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!


  1. Have you found that vine growing plants do well in containers and space versus small bushy plants like herbs?

  2. My herbs with the exception of basil did not grow at all and that's really sluggish. I suspect the dollar store dirt is the culprit since the light and the temperature are now under control. The soil is extremely dense. I just ordered peat moss and vermiculite from Amazon and it should be coming any day. I will fluff up the dirt and see if that helps.

    It is crazy that the herbs and greens fail and the vines are wildly growing. I think it's because the vines have strong deep roots and can penetrate the soil better. I have a tomato plant in a gallon milk jug and it's over five feet long. None of the tomatoes have bloomed though even though the melons responded to the light adjustment. I am going to cut off the suckers next and see that should help. The melons are blooming all male flowers but I read that is normal behavior for them and will make female flowers, too, later. My cucumbers did exactly that and I do think I have properly pollinated those and will have fruits maturing.