Farmageddon 2013: Grow lights galore!


I started a new hobby in 2011, the year after we moved into our home in Oak Park: vegetable gardening. I grew zero vegetables before that year. My parents weren’t into vegetable gardening. Before moving to Oak Park, I lived in a condo or apartments or dorms in the urban landscape of Chicago, with little, if any, access to soil.

But in Oak Park, I had back yard large enough for raised beds, with plenty of room for our dog and future kids to run around the play too. And thus, I began my “farm,” as I affectionately refer to it.

Unlike most folks who experiment with a handful of vegetables their first time through (let’s plant a tomato, a cucumber, and pepper seedling to start off!), I tried my hand at over two dozen different vegetables, most of them from seed. Starting with grow lights which my husband bought for me the Christmas before the 2011 growing season, and armed with books instructing me on backyard homesteading, I was energized and ready to go!

There were some great successes my first two growing seasons (the most delicious tomatoes I’ve ever tasted, and spring greens like arugula that kept on giving for months), and some consistent challenges (from evil bunnies eating parts of the crop to close-to-ground veggies like cauliflower and broccoli that consistently refuse to flower). I’ve refused to use any fertilizer or additives save for our homemade compost, and use organic seed starter and soil when available. While we have somewhat raised beds of soil, we’re holding off on creating permanent, wood-enclosed raised beds until we’ve finalized landscaping in the years to come.

I plan to keep a regular feature on my blog for the 2013 growing season: Farmageddon 2013! If you have any suggestions, tips, ideas for making my vegetable garden more robust, or want to share your stories, please comment!

Work plan for 2013

Work plan for 2013

Farmageddon 2013 started in late February when I sowed some celery seeds in old tofu tubs.

Celery just sowed into old tofu tubs

Celery just sowed into old tofu tubs

Celery growing strong transplated into 2" cells

Celery growing strong transplated into 2″ cells

Since then, I’ve indoor sowed multiple seeds under the grow lights. In mid march came the peppers and tomatoes, a few weeks later I sowed broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, fennel, kale, lettuce, okra, and tomatillos. This past weekend saw the last major indoor sowing for the year: corn, cucumbers, winter squash, and pumpkin.

Tomato plants w/ lettuce in the bottom right

Tomato plants

Bell and hot peppers

Bell and hot peppers

Long and stringy cauliflower seedlings

Long and stringy cauliflower seedlings

Hmmm...  why are my Brussels sprouts saggy?

Hmmm… why are my Brussels sprouts saggy?

I also sowed sunflowers this past weekend which, along with tulip bulbs planted last fall, are the only flowers I’ve tried my hand at.

Tulips finally bloomed in the front yard

Tulips finally bloomed in the front yard

The schematics for the back yard vegetable garden

The schematics for the back yard plots and pots

Last year, thanks to a wonderfully warm March, I sowed a number of seeds outdoor and by now, already had my first arugula salad as a result. Due to the wintry spring 2013, however, I delayed much of my outdoor sowing. I did sow some some arugula, beets, kale, and radish into our backyard beds in early April, which has started to sprout. This past weekend, I added peas and lettuce to the mix, transplanted the kale and lettuce that had been growing in the basement, and succession sowed as well.

Arugula and radish sprouting

Arugula and radish sprouting

Transplanted kale

Transplanted kale

Wish me luck on my third journey in the backyard homestead!


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