Center County Farmers and Growers Offer Tips for Indoor Gardening

Excited for gardening season, but don’t have the space for rows and rows of your favorite Pennsylvania produce? For the impatient green thumb with limited or no outdoor space, farmers and growers in Center County offer a host of tips and tricks for getting the biggest harvest from some of the smallest spaces, with a focus on gardening. culinary, for easy additions to your quickest weeknight. meal.

It all starts with choosing the right place. Sunny patios, porches, verandas or windowsills are desirable, says Ethan Davis, owner of Strong Roots Organic Herb & Vegetable Farm in Penns Valley. Kim Tait, owner of Tait Farm Foods in Center Hall, adds that herbs tend to prefer window sills facing south or west.

While window sill growing is preferable to using artificial grow lights, Hector Troyer, a farmer at Sowers Market urban farm in Houserville, notes that “modern windows tend to block out more light than larger windows. old ones, which makes them less desirable for lighting, but they also block out more cold.” He notes that most houseplants grow best between 60 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once you’ve identified the best space for your culinary garden, it’s time to pick your plants. Herbs are recommended for kitchen windowsills, but if you have a patio or deck, you can expand your approach to include more products.

“Compact basil, cilantro, thyme, chives, rosemary, oregano and other fresh herbs are perfect for a kitchen windowsill. use. Just use a sharp pair of scissors to snip them whenever you want. They’ll grow back,” Davis said. “If you have a patio, (you can) grow cherry tomatoes, hot peppers, bell peppers, or eggplant, (or) kale, spinach, arugula (and) lettuce You can get about a pound of greens for every one foot by three foot planting box You might get three or four crops of lettuce depending on the variety.Same on arugula.Spinach and baby kale are slower growing.Kale, if you grow it full size, will last until a severe frost.

For faster greens without a patio or deck, Bear Meadows Microgreens owner Mindy Worrick recommends — what else? — microgreens. She says many varieties only need soil, water and light to produce fresh greens within 10 days. While the optimal growing conditions are around 70 degrees Fahrenheit and 40% humidity, this specificity is not crucial and even providing airflow to avoid mold issues during growth is as simple as d add a fan to your space.

“They’re very forgiving,” she said. “I will always grow microgreens for food. There is so little wastage compared to buying salads and other salad ingredients… The nutrition is superior to ripe vegetables, which require much more time and resources to grow, including the time needed to transport them to the stores. They really are great plants to grow indoors (and) exciting for kids and everyone else because they grow so quickly and easily.

Troyer also recommends fast-growing greens and herbs, noting that pea shoots can be ready to eat in as little as 10 days and alfalfa sprouts in as little as seven days. Radish leaves are harvestable in a week, while basil microgreens are harvestable in about 14 days.

But what if you are more accustomed to growing outdoors? If this is your first time trying a culinary garden this year, it’s important to realize the different challenges you’ll face when moving your produce indoors.

“Growing indoors is very different from growing outdoors,” Troyer said. “Indoor plants require special attention. They lack the benefit of nature’s resilience that outdoor plants usually enjoy. You completely control their environment, for better or for worse. He says to closely monitor temperature, soil moisture, light levels, and nutrient quality, and to always use high-quality potting soil purchased from a greenhouse or nursery supply store (his recommendation is Martin’s Garden Center in Tyrone).

Finally, be sure to water and nurture your culinary garden appropriately. Overwatering can be a big problem for home growers. Davis says to let the plants dry out between waterings, but not to let them “dry out the bones.” When you find a balance with your watering, it is also important to find a balance with plant food and fertilizers. He adds that plant foods containing “nitrogen (N) (are) good for vegetative growth. Phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) are good for flowering and fruiting. Don’t over-fertilize with N or you won’t get as much fruit.

Of course, even with a world of care and precaution, if you don’t find that your culinary garden is producing as much as you want, the farmers and growers above can also help. All offer locally grown produce directly to the consumer or through the region’s farmers’ markets.

Holly Riddle is a freelance writer specializing in food, travel and lifestyle. She can be contacted at [email protected]