Like a lot of gardeners, your friendly, year-round Planet Natural blogger likes to keep the harvest going even when the snow flies. That often means growing a few things indoors. Elizabeth Millard’s new book (Cool Springs Press) makes an argument for growing vegetables indoors 12-months a year.
Millard doesn’t just do the easy stuff that lots of us do, like grow sprouts in jars and herbs in pots on the windowsill. She wants us to broaden our horizons with pea and popcorn shoots, wheat grass and mushrooms. She has chapters on indoor growing of potatoes, beets, chile peppers and other crops that most of us would rather tackle during the outdoor growing season. In short, she’s an enthusiast.
We when growing something like chard, kale, or lettuce. She treats everything like a house plant. Everything gets its own pot and everything serves double, decorative duty. You might enjoy eating the modest amount of greens you can grow in a standard pot in a single sitting, but you’ll enjoy the presence of healthy growing greens for days on end.
We also like her approach to gardening. She’s all about thinking ahead before you order seeds and potting soil willy-nilly. She urges us to prepare everything before planting and being prepared for any needs that might arise. She wants us to decide which places in our home plants will go before we put them there as well as the conditions they’ll need maintained.
There’s also a page titled “Attitude” that suggests indoor growers need to remain positive. She writes:
It can feel serious as you deal with aphids, yellowing leaves, lack of germination, and occasional mold incidents, but even with those challenges, it’s still possible to see this whole venture as an experiment.
Millard lives in Minnesota so we figure she knows how hard it is up north, no matter how warm it stays inside, to get enough light even on a south-facing window sill in the dead of winter. And she has the experience to warn that a window can be your friend and your enemy.
Still, we think she underplays the importance of artificial light (though she uses an LED lighting for some of her plants) when growing things like greens, tomatoes, peppers, even leafy herbs indoors. Light is especially critical for continuous and productive growth. She does explain your various lighting choices, recommends the T5 fluorescents as cost efficient and effective, and makes sure we know to keep our plants close to the light source. But we don’t catch a definitive statement about the lighting required to grow harvestable results rather than just maintain the plants ’til spring comes.
We will give her credit for emphasizing something that, looking back, your apologetic PN blogger admits he didn’t emphasize enough: the importance of air movement around plants grown indoors. Without air circulation, plants, especially leafy greens, are more susceptible to problems. Millard uses small fans to make sure there’s enough mold-and-CO2-moving air passing over the leaves of her plants.
And, too, if you are only growing sprouts and microgreens, you’ll want this book. Millard gives among the best and most comprehensive, family-sized directions to growing and enjoying these little nutrition powerhouses as we’ve seen. Did we mention that this book has excellent color photos that are both things of instruction and beauty? If only my indoor plants looked so attractive.