Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Vertical garden experiment

Here are some photos of my attempts to grow a few tomatoes indoors. I've discovered there are lots of things you need to pay attention to when growing indoors and in this climate: humidity and lack of airflow are big problems. Going away on holidays didn't help either as most of these plants are now completely withered. The few flowers I've had have shrivelled up and died before even properly opening. Apparently growing indoors can also lead to more sterile pollen (can't remember exactly why now, think the lack of air flow and potential dryness from growing in containers play a role) and the lack of wind means you do need to hand pollinate. Anyway, it has been interesting to do and once I clear out the dead plants this weekend I'm going to plant another few salad and spinach seeds and see if anything will come up and how long it might keep going through the winter. It should stay warm enough here for another seven or eight weeks, it doesn't really start getting cold until well into October (even based on my Irish idea of cold being different than the Germans', many of whom seem to consider anything less than 19 degrees worthy of cardigans and jackets.

This window box had two tumbler toms in it and a spinach plant. It was my most successful looking effort before going away and the most damaged when I got back. The spinach sort of seems to be coming back to life and the tomatoes aren't quite dead but I suspect when I cut off the damaged parts there really won't be a lot left.

And this was the contraption I created to try and get a few things growing. I'm actually pleased with the way it turned out but it's not really suitable for tomatoes, which just need bigger pots than this offered. But I'm going to try it again with just salady things and see how it goes. To the right you can see the other window box with the huge tomato plant. This was the plant I bought as a small one rather than growing from seed. You can see the size of it there and that was after the top three feet or so had bent over and snapped off. It probably survived the best but has only produced a few small flowers. There are a few on it now so I'll see if anything comes of it. I ran out of stakes big enough to tie it up a long time ago.

In the middle is a telephone table which I got from freecycle (it came up just when I was wondering how to get this whole vertical gardening thing going). I needed to have something which was on wheels so that it could be near the windows and thus the light during the day while I was at work but that I would be easily able to move out of the way in the evening when I got home and wanted to open the windows wide (necessary to air out the apartment and cool the place down). On top of it is a frame constructed using the shorter parts of two tomato tents I used in the garden in Ireland. So I have roughly a square foot frame, which just fits nicely on top of the telephone table and is about three feet high. Hanging from one side I have a kind of a metal fence part with some baskets, which is actually a kitchen utensils arrangement which I purchased from eBay for 4 euro. I lined the baskets with some plastic backed material and filled them with soil. I could have done a better job of lining them - there are bits where they leak so there is a towel in permanent position on the floor underneath them. And they are too small for tomatoes but the salad things did seem happy enough. Until they dried out and died that is but that's a minor point.

On the far side (i.e. facing the window) and just barely visible in this picture is a hanging bag, the kind you might use to put your toiletries in when travelling. Again I lined each pocket with some of the plastic backed material and filled it with soil. Unfortunately I didn't take account of how heavy the soil would be and so it was very difficult to get it to hang without completely sagging forwards. I'm glad I tried it though - if I had some way to support it a bit (maybe attaching lengths of bamboo stakes to give it a more solid structure then this could work although again only for smaller plants.

I have a third window box resting through the middle of the frame. I did this mainly to weigh it down and stop it falling over and as the tomatoes grew, tried to train them through the gaps in the metal part so they would get more light. These two plants are the ones with the least amount of damage so although I haven't seen any flowers on them yet they're going to get a good feeding at the weekend (assuming I can find anything to feed them with - so far all of these plants have only had water and whatever was in the compost they were planted it).

So there you have it. My first attempts at vertical indoor gardening. Mostly a plant it up and let's just see what happens effort I have to admit but I don't care about not getting anything edible out of it, I think it has been worth it just to have been able to grow something this year after all. I'll be very excited if I can get some more spinach going to use heading into (and maybe during) winter.

1 comment:

Gavin said...

Looks like a great idea. A nice way to green up your home. It looks similar to those green curtains Kyocera did in Japan.