Monday, July 26, 2010

7/26/10 Harvest and Indoor Grow Box Update

Presenting, our very first tomato!  The variety is Early Girl, and the tomato plants were grown from seedlings bought from a garden store before we figured out how to start our own seeds.  As far as the taste is concerned, I would say that this one tasted slightly sweeter than an average store-bought tomato, with that good wholesome home-grown flavor.  I'm sure there are many other tomato varieties with better flavors, and I hope to grow more varieties from seed next year.

We also harvested a few more green beans, but I think we're done with these bean plants for the season.  They have been under some sort of a beetle attack - I think cucumber beetles, but there may be other bugs involved as well - and the leaves are getting rather lacy and ratty-looking.

Cucumbers are continuing to produce.  We harvested four more this week for more cucumber salad, and the vines promise many more in the upcoming weeks.

Indoor Grow Box Update

Our homemade indoor grow box has been performing beautifully, and we harvested some baby lettuce from our first trial run.  Three weeks ago, we planted a variety of lettuce seeds in a Jiffy mini greenhouse and a re-purposed container (one of those clear plastic containers that hold supermarket strawberries).  They started germinating after 2-3 days, and three weeks later, we already have some edible baby greens.

Encouraged by our success, we constructed a few more lettuce "beds" from doubled-up aluminum lasagna pans.  The bottom pan was filled with a layer of pea gravel to hold up the top pan.  We poked some drainage holes in the top pan and filled it with Mel's mix (equal parts peat moss, vermiculite and compost).  Now we'll be able to grow cut-and-come-again lettuce all year long indoors without worrying about them bolting in the heat or freezing in the cold outside.

The few seedlings in the pictures below were transplanted from the Jiffy mini greenhouse into one of the new lettuce beds after some of the bigger leaves were cut for our first lettuce harvest.

At the same time that we started our lettuce seeds (three weeks ago), we also started some jelly bean tomato and cayenne pepper seeds in the Jiffy mini greenhouse.  I know that's too late to start tomato and pepper seeds, but we wanted to experiment and see how seeds would germinate and seedlings would grow in our indoor grow box.  There's also a transplanted basil growing in there, too. So far, everything seems to be growing pretty well.  The tomato and pepper seedlings were transplanted into separate containers last week.

Inside of the grow box before the first lettuce harvest

If you haven't yet, do you want to see how we built this indoor grow box ourselves three weeks ago?

Check out Daphne's Harvest Monday for everyone else's harvests!


Robin said...

Wow, your indoor grow box is working great! I can't believe that you had lettuce to eat in three weeks!

Congrats on your first tomato!! Nothing tastes better then a home grown tomato!

~Holly~ said...

Congrats on your first tomato! Wow, lots of cukes too!! Your grow box seems to be a great success!

Daphne said...

Ah the first tomato is always so well loved. Yours is beautiful.

meemsnyc said...

Your grow box looks amazing! How much energy does that add to your electric bill? I'm curious. The lettuce looks awesome. We used lasagna pans with lids too! It's a great diy version of Jiffy ones!

Annie's Granny said...

Last year I found the flavor of my Early Girls improved as the season went on. I wasn't real impressed with the first few, which had really hard cores in them, but the later ones were quite good. My one plant was a really good producer!

I have to eat a lot of those mini-donuts from the bakery, so I can get the clam shell clear plastic containers for growing seedlings. That's my story, and I'm sticken' to it ;-). Nachos
Belle Grande from Taco Bell make neat containers for my soil blocks. Gardening is fattening, I tell ya.

GrafixMuse said...

I love your grow box. I was going to try to grow lettuce under my seedling lighting.

Last year, I grew a tomato plant on the windowsill for most of the winter as an experiment. It grew and gave us some fruit before it began to suffer from being in a pot that was too small. I am hoping to try a smaller tomato this winter.

thyme2garden said...

Robin - I was amazed how fast the lettuce germinated and grew, too. It's really exciting! Thanks for the first tomato congrats!

* * * * *
Holly - thank you! I think prolific cucumbers are pretty typical, as far as I can by looking at all the other Harvest Monday bloggers. Thank goodness, I was getting tired of measuring my harvests in micro ounces!

* * * * *
Daphne - thank you! And thanks again for hosting Harvest Monday!

* * * * *
meemsnyc - Keith will work on that energy calculation, do a comparison to other grow light options, and post the info later this week. The short answer is that it's about 30 cents a day. I was curious myself, too. Are the lasagna pans working out well for you guys?

* * * * *
Granny - thanks for letting me know about your Early Girls. I'll keep that in mind as I taste more of them this summer.

Regarding your mini-donuts and Taco Bell nachos... sometimes you're so funny I just want to kidnap you and make you my own personal comedian/garden guru.

michelle said...

That's a very pretty tomato. Early Girls are pretty good tasting and reliable early, they are always the first ones that I see (and sometimes buy) at the farmer's market. The grow box looks like fun.

meemsnyc said...

I just saw your comment on my blog. I'm so jealous that your oregano grows so easily. We grew oregano from seed and it was so hard to germinate! It finally did, and I hope it's as prolific as yours!

30 cents a day for the growbox is not bad at all. I'll try to convince my hubby to do one!

thyme2garden said...

GrafixMuse - I bet the lettuce grows pretty well under your grow light. If you try again with a smaller tomato variety this winter, please let me know how it works! We're hoping that the tomato seedlings in our grow box will keep growing and be able to bear fruit eventually. We'll see how it works out!

* * * * *
michelle - thank you! The grow box is really a lot of fun for us. We're constantly coming up with new ideas of things to grow in it. Over the weekend, we talked about growing individual carrots in soda bottles. Think it would work??

* * * * *
meemsnyc - our oregano was germinated from seed last year (July 2009). I think it grew pretty slow, and all the plants were only around a few inches tall at first frost. I didn't know whether they would survive the winter, but they had no choice, as they were planted in the ground. But they survived the winter just fine, and sometime early spring, the plants just took off. They were sending up these 18 inch tall stems/leaves overnight (well it seemed like overnight, but it was probably a few days) and taking over the whole garden bed. They also bolted and had these really pretty purple flowers. I gave the whole oregano bed a nice trim down to about 6 inches, and they are still growing every day. I'm sure it's just a matter of time before your oregano takes off, too!

meemsnyc said...

Thanks for letting me know about the new comment. I'll signup for the feed so that I get them in the future. BTW, you can grow carrots from soda bottles. I'm growing one in a 1.5 liter size Poland Spring bottle right now. It's growing great.

thyme2garden said...

meemsnyc - please post that soda bottle carrot picture sometime, I would love to see it! As for following comments, I usually just click on the little box that says "Email follow-up comments to 'your email'" or the "Subscribe by email" link when I leave someone a comment on their post. That way, I get email copies of all comments that come after mine on that post.

Thomas said...

I like your indoor grow box! It will definitely come in handy during the winter months.

I've never tried Early Girl. Maybe I'll consider it for next year.

Sarah Ruth said...

I'm so impressed by the indoor grow box! Something like that is pretty far down my list right now, but I know where I'm going back to when I need to build one.

Congrats on your first tomato. I'm only getting a few cherries so far. Delicious, but just not the same.

Thanks for your comment - my garden basket is from I passed them at a flower show in Boston a few months ago and just had to pick one up.

Stevie from said...

that grow box is so cool! I may just have to fancy up one of those for winter.

Angela said...

Congrats on your first tomato. My early girl plants are about to produce their first fruit too, maybe two or three more days. In my climate they are pretty tasty, although on the acid side.

If your bean plants are done, you can keep on planting bush beans in succession throughout the season. I plant a new batch every two weeks until the cold arrives.

The Idiot Gardener said...

My tomatoes are still green; very green! I want a bloody red one, and I want it now!

mamaraby said...

The grow box is a fantastic idea! We have problems with the leaves on our bean plants being laced as well. In our case it's the Japanese Beetle that's doing it ( I'd need a whole lot more time (and soapy water) to make a dent enough to keep them from doing it.

johanna said...

Catching up on some blogs. Great posts and the indoor box is doing so well. the salad mix is beautiful. i love the melon posts. Please kep us posted.

Mac said...

Congratulations on your first tomato and grow box lettuce.
You're very creative in using the indoor grow box, I've never thought of using soda bottles to grow carrots.

Ottawa Gardener said...

Well that basil is certainly looking lovely. I've never heard of jellybean tomato. I do know that there are some window sill tomatoes bred for indoor growing. I plan on trying some next year. Your baby lettuce looks very nice as does your first outdoor tomato!

Shawn Ann said...

Your grow box seems to be doing great! You know, I planted 3 types of beans to start with this year, and recently added a fourth. I have one whole 4X4 bed full of beans, Royal Burgundy, Providor, and a Veggie Tales pack, can't remember the variety. funny enough, those veggie tale ones had the worst problems this year right from the beginning. The providor and the royal burgundy have done quite well. They have had some damage from the bugs, but they have still produced well, more than 20 quarts so far and still going! My freezer is full! So, I would try some different varieties next time, maybe it will make a difference with the bugs!

thyme2garden said...

Thomas - thank you! We're really looking forward to using it during the winter months and see how much we can grow in it.

Since Early Girl is the only tomato I've grown so far, I can't say that it's any better than the average home-grown tomato variety, whatever that may be. There are just sooooo many different varieties out there I don't know how anyone would ever try out enough of them to figure out what they like the best!

* * * * *
Sarah Ruth - I'm sure your tomato plants will be producing soon to join your cherries! Thank you for passing on that website where you got the garden basket, I'll check it out.

* * * * *
Stevie - please let me know if you do. We're very curious to see how other people would build their grow boxes.

* * * * *
Angela - thank you! I did plant a couple more squares of bush beans since my first planting in May, but the new ones are all getting eaten up by bugs, too, and they haven't even started producing yet. Arrggggg.

* * * * *
Idiot Gardener - mine were green for the longest time before they finally started turning red. I thought I was going to turn green myself from staring at them for so long. I'm sure yours will turn red any day now.

* * * * *
mamaraby - we have Japanese Beetles in our garden, too, but so far, they are only targeting our basil. They do seem to show up in herds!

* * * * *
johanna - thank you so much. I will post another update in a few weeks with more pictures of the melon plant. Stay tuned!

* * * * *
Mac - thank you! We thought we were clever to come up with the soda bottle carrot idea, but meemsnyc already told me that she's got one going in her garden, and I'm sure it's been done before. Gardeners are very creative that way!

* * * * *
Ottawa Gardener - I think Jelly Bean tomato is related to the general grape/cherry tomato variety. We'll keep a few seedlings in the grow box and put a couple of them outside, to compare the growing progress.

* * * * *
Shawn Ann - you were very smart to grow different varieties of beans. We only had one kind this year, but will definitely get a variety of them going next season. Maybe we'll find some that will stand up to the bugs like yours!

foodgardenkitchen said...

Nice harvest! And thanks for the update on the grow box.

We have 4 Early Girl tomato plants and like them quite well. To me, they're similar to the Better Boy which is one of our favorites. Granted, they're both hybrids but they grow really well because of that and have high yields per plant.

kitsapFG said...

Fun to see how the grow box is performing for you. Seems like you are on to a good design.

The first tomatoes usually do not taste quite as good as the later season ones but they sure taste wonderful all the same. We enjoyed our first one of the season last week and it was eaten with enthusiasm!

prue said...

Yay for the first tomato and here's to more to come

meemsnyc said...

The picture on the packaging of the herb kit had all the herbs packed together. So I followed the instruction and it grew all packed like that. I think that I'll have to thin out the plants like you suggested, like with the basil, I'll have to definitely harvest some of the leaves, and use them in cooking.

thyme2garden said...

foodgardenkitchen - you're welcome for the grow box update! We're quite excited about its good performance so far, and really anxious to find out how it does with growing bigger seedlings/plants. We'll be sure to provide more updates.

As this Early Girl is my first tomato, I don't have anything else to compare it to, but we'll definitely be growing more varieties next year, both hybrid and heirloom, so we can expand our tomato growing knowledge and experience.

* * * * *
kitsapFG - congrats on your first tomato last week! I'll try to pay more attention to how the tomato flavor changes over time, but I'm not sure that I'll be able to remember any difference!

* * * * *
prue - thank you! We're hoping for more tomatoes soon, too!

* * * * *
meemsnyc - yes, the more room you give those herbs to grow, the more they will grow for you. You can even divide and propagate them so you end up with so many more plants (if you want more) than you started out with in the beginning. It's really a lot of fun.

Dan Owen said...

Very nice blog. I like the layout and concise entries. you guys are doing great for it being your first year. I used to live in Chicago and know what a challenge Zone 5 can be. Concerning next season, I usually have extra seed left and would be happy to share. Let me know!

thyme2garden said...

Dan Owen - thank you so much for visiting our blog and also for your compliments! It really made my day to read your comment today. I would love to do a seed exchange with you for next season. I'll be in touch!

Julianna said...

I would recommend not using aluminum pans - the aluminum will leach out minerals and replace them with aluminum which is not good for the body. The same is true for cooking with aluminum. You are better off buying a cheap cake pan - check the 2nd hand stores, they always have a few, or frequent a few garage sales for some. Glass would be best, it's neutral.

I love this grow box, what an amazing set-up - you've inspired me!

Narail Outsource said...

It's such a strange concept to me, having a second round of vegetable gardening. to enjoy each year. I'm used to the winter rest, but I do so miss my fresh vegetables and herbs. A two year old pepper plant, what a thing! Enjoy every bite.

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