New! The Gutter Garden

 

For its newest growing system, Daylight Design has moved outdoors. The Gutter Garden is a simple hydroponic system composed of 5 foot lengths of vinyl rain gutter connected in series with PVC pipe. A small pond pump in a water reservoir (5 gallon bucket) keeps water flowing gently through the system. The Gutter Garden is ideal for growing lettuce and other greens in Daylight Design’s Feetpots™. The “feet” hold the pots above the water running through the gutters, and a wick pulls water into soil in each pot.

As outdoor temperatures began to drop this fall, we added a row cover to cover the plants and a heater (bird bath de-icer) to the water reservoir. The heater turns on when the water temperature reaches 35 degrees. So far, this has been enough to keep the greens healthy and thriving, even on nights when temperatures dipped into the low twenties.

The next big test comes with the advent today of snow and freezing rain. For this eventuality, we added a frame made of PVC pipe to support the row cover. Will this simple greenhouse-like structure keep the lettuce crop safe from the elements? We will let you know.

The Wall Garden keeps on blooming

Seven months ago we started petunia seeds on a Tabletop Sunstation. Two months later we had the first bloom. Today, five small pots of plants produce an ongoing riot of color, cascading down our Wall Garden.

First Bloom

The process was easy: plant seeds in pots using Four Starts, which divide each pot into 4 chambers, producing plugs with deep roots. When the plants are off to a good start, transplant the strongest to individual pots. Grow on Tabletop or Freestanding Sunstation; place in Wall Garden for ongoing display. Keep water in the trays. That’s it.

 

Trailing petunias on Wall Garden

The variety we are using is called Blueberry Lime Jam. The seeds were purchased from Johnny’s Selected Seeds. We regularly deadhead (pluck off) the spent blossoms, and they just keep on coming. How long can this go on? We’ll let you know!

Early tomatoes

With a Sunstation it’s easy to get a wide variety of plants, including tomatoes, off to a good start. Trickier is finding good compact tomato varieties that will produce delicious fruit when grown indoors.

We planted the seeds for these Totem tomatoes on November 30 and put them in bigger pots on February 7. The next step will be to move them to a spot with a light that encourages blooming rather than growth. We will experiment with giving the plants a little less water as the fruits are maturing, as this may enhance flavor. We’ll let you know!

Let there be light

Recent research by USDA scientist Gene Lester has come up with an interesting finding about spinach and other greens. Bagged greens in the front of a supermarket case, under lights, are more nutritious than identical greens of the same age at the back of the case, where it is darker. Apparently, the plants keep photosynthesizing (and creating vitamins) as long as there is a light source. Sounds like a good reason to grow greens under lights, and harvest right before eating!

Growing kale indoors

Every spring we start kale on our Sunstation for later transplanting outdoors. We love kale, and I try to keep our plants going through the hot summer days and into fall. That’s asking a lot of a cool season plant! This year I managed to start seeds in late summer for a fall planting. Our second crop was ready for transplant when the hottest part of summer was past.

Unfortunately my tender new transplants were quickly under attack by hordes of white flies. (My bad; they migrated from our spring crop, which I had left in the ground.) This was a serious infestation, and the tender shoots of my young plants were pretty much devoured.

That was when I decided it was time to try growing our kale indoors. We wanted something compact, so we selected a variety called Dwarf Blue Curled Scotch. It has exceeded our expectations. We have had two substantial harvests from our plants so far, selecting the large outer leaves and letting the inner ones continue to grow.

I’ve left my outdoor kale to fend for itself, in hopes that once we get a frost and lose the bugs, the plants will recover. They continue to produce new little leaves, so it just might work. Kale is supposed to taste even better after a frost, so I’m crossing my fingers. Next year, my plan is to grow kale outdoors in the spring, pull it out in summer when it is most vulnerable to bugs and heat, and plant out more in the fall. In summer and winter, kale will be one of our indoor crops.

Daylight Design at the Mother Earth News Fair

John and Rachel at Daylight Design booth

We just got back from Seven Springs, PA, where we exhibited at the 3 day Mother Earth News Fair. It was a great show, with a friendly and enthusiastic crowd, lots of interesting exhibits, and some big name speakers. Too bad we couldn’t spend more time checking out the fair, but the Daylight Design booth got a lot of traffic, and we were busy!

Visitors ask about the Sunstation

The lettuce growing on our Sunstation looked so good that several people suggested turning it into salad on the spot. One person was a little miffed that we wouldn’t sell it to him at the end of the show. And John’s newly designed Wall Garden was a big hit. People liked it as an attractive way to grow greens—and a kind of ever-changing wall art.

Wall Garden prototype

 

Propagating African violets

A few months back someone gave me a large, healthy African violet. I noticed some smaller babies within the pot, and started wondering about propagation. The instructions I came across on the web couldn’t be simpler: cut a healthy leaf with plenty of stem, preferably one towards the center of the plant.  Stick it in a pot of dirt, provide light and water, and wait.

So I cut 4 healthy leaves, and placed each in a Feetpot. For quite awhile nothing happened. The leaves continued to look green and healthy, they obviously weren’t dead, but no sign of a new plant. Finally, after about a month, I noticed a little disturbance on the soil surface in one of the pots. Sure enough, over a few days, a tiny leaf began to emerge in each of the pots. In another month, each pot had a small plant well underway. A couple more months, and finally a flower, more flowers, and then an explosion of blossoms!