It started with a few seeds last year, some rainbow chard and kale. The seeds didn’t grow exactly well. I placed them in the windows of the sunniest room of the house, but it still wasn’t enough sunlight, they eventually got “leggy” — reaching out for the sun — not growing straight up.
So we took it up a notch this spring and from our previous experience we found that we grew in knowledge just as much as our seedlings have grown in size this season. Through our research and our own methods of trial and error we realized that if we’re going to start our seedlings indoors — getting a head start on a relatively short growing season — and save money on buying plants we needed to make some long-term investments.
So we bought several $17 fluorescent shop lights and converted them into grow lights. No muss no fuss really, we just added some 6500k fluorescent bulbs we found at the hardware store. Many retail stores will sell high-end specialty grow lights, priced around a $100 or so, but in reality all that really matters is the bulb we put in the light fixture. It just needs to be over 5600k, which is the actual temperature of daylight.
It was a small investment on something we’ll have for years to come. Especially when we got little to no sun in the house. We put fluorescent bulbs in these lights, strung them overhead and voila — the veggies started taking off.
We also invested this year in some organic fertilizer. Skeptical as I was at first, I did a fair bit of research and found a fertilizer composed of bat guano and earthworm castings. Its smell, while not appealing to me, probably tastes pretty delicious to the eggplant, cucumber, melon and flower seedlings growing in the basement right now.
This will be our fourth year as gardeners, and we have certainly progressed through the last few years. I remember overwatering my tomatoes to the point they developed the early blight, planting vegetables that need 14 hours of direct sunlight in the shade, and wondering what is happening to my garden.
And now we know how to carefully prune tomatoes, prevent blight with by watering low, and we even began cultivating our front yard because of the abundance of sunlight it receives.
Everything an urban homesteader does is really touch and go — a learning experience working hand in hand with mother nature and reality. So what worked this year may or may not work many repeated times over and over, but then a fellow homesteader or even a Google search will yield an entirely new or more efficient method of getting the job done.
In time we hope to grow all of our own food, preserve it, share it with friends, neighbors and family. But for now we’re just pleased to be growing just as the vegetables we have started in our basement are—stronger each day, little hardier at life, able to withstand what the world throws at us.
Together we grow; we also grow individually — assisting one another in the cultivation of life — pushing each other to reach our truest potential just as we enrich the soil of our little seedlings, wanting them to be strongest.
Growing these little plants has taught us much about life — patience, respect, acclimation when things don’t work as planned. And it’s taught us never to conform to what’s deemed as normal, like turning our front yard into a vegetable garden, or choosing heritage seeds rather than easily obtained commercial GMO seeds.
We’ve worked hard through many of the challenges of being gardeners and we’ve worked through many personal challenges — growing, developing and finding [still finding] ourselves.
Continuing our journey is not simple, content not with following tradition we will discover our path, our way of growing, our way of realizing life. Understanding always that we are just as much seeds as our eggplants and cucumbers are.