The Grow Op – an urban gardening experiment

“Danvers Half-Long” Carrots
May 25, 2009, 12:30 pm
Filed under: Dirt and Soil, Plants, Prep, Vegetables | Tags: , , , ,


I decided to run two rows of carrots down the center of my SIP container. I chose these carrots mainly because they grow shorter and thicker. This seemed like a better plan in a container, but also for a purely experimental reason.

The day before i grabbed these seeds, my lovely girlfriend produced a container of something called Vermiculite that she had procured at some point in her adventurous work life. Vermiculite is an ore that is very light and holds moisture very well.* In an interesting coincidence, one of the packages of carrot seeds i was perusing the next day had instructions to use vermiculite to germinate them! An easy decision on which variety of carrots to plant, then.

The two rows of light brown material in the picture above is vermiculite, which i spaced some carrot seeds along in, and then loosely covered with a small amount of soil. In some of my previously posted pictures of the SIP you also may notice a piece of burlap. This helps prevent a crust from developing on the soil, and allows the delicate carrot sprouts to more easily break the soil. Carrots in general take about 3 weeks to sprout.

Which, FYI, HAPPENED TODAY!!! I was inspecting the SIP earlier today, and noticed a little sprout coming up through the burlap, and when i pulled the burlap away – there were dozens! I think this is a little on the fast side, which i credit to the vermiculite being lightweight and easy for the sprouts to push out of.

I tell ya, seeing those first sprouts after weeks of waiting is surprisingly exhilarating!

In a note unrelated to carrots, check out the cucumbers in the post below compared to how they look here. This pick was taken the day i transplanted them, while the one below was about 2 weeks later.

*While there are concerns surrounding vermiculite and asbestos (they develop near each other in deposits), it can still be handy in the garden. Do a little research. If there is a lot of dust in your vermiculite, then it is probably not safe to work with. Otherwise it is not in and of itself toxic.


Self-Irrigating Planter
May 21, 2009, 10:38 am
Filed under: Dirt and Soil, Information, Prep | Tags: , ,


This is a strategy that i learned from via Homegrown Evolution I won’t rehash all the steps here. The instructions were pretty clear, although it was harder than I expected finding non-PVC piping in the heart of the city! I also decided to skip the step where you put a tarp or otherwise cover the top of the planter. This may have been a mistake, however, since the top of the soil seems a little drier than i would like. I may start watering lightly if it seems really dry, but ideally this should not be necessary – you should never have to water this container. Why do this in my indoor garden? No good reason really, other than less water waste and it was fun to try.

For those of you who are too lazy to follow links, these containers have a water reservoir in them, as well as a sieve full of soil in the center of said reservoir that allows water to diffuse up into the rest of the soil. All that’s necessary is keeping the reservoir (somewhat) full.

May 14, 2009, 12:23 pm
Filed under: Plants, Prep | Tags: , , ,

Artichoke sprouts

I have some artichoke plants growing in a 15 inch planter. two have sprouted so far, as pictured above. They are a little hard to make out, because they are pretty small right now, but i had to post a pic because I couldn’t be prouder of the little guys! I doubt the container can handle more than that, but i planted about 8 seeds, to ensure at least 1 or 2 sprouts. They take 2-3 weeks to germinate, so I am expecting at least a few more sprouts(gifts, perhaps!).

While seedlings are way easier, there is nothing more rewarding than those first new sprouts when you plant from seed.

I think this is going to be a really neat plant to grow, and i am looking forward to it. This is a common globe artichoke, which is a perennial (most artichokes are). They can sometimes take a full season before they start producing, and definitely there is supposed to be significantly better production in the second year. I did find Imperial Star seeds at Which are supposed to produce within 90 days, and look quite pretty. But i decided to try the more traditional ones for now.

Roll Call
May 13, 2009, 10:17 pm
Filed under: Information, Plants, Prep | Tags: , , , , ,

OK so it has been awhile since i actually talked about real plants that are living (for now) in my apartment. Since they are a pretty big part of a garden, I will give you a comprehensive update on what is now growing, my process for adding them to the garden, and my expectations. I will post these over the next couple days, in the interest of dragging it out like a daytime drama.

See? You are already addicted! Lets start with a review:

Herbs (Rosemary, Savory, Parsley, Oregano): These guys are doing ok on my living room window sill, and will soon migrate to the sun room. I added an Italian Basil plant, which is doing tremendously well, as Basil apparently is known for. It still makes me feel successful, though. The only plant that seems to be struggling a little is the Rosemary – it tends to dry out, As I was warned it might. I hope that the move to the much more humid sun room will fix this.

Dark Opal Basil: I originally was going to plant this with the other herbs, but changed my mind for several reasons. First, I wanted to grow a more traditional strain of basil. Second, the Dark Opal is a beautiful plant, and will look beautiful fully developed in its own pot – and it could probably live anywhere in the house, including the kitchen. I also had so many healthy sprouts that I had to split a bunch out of the seedling container I had. I now have about 6 Dark Opal plants, which I plan to give away as a cheap gift idea to my more culinary or botanical friends*.

“The Big Bite” Tomatoes: I inverted two tomato plants in buckets last week (there is a protracted demo in my David Suzuki Video). They are doing ok for now – I think they are still adjusting to their new alternative lifestyle. They are growing in some weird directions right now, but they seem to be growing – and that is whats important!

Stay tuned for the new additions…

*If you receive a basil plant from me as a gift, they are not cheap at all and exact a steep emotional cost to give away, as they are like my little baby children

The Video
May 8, 2009, 10:21 pm
Filed under: David Suzuki, Plants, Prep

I have finished my video for David Suzuki Digs My Garden.

Gabe Fairbrother – Producer & Host
Sam Trounce – Editor
Shane Nasmith – Camera
Pat Kirby – Production Assistant

Clear and Present Gardening
May 6, 2009, 12:52 am
Filed under: Prep

OK! So I have successfully cleared the sun room out. It took an awful lot of organizing, but it is done. So now the fun begins. But first, some preparation: Since the room is carpeted I was required to protect it. I decided to line the floors with a plastic painting sheet, turning it up at the edges of the floor and pinning it with rebar. I tried to come up with a better way to pin the plastic down, but rebar just seemed perfect – its small, heavy, and inobtrusive. It seems to work pretty well for now.

Stay tuned for gardening magic.

April 23, 2009, 12:38 am
Filed under: Herbs, Prep | Tags: , , , ,

Despite my categorical failure to get my sun room cleared out this past weekend, I did make an effort to get something into the ground: Herbs.

My teeny herb garden

As you can see it is in a container, and indoors. I will pass along a warning that I received from my friendly neighbourhood garden store clerk: Herbs don’t tend to do well indoors, with a few exceptions; basil, cilantro and chives. If you know of some others, feel free to discuss in the comments. Apparently this has to due with the relative humidity in the average household – the plants tend to dry out. I have decided to take the risk. I have (from left to right) curry (this might not be edible sadly, but it smells great!), winter savory, oregano, rosemary, and parsley (the space will be for basil, discussed below). I am hoping that consistent fresh air from the window and the occasional spritz of water on the foliage will keep them healthy. If not, i may have to stash them somewhere in my courtyard, guerrilla gardener style! Having herbs in a container should be fine, as long as their is ample drainage.

Dark Opal Basil
The garden store did not have a basil plant started, so i decided to start some from seed. I found a very interesting type of basil called Dark Opal. Basil is very easy to grow from seed (apparently). I have put about 1/2 dozen seeds in a small plant pot about 6mm into the soil. I soaked the soil with water, and now wait for the botanical magic to start! I will post pics once I get some sprouts.

More on curry later.