I am so excited Spring is here and we can start to enjoy local produce as the foundation of our meals again. I love eating healthier with a plant-based diet, but it can be expensive so I got inspired to grow some foods myself. It shouldn’t be more expensive to eat a salad than a burger, given the inputs that go into both, but vegetable farmers don’t get subsidized by the USDA for some reason, so that is that..
My husband and I cleaned out our coat closet for a hydroponics set-up and visited our local hydroponics store…and the guy was like “you should just use containers.” He said that because we are looking for leafy greens and herbs, they are quick to grow and don’t need much light. If we were interested in fruit or more light-intensive vegetables, he thought a hydroponic set-up would make more sense. So I quickly filled the closet back up with sewing notions and cleaning supplies 🙂
After learning a little more about how important soil is–nutritionally for the veggies, as well as for our own gut microbiome–I totally agree about hydroponics not being the correct choice for our needs. In terms of growing indoors, with hydroponics out and containers in, I am not sure how to manage my dream of an indoor salad garden in winter. For now, however, the lettuce plants will do great in the cool spring weather we are enjoying right now. I can figure some solution for the harsh summer sun by the time it arrives, I hope!
I read Apartment Gardening and Small-Space Container Gardening to evaluate our deck space and light situation. I have had success with peppers in the past, but that is about it; the squirrels always beat me to the tomato and strawberry fruit, so I have given up on them. Rather than battle squirrels for food, I am just going to grow stuff they don’t like, like lettuce. I will definitely do an array of peppers when summer arrives. The peppers thrive on our deck and the squirrels don’t like them–knock on wood they haven’t expanded their tastes in the last few years.
I planned to start some lettuce from seeds this winter, but delayed too long and had to go for plants instead. Watching a plant grow from seed is a really magical thing and I want to share it with Biddi. She wasn’t quite old enough to appreciate it in winter, and so I procrastinated. She will love it next year, or maybe even this summer, but it didn’t happen for the lettuce.
I took B to the local nursery and she was in awe! She rode around on the lower deck of the little cart and jumped out periodically to smell flowers. It was pretty hysterical, by the time we left she was covered in pollen like a little bumble bee. I bought pink snap dragons and a white bleeding heart plant for some height. I picked out four shades of my favorite flower, ranunculus, and some pretty magenta alyssum which will last all summer. The ranunculus is ridiculous–but it only lasts a few weeks (if I’m lucky) and then rip it and ditch it. The bleeding heart is another story, I plan to plant that in our courtyard in a few months because it is adorable and survives the winter in up to Zone 3.
Anyway, the plants are beautiful, and I have already seen some bees and butterflies. To say that planting was a new experience would be an understatement! After the morning soaking plants and soil, breaking up root balls and backfilling, Biddi took the best nap she has had in an eon! I would stop short of saying it qualified as “fun,” because B hates getting dirty and by the end she was crying about the dirt. I asked her if she wanted gloves next time we planted and she said “Yeah!”
We have a huge 48″ planter on our deck and after doing some chatting at the gardening store, I decided on 16 plants: mesclun, butter lettuce, and green and red leaf lettuce, which all came in 4-plant flats. The planter is wire-frames, so I also got a coconut husk liner, which is great for a single season and easy to discard when the snow arrives. I also grabbed some basil and greek oregano for a mini table-top herb garden–I just couldn’t help myself. Oregano is so good on my greek salad and the fresher, the better!
Vegan Greek Salad Recipe* (serves 4)
- 1 head of romaine–or 4 handfuls of lettuce, right out of the garden
- 1 cubanelle pepper, seeded and diced
- 1/2 cucumber, seeded and diced
- about 15 kalamata olives (I prefer from the olive bar)
- about 15 peppadew peppers, quartered (from the olive bar)
- 4 green onions
- 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved (preferably Sun Golds, in season)
- 1 brick of tofu, drained and pressed for 30 minutes, then cubed into large chunks
- 1-2 Avocados, halved and cubed
- 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
- juice of 2-3 limes
- salt and pepper
- splash of red wine vinegar
- Whisk in 1/2 cup high quality olive oil