Thursday, February 16, 2012

Windowsill Garden February Update

Spider plant flower

It's been a while since I first told you about our windowsill garden, but we're still plugging away at this experiment! I say experiment, because as you will see, we've had some things that are going well, some things that we've managed to make go better, and some things that are clearly failing. (Ahem, cilantro.)

The picture at the top of the post is our spider plant. It grew a really long shoot that we thought would be a baby spider plant, but has instead been flowering for over a week! They are pretty little white flowers, that open and close each day. I'm not sure what will happen next, but the flowers are nice to look at. 

We've had some very cold days in the past few weeks, and the windowsill wasn't the warmest place. Aside from setting up a space heater in the room (because I work in this room, not just for the plants!), we also positioned a desk lamp over the plants to provide some extra light and heat. Since the weather has returned to more moderate winter temperatures, the desk lamp has returned to my desk.

We also added a UVB bulb (sold specifically for plants, Nick had it leftover from an aquarium), because I do not think our windowsill gets nearly enough light. The windowsill faces east, so we get some morning light, but it is not very strong (especially because it is winter).  I noticed that a lot of plants had sprouted, then stalled. They got their first two leaves, but didn't produce any more. Also, they were growing very scraggly/leggy - long and skinny, to the point some could not support themselves well. A brief amount of research indicated that insufficient light was more that likely the culprit. We added the UVB bulb less than a week ago, and we've already seen a huge improvement - the plants are all producing new leaves and just seem stronger.

The UVB bulb is in a cheap strip light that we have propped up on some boxes. Not exactly glamorous, but it works for now. (If you're trying your own windowsill garden, and think you might need one, fortunately neither the strip light or bulb cost very much, and you should be able to find them at Wal-mart or somewhere similar.)  In the next month or so, we'll be purchasing some items for seed starting and the outdoor container garden, so we plan to keep the setup as-is for now and re-evaluate later. 

Windowsill garden feb 16

I have not planted new seeds for any of the plants. I think I may harvest most of the mesclun micro greens and broccoli sprouts this week, and add some new seeds there. I'm wondering if I need to add new seeds to other pots where we've had little or poor germination. I might, because I can always thin sprouts - but if there are no sprouts, we won't have any plants!

I haven't been harvesting many bean sprouts - mostly because I'm enjoying watching them grow wildly. I will probably thin them soon, and perhaps try planting a few other beans from the pantry, just for fun.

Things that are still going well:

Our parsley continues to thrive. I've been harvesting some of it (I used it in this tofu falafel) and it seems to be quite healthy.


We have one adorable Tom Thumb lettuce baby plant.  This is one of the pots I think I need to add some new seeds to, because none of the other seeds germinated.

Tom thumb sprout

The mesclun greens sprouts are now micro-greens level. I plan to harvest most of these this week, and replant some new seeds. Same thing with the broccoli sprouts, which are definitely grown a little past where I planned. I'm hoping that with the UVB bulb, any new sprouts won't be quite so leggy.


We also still only have one chive that germinated. It's healthy, but lonely!

Our swiss chard has finally started growing more leaves, and I'm hopeful for big improvements with the UVB bulb. 

Swiss chard

The spinach looks very scraggly, but is improving with the UVB bulb. Unfortunately, it was one of the plants closest to the desk lamp I added for heat, and it looks like one of the sprouts may have decided to "bolt" or go to seed (this is usually caused by too-hot conditions). The wilted/shriveled looking leaves are actually the original sprout leaves, which withered away when the new baby plant leaves came in. 


The cilantro is in a sorry state. Although three seeds finally germinated, they shriveled and died shortly thereafter. The windowsill might just be too cold for them. I'm going to try re-planting this week, but we might not get any cilantro out of this windowsill. Perhaps I should just plant something else in that pot, to see if it will grow.

Finally, a neat idea I picked up on pinterest. If you place the white ends that you trim off of green onions (purchased from the store) in a glass jar with some water, they will grow new green onions. We started this a week or so ago, and the results are already quite promising! I've been changing the water every few days, and adding onion ends as we use them up. 

Green onion

So, now you know how our garden grows! Next month, we'll hopefully be starting some seeds for summer, and with any luck, there will be an even bigger improvement in the windowsill garden. 

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