Saturday, January 17, 2015

Indoor Growing and a Word About Potatoes

If you cannot wait for spring, why not try growing a few veggies and herbs indoors this winter? A sunny windowsill or some artificial light will allow you not only to satisfy your gardening urge, but also to provide some welcome, out-of-season freshness in the kitchen.

If you have a south-facing window, you should be able to grow shade-tolerant greens and herbs. Some good ones to try are chervil, cilantro, and chives, all of which will grow without full sun. (In winter in Tennessee, a south-facing window is not nearly as bright as full summer sun.) With the addition of light, you can branch out into more demanding crops, like arugula, lettuce and corn salad.

I currently have an LED unit capable of illuminating about four square feet of growing space. We have lettuce, arugula, chives, chervil, cilantro, parsley and bak choy all growing well. LED lighting produces a lot of illumination for very little electricity. This unit, which is a prototype obtained from the manufacturer, consumes only 15 watts.

In two months, it will be time to plant potatoes. I mention this now, because you should now be ordering your seed potatoes online, if you want something other than the standard offerings we see around here. In my experience, Kennebec is the most common seed potato in the garden centers, with Red Pontiac being a close second. While I have seen heirlooms, most notably Irish Cobbler, available in recent years, they are not common. Another one you can often find is Yukon Gold, which is not only a great all-purpose potato but a good keeper, something important for home gardeners.

Contrary to popular belief, you can plant potatoes from the grocery store and they will grow. However, using them is not a good idea, as you may bring potato viruses, of which there are several, into your garden, making it difficult thereafter to produce potatoes. Play it safe and purchase certified virus free seed potatoes from a garden center or catalog.

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