Looking to grow vegetables indoors? Try this ingenious new idea. It makes organic gardening in your own home cheaper than ever because it uses recyclable materials. This clever system is called GrowFlutes. An indoor GrowFlute will grow you almost any small plant, edible or otherwise, decoratively and conveniently.
First, cut the bottom off a large one or two pint clear cola or squash bottle, around four inches from the bottom. Don't throw this end-piece away. It will provide a useful seed pot. Retain the neck of the bottle. Remove the cap.
Now you have a clear 'flute' around nine inches high. It will grow almost any salad, herb or small vegetable plant. The simplest way to show its versatility is to start with dandelions.
Dandelions are a beautiful - and edible - indoor plant.
Dig a fresh dandelion root from your garden. Trim away the larger leaves and insert that spindly root into the neck of your GrowFlute. Turn the flute upside down. Now put a capillary cord into the flute. This can be any non-degradable fibre like a shoe lace, or a strip cut from nylon socks or stockings and twisted together. Wind it around the taproot. Now add damp compost to the bottle and tamp it down firmly.
Put your GrowFlute on a tray, such as the plastic packs used by supermarkets for perishable foods.
Raise the flute a half-inch high on gravel or even cut-down corks. Don't worry about roots growing in the gravel. As soon as they meet the air, they'll dive back again!
Fill the saucer with water and make sure your capillary cord is well steeped too. Now expose your flute to good light, such as a south-facing window. In a week or so you'll be rewarded with fresh lush leafy, and edible, growth. One term for this system is ring culture but do it this way and it becomes an ornament in the home - beautiful as well as productive.
You don't need a garden to raise delicious food
You can cut the leaves two or three times a week and gain fresh-food vitamins without even needing to leave your house. Eventually, they may flower into a beautiful blossom. (Just don't let them go to seed or you'll be cropping fresh dandelions from your curtains.)
For long-term food production, the GrowFlute will need feeding after a few weeks. The ideal organic feeds are nettle or comfrey infusions but do be careful about using them indoors. They have a powerful smell.
Of course, dandelions are just one possible candidate for your GrowFlute. Any small plant can be grown in a GrowFlute, either from a seedling or the seed itself. Once the plant has grown good roots, the flute can be watered simply by filling the saucer. The capillary cord will keep the compost moist.
Grow salad plants in the depths of winter
Good crops of common beans (Phaseolus vulgaris) and broad beans can be grown successfully in GrowFlutes, indoors on a south-facing window sill, even in December. Water, food and light are what legumes need most, rather than space for their roots.
A great indoor gardening idea is to put tinfoil or metallic 'holographic' gift wrap paper under, and ideally behind, any plants you grow on your windowsill to throw back the light.
The GrowFlute is a modern twist on the 'forcing' methods used by old-time gardeners. Our grandparents could grow just about any plant, even exotica like pineapples and melons, out of season and in temperate climates using hothouses. But we don't need a hothouse; our own homes are warm enough! One joy of GrowFlutes is that, if you have a windowsill filled with these salad machines, you can add an inch of water to the tray and go on holiday.
They're decorative too! Paint the outside of the flutes before you fill them and rest them in a matching painted saucer. And you'll have a very pretty room decoration.
A wicked idea for a dinner party is to place a GrowFlute beside each guest and let them cut their own fresh salads. Your dinner party will certainly be remembered!
Dr John Yeoman PhD is founder of the information network for natural gardening ideas, the Gardening Guild. Enjoy dozens of wily plans to grow more food in your garden with less money and labor in his practical manual Lazy Secrets for Natural Gardening Success. Claim it for free at: http://www.gardeningguild.org/lazy
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