalized garden splendor as the spectacular bulb flower show fades. Although not so pretty to humans, this is paradise for wildlife. That's why we have owls in the yard. They find plenty of food from the creatures dining on the
plants as they find plenty of their own food. The best way to understand nature is to live closely to it. If you create a place that nature likes,
it will show up at your door!

Welcome to Fair Haven! This is my landlord's estate in Woodruff Place. Not only is my landlord known as a planter of trees, the unique development of his own real estate puts him on the cutting edge of modern landscaping design. He does have plenty of lawn in his 2 acre yard. And there are raised beds for flowers and
vegetables. The really fascinating gardens are the TWO National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habits in this yard! There is a woodland and a prairie in this yard! These are places for the wildlife to thrive and not for people to disturb.

This is the exterior view of the woodland adjacent to the south side of the house.
This is the view from the bedroom, too. Imagine waking up in a city with a view of wilderness! This area is left alone to evolve itself over time. For many years, I lived
in an apartment with a balcony in the back of this house and it was exactly like living
in a tree house!

Walking along a path in the woodland, I was quite impressed with how lush this garden had become in five years since I moved to the Test House. When you begin a wildlife habitat, it will continue to evolve itself.
Although it is possible to physically plant a habitat, my landlord prefers to designate an area and let it restore itself naturally. This fabulous squirrel house conveniently located in a black walnut tree, left, is one of the few human created additions to the woodland. This area was certified long before I moved to Woodruff Place
in 1989.

This is the exterior view of the prairie. It became a certified
habitat in the mid 1990's and I had the pleasure of watching the natural processes of ecological succession develop this
garden. It started as a lot left alone in the early '90's. Gradually, the plants took it over and I remember seeing the landlord and his wife carefully identifying the plants, birds and animals for the application for NWF certification.

Look at it today! There are no paths through this habitat and the only reason to enter it has been to remove trash people have dumped in there, which is rare. I found a spot on the edge of the prairie to take the photograph on the left so you can see the amazing
interior of a place left undisturbed by humans for two decades.

All of this in one yard in a city! Are you inspired? Don't worry if you don't have sprawling acres and years to wait to develop your own wildlife garden. National Wildlife Federation Certified Wildlife Habitats can take infinite forms! Please click the link below to learn more and start the certification process. To celebrate their 75th anniversary, the NWF will plant a tree in YOUR honor just for certifying! It does not get greener than that!

Just as my landlord has the patience to watch his woodland and prairie grow, I have to patience to watch my seedlings begin their life cycle. My green beans are being really ambitious and already have true leaves, so they have been transplanted into a hanging basket where they eventually grow when I move the garden
from the house plant stand into the bathroom in a few weeks.

Everything else has sprouted and is well on its way to forming real leaves. Until then, I have wrapped them back up in plastic to retain moisture and warmth. Because they are growing so ambitiously, I used twigs from the yard to elevate the plastic covering for more "head room".

The plants and I are moving along at the same pace. My job now is to finalize the planning of my vertical BathroomFarm... and to creatively raise money for proper lighting. It's a good thing my neighborhood has a legendary community yard sale! I'm getting my act together now for Quality Junk...Don't Miss This!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Seeds SOWN Sunday

The Bathroom Farm is becoming reality everyday and yesterday was the first step away from planning the vertical vegetable and herb garden in my bathroom and into the actual execution of the project. I truly believe that it is 100% possible to empower yourself by growing your own food and also believe that good results are attainable by anyone regardless of economic situation or skill level. After all, I am starting from nowhere with nothing and no clue! I do have, however, the willingness to learn and am fearless to fail forward until I make this work.I spent part of the winter reading about gardening and studying seed catalogs and websites. I decided the best way to proceed IS to make Bathroom Farming accessible to ALL.

In America,neighborhood food sources are vanishing every day especially in
urban areas where financial stress is increasing. Therefore, I decided to make the first version of my Bathroom Farm using grocery store seeds and materials commonly found around the house and neighborhood. I love all of the designer seeds available on the market through specialty garden shops. However, the seeds from the grocery store, as well as bedding plants, are produce department food items and are eligible items to be purchased with food stamps. I purchased the potting soil from my neighborhood dollar store within walking distance of my home. Everything else was upcycled, salvaged and repurposed from my very awesome personal collection of quality junk. Bathroom Farming affirms the idea of a food democracy.

I did buy a few varieties of seeds from fellow Etsy sellers because the grocery store selection was lacking some of
my favorite produce items. You see here Step #1: soaking some seeds for planting. I purchased these Minnesota Midget Melon seeds from WallFlowerStudio on Etsy. The California Wonder Pepper seeds came from Cubits on Etsy. These seeds required soaking for three hours before sowing. Seed packets have information about preparing and sowing seeds. It's a good idea to read them carefully!

In addition to the melons and peppers, I am also growing oregano, chives, cherry tomatoes, slicing tomatoes, sweet basil, cilantro, parsley,Swiss chard, spinach, carrots, lettuce,cucumbers and green beans!

twitter friends @PLANETPALS, I decided to recycle
toilet paper roll cores for my seed starting tray. Eight half cores fit nicely into an aluminum bakery product pan. I put a layer of scrap cotton batting in the bottom of each pan to help keep the seedlings moist. Four of those pans fit perfectly side by side into a salvaged wicker tray. There was also room for a row of tiny terra cotta pots I needed for seeds that required being sown more deeply than 1/2"

I also started a larger terra cotta pot with cilantro because I have had good results from growing those seeds in pots in the past.

I taped labels on the outside of each container to
identify the contents before packing them into the plastic wrap lined tray and covering them with plastic wrap.

The seeds are resting peacefully now on the plant stand in the house! This house was built in 1892 and was not "electrified" until many years later. The architect who designed this building provided an ideal area designed exclusively for plants.

Looking down the side of the house, you see our 21st century ramp.

Looking above the ramp, you'll notice a pair of windows neither in line with the first floor windows nor the second floor windows. This is the location of the plant stand on the back stairway.

This is a large flat surface with two south facing windows and one east facing window. The windows have holes bored at their bottoms to allow air to circulate which prevents legginess in plants. The surface of the plant stand is a slab of lead. The lead prevents moisture from seeping into undesired places in the building and retains heat from the sunlight flooding in through the large windows during the day.

I am looking forward to learning more about the plants as they grow which will help in the design of the Bathroom Farm. It will not be long now before my room renovations are finished!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Passing of Time on the BathroomFarm

Winter has come and gone and the changes in the seasons brings an awareness of the passing of the illusion of time. It was very cold and wintry when the renovations begun on the room I normally inhabit in this house. Things may seem to be moving along very slowly, but they are, in fact, moving at the perfect pace. Perhaps age has changed my perspective about time. I just see time as something that IS. I always believe that the time is exactly right and there is always plenty of it.

There are 20,000 flower bulbs planted in the .96 acre yard of the house and spring becomes an event to be savored. After an especially brutal winter, it was pure pleasure to see the crocuses leading the progression of blooming bulbs.

The natural cycles of the seasons and the changes in the plants truly fascinates me. I like to be aware that persons with outdoor gardens are starting seeds at the first signs of spring. Because my garden will be indoors, I do not feel the pressure to do anything but enjoy the season.

The main attraction of the spring flowers are the thousands of every imaginable variety of daffodil. The current property owner once owned a daffodil farm so there was an abundance of bulbs available to be planted. The flowers make me think of, exactly that, abundance. Rich and lavish abundance. There are many lessons to be learned from spring flowers. I love how they can endure the lingering winter
and rebound unscathed by the meteorological adversity.

And, rebound, they do! There were even some early bird tulips blooming a few days later. It's inspiring to see how easy nature forgives. It's inspiring how nature can transcend time and move forward in its own time. I feel no need to judge or be judged and simply relax and know that all things are well.

Everything we believe about time we have created ourselves. For more than 35 years, the owner of this house believed
that it was built in 1893. I recently found a recorded Test family member recollection that the house
was built in1892.
It was still very long ago and there have
been many chang
es to the real estate from the way it was originally envisioned by Charles E. Test.

I wonder what he'd think about
his manicured lawns reclaimed from wilderness being returned to a naturalized state with an amazing display of haphazardly planned flowers welcoming spring to Historic Woodruff Place.