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Help! Beginner having trouble w/ container garden.  RSS feed

 
Lisa Rosee
Posts: 14
Location: Arizona
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I have been trying to container garden for some time w/ horrid results. I have to do an indoor container garden as I can NOT get outside to grow due to health issues. My first attempts were definite failures as I live in a cloud bank and also live on a very limited solar system as my only electric source. I do not have the funds for food, let alone expansion of the solar, so ability to use grow lights is limited. I got these very small grow lights that seem to really make a difference so far, but still have not gotten the results I need, though each time is an improvement on the previous. I only am supposed to be eating fresh organic food, so no conventional or chemicals can be used.

Celery: I successfully restarted a scrap and it is maturing in the soil-it's 2 weeks old now.

Romaine: tried to regow the scrap from the store once and it got about 1/4" tops of growth in the center, but grew no more and rotted by 1 week-I was told to use more water, so am trying again w/ about 1 1/2-2" of water in the bowl. 3 days and not really showing much more than the first did.

Ella Kropf Lettuce [butter lettuce]. This group sprouted most the seeds planted and seemed to have strong feeling sprouts unlike the previous and this is due to the lights. It's been about 2 1/2-3 weeks since planting, but still seem to be growing slower than I think it should.

Basil: planted from Burpee seeds-Genovese basil, in the egg tray.  all seeds came up but one. It is exactly 2 weeks today from planting. The sprouts seem OK but not really doing much for the last week since they came up. I saw on yt how basil plants at 3 weeks are a nice small plant already. I use pesto a lot and basil is not to be found here, so must grow. I have it on the tray closed to the lights.

I took this video yesterday and here is the link so you can see all this. 


I am one of those "brown thumb" types. Also I am a beginner. So I do not know really what to look for and do. I see a lot that do really well w/ less on yt, but they are mucho experienced and good at it.

thanks for your help
 
Galadriel Freden
Posts: 366
Location: West Yorkshire, UK
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Hi Lisa, I can't watch your video at the moment, but from the preview pic it looks like your basil is still in the egg containers?  It might help to transplant it and any other plants/seedlings into deeper containers.  The plants won't grow much if their roots are constricted.

It might be that your potting compost isn't rich enough, or perhaps too compacted.  I've noticed the conventional potting compost I buy seems to compact fairly quickly, and needs to be mixed with something to keep it fluffy.  I've tried mixing it with sand and rough organic material:  shredded leaves, straw, dried grass clippings, etc, to stop the compaction.  I don't always have sand on hand, but I can generally find some organic matter.

Good luck, I'm sure you'll get the hang of things soon and will be eating some nice salad with pesto

(ed. for spelling)
 
Su Ba
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Location: Big Island, Hawaii (2300' elevation, 60" avg. annual rainfall, temp range 55-80 degrees F)
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I've fairly well determined that seedlings need to be transplanted early into a deeper growing situation. Their roots need to expand out and grow in order for the top parts of the plant to grow too. I've used egg trays in the past to sprout seeds, but if they are not transplanted into something deeper before they start growing their true leaves, then they either stop growing or have their growth rate stunted even if they eventually get transplanted. In my own experiments, it proved important to get those baby seedlings out of the egg tray as soon as possible.

Fertilizer is another issue. Potting soil doesn't usually have enough nutrients for continued rapid growth. I use promix for seed starting, then transplant into a 50-50 spent promix/garden soil mix. I tried using a compost soil mix but lost too many seedlings to disease, so I switched to promix/soil, which at the moment is working for me. (Yes, promix is controversial. But I don't have much selection where I live.) I need to use a liquid fertilizer on the seedlings until they are large enough to go out into the garden. Without fertilizer, I found that they just sit there not growing much. There are organic type liquid fertilizers available.

Since you're interested in lettuce and basil, have you thought about growing them hydroponically? I know for certain that lettuce can be grown in a noncirculating system, such as a gallon milk jug. It's pretty simple.

While I've never grown edible plants indoors, I know it can be done successfully. Attention needs to be given to temperature, light, and humidity in order to induce rapid growth. I can't help on this because I have the experience or knowledge. But searching the Internet or buying some books on indoor food production should help supply some answers. When I was a teenager I visited a person who was growing African Violets indoors. He kept the pots on a moist mat for humidity. He had special lighting that was very close, barely above the foliage. And the lights were on a timer.
 
Craig Overend
Posts: 29
Location: Melbourne, Australia
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If they are LEDs and not hot to touch, the closer you can get the lights to the plants, the better. NASA studies I've seen have even embedded their LEDs inside the plant canopy to maximise use of the power available. You could also try adding a reflective material around them. Basil ideally needs about 6 to 8 hours of bright sunlight per day. Consider veges that grow well in partial light and shade and like lower temperatures if that's a problem. Large leaf plants high in chlorophyll that make them dark green are probably your best bet. Temperature plays a large role in how long seeds take to germinate and how fast plants grow, as shown in the Basil photo below. Sometimes thick or insulated containers can help keep the soil warmer, so can a dome over the plants which also keeps in moisture. I've just started adding a stick-on temperature gauge like those on fish tanks to my domes to monitor them, when it gets too warm they have to be opened up or come off or the plants will bake. A quality propagation soil mix that holds moisture but is free draining to let air in is important too. The more soil the better too, it acts as a thermal mass buffering temperature and moisture changes, and it can be surprising how long and fast roots will grow from seed when given the space. Watering once a day should be enough unless the plants wilt, water more if the soil looks or feels dry, so long as that soil drains freely. I've taken to using wicking to keep the moisture up. It saves me having to guess, and I'm not washing nutrients out of the soil.
 
Anne Miller
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Everyone has given you great answers so this is all I can offer ...

It might help to get some cardboard, put foil on it and surround your plants to act like mirrors so the plants can get more sun.

Also on your food scrap plants try to get them to turn green and growing before putting in soil. Be sure to change the water every day so they have fresh water.  But don't let the water be too deep.

Have you thought about doing sprouts or microgreens?  I do sprouts in the winter when I can't grow outside.  I use dry beans from the grocery store.  They have to be cooked so I put them in soup.  I have not done microgreens.
 
Casie Becker
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Location: Just northwest of Austin, TX
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Something I that stuck with me when I was researching building lights for aquariums (just researching, I never actually built one) is that a flat white surface is actually more reflective than aluminum foil.  I like the idea of reflectors to maximize the use of already available light. Just remember to use actual mirrors (which may turn up cheap at resale shops) or flat white surfaces.

edit: I should just make a signature that reads "had to correct spelling/grammar" and save some typing
 
Lisa Rosee
Posts: 14
Location: Arizona
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Galadriel Freden wrote:It might be that your potting compost isn't rich enough, or perhaps too compacted.  I've noticed the conventional potting compost I buy seems to compact fairly quickly, and needs to be mixed with something to keep it fluffy.

I used a new bag of "Black Gold" organic potting soil. It has the little white thing in it too. I do save the contents of the bags of my better teas after it's dried, so I can mix that in if need be. Might be a good idea to do so.
 
Lisa Rosee
Posts: 14
Location: Arizona
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Su Ba wrote:I've fairly well determined that seedlings need to be transplanted early into a deeper growing situation.

Fertilizer is another issue. Potting soil doesn't usually have enough nutrients for continued rapid growth.  There are organic type liquid fertilizers available.


SO agree that may be the issue w/ the basil. I replanted into a window box that I got cheap at "Agent Orange" and put the lettuce shoots in there with it. I did not have room for 2 of the basil shoots so they are still in the egg tray.  The basil already had more roots, than plant, so hopeful. I will have to see in a day or so how the transplants all made it well and if not I can replace one of those 2 or give them away.

Organic liquid fertilizer is the next thing on my bucket list.. Also I was looking for something last night and found a couple little books on container gardening.

I think getting it all into the box will be of great help, I hope. Planting space is of an issue, as it has to all be able to fit on the sill and under the light.

Thanks
 
Lisa Rosee
Posts: 14
Location: Arizona
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Craig Overend wrote:If they are LEDs and not hot to touch, the closer you can get the lights to the plants, the better. NASA studies I've seen have even embedded their LEDs inside the plant canopy to maximise use of the power available. You could also try adding a reflective material around them. Basil ideally needs about 6 to 8 hours of bright sunlight per day.


Yes they are LEDs. Little 5 watt rods. I sure noticed a difference so far with the lettuce sprouts, as this time with the light they got roots! Before not enough light to build a root system.

Temperature will be an issue probably starting in May. Though it is winter I have quite a lot of heat, as I can not physically tolerate not being very warm, due to health concerns. I can not stay in a room kept at the temperature that most keep it in winter, and survive. So any plants that like warm are going to do fine.  In summer it really bakes in here, so I will have to figure out something to keep them alive in the heat.

Strangely my grow lights supplement or make up for the light that should come in the window and does not due to clouds. We strangely have had 4 sunny days in a row! So part of the day sun hits the plants. I have not seen this once since June, so though it's the sunny time of year now, I can not expect it to last past today. I think Feb-May tends to be sunny more, but the rest the months: NONE. I am hoping with the min. lights I have and the daylight right at the window that the combo will keep them going.

I thought about maybe putting some foil around the inside rim of the window box for a little reflection.

Thanks
 
Lisa Rosee
Posts: 14
Location: Arizona
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Anne Miller wrote:Everyone has given you great answers so this is all I can offer ...

It might help to get some cardboard, put foil on it and surround your plants to act like mirrors so the plants can get more sun.

Also on your food scrap plants try to get them to turn green and growing before putting in soil. Be sure to change the water every day so they have fresh water.  But don't let the water be too deep.

Have you thought about doing sprouts or microgreens?  I do sprouts in the winter when I can't grow outside.  I use dry beans from the grocery store.  They have to be cooked so I put them in soup.  I have not done microgreens.


I do sprout sometimes, I just need these other items too.  I am not doing the cardboard now, as on the occasion the sun comes out that window can get a ton of sun, but that is so rarely the case. I am hoping the light through the window will be a good supplement for the grow lights.

I started the celery in water for 1 week and it did great and planted in pot after it got to 2 inches and it's 3" now and getting new growth.  I used only a little water with both the celery and romaine. The romaine did not grow and rotted by the weeks end, so I tossed it. I have a new romaine and it's in a lot deeper water, it looked bad from the beginning, but now at 3 days the new one has 2X the height of growth as the other one before it it..  I do change it everyday and use filtered water, so no chlorine.  I noticed on other videos that the romaine that people had growing seemed to have more water than what the celery can tolerate. If this has an inch or more, by the time it starts to look funky, I will try to plant.   Now that the celery is in I read 130+ days to maturity, as celery grows SLOW.

Thanks
 
Lisa Rosee
Posts: 14
Location: Arizona
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Casie Becker wrote:Something I that stuck with me when I was researching building lights for aquariums (just researching, I never actually built one) is that a flat white surface is actually more reflective than aluminum foil.  I like the idea of reflectors to maximize the use of already available light. Just remember to use actual mirrors (which may turn up cheap at resale shops) or flat white surfaces.

edit: I should just make a signature that reads "had to correct spelling/grammar" and save some typing



Maybe I should rim the top inside of the window box with white or some kind of thicker mirror type foil.  I do not want to block off the SW light the window gets when the sun occasionally comes out or the rare sunny day. We have had tons of sun through that window the last 4 days-it feels like I am dreaming when I see the glow. I guess I could even paint the inside rim with NO VOC paint if I had to.  I was thinking of doing something to reflect, but not to block the daylight to the plants and not be too big of an eyesore to the tiny living room it is the center of.

Thanks

PS as this progresses I will post pictures or video of the new set up.

Someday I want to expand the solar so I can use more grow lights and have better cooling both, but that is way down the list.
 
Antonia Barry
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Location: Northern Ohio USDA Zone 6A
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http://www.cheapvegetablegardener.com/cheap-led-light-and-grow-box/
Here is a link to an inexpensive grow light set up using Christmas lights. This is the season for after-christmas sales, so I thought this might be of use. You could set your starts in this at night, so you don't miss any natural sunlight.

Also, I second the microgreens suggestion. They are mostly sprouts that have been allowed to green up some, and so take less sunlight than full grown plants. I've used lentils from the grocery store to make sprouts, too.
 
Lisa Rosee
Posts: 14
Location: Arizona
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Antonia Barry wrote:http://www.cheapvegetablegardener.com/cheap-led-light-and-grow-box/
Here is a link to an inexpensive grow light set up using Christmas lights. This is the season for after-christmas sales, so I thought this might be of use. You could set your starts in this at night, so you don't miss any natural sunlight.

Also, I second the microgreens suggestion. They are mostly sprouts that have been allowed to green up some, and so take less sunlight than full grown plants. I've used lentils from the grocery store to make sprouts, too.


Thanks for the link. Maybe someday if I find the right 12V string and do not want to combine real daylight w/ the grow lights. I am using a combo of both right now.  I use these lights as they work w/ my solar. Topbest Grow lights at amazon I have 2 but only have power enough for one I am able to run it anywhere from 4 to 12 hours a day depending on how much power my tiny system gets. I would say on the average 7-8 hours a day, along with the sun running it much after 7pm does not work as it runs my batteries too low.  Basically I am using a window that should have great sun, but it is always cloudy and therefore found I need grow lights to make up for it. In the past, before trying the lights,

I do sprout sometimes, but need these other things very badly to make the things I eat: basil can not be purchased in my area.  I am in a situation where I need to produce some of my own food, more than sprouts.

I do plan to expand the solar in a few years when I have the money. My system is really too small and just using it to get by until I can swing something that is correctly sized.
 
Lisa Rosee
Posts: 14
Location: Arizona
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I have taken some of your ideas here:  Thank you.  I have replanted video here:  webpage


The basil is starting to get little leaves in the center, more pronounced now than in the video-it's 2 days later.   Not sure still on the lettuce.  I think the couple bad days 2 weeks ago where my batteries got drained, was hard, but to make up they are getting a lot of natural sun the last week of very rare sunny days. I am still using the light regardless.

The second attempt at re-growing romaine from scrap is going great: it seems the trick is to fill the bowl all the way up w/ water.  Last time I only put about 1/2" in the bottom and that was not enough and maybe something was wrong w/ the scrap.  Doing this w/ celery I found to keep the water at 1/4" or it would rot.  Of course changing the water every day on both.
I will be planting the romaine in soil tonight, as the new growth is nearing 2". The celery is growing up slowly, but actively growing new little stalks from the middle. I certainly want that as 2 full grown celery stalks would not be as much use as an entire bunch. 

I still think I have light challenges, though much improved, and probably will for some time to come, until I either move out of the cloud bank, and expand the solar.

The next issue I need to address will be some food/fertilizer. I have done some thinking but think it best I start a new thread for that alone as a separate topic, as it differs from the other issues.
 
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Permaculture Playing Cards by Paul Wheaton and Alexander Ojeda
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