Tag Archives: container gardening

How It Works: Grow Light Frame for Indoor Gardening

grow light frameAs I shared in my garden plan, I am growing tomatoes and peppers from seed this year. While I have a sunny living room, I knew the 3-4 hours of direct light would not be enough for my growing seedlings. I am supplementing natural light with grow lights.

When it came to deciding how to set up grow lights, I wanted a setup that would be:

  1. Economical
  2. Efficient
  3. Portable/flexible

I think I’ve found the setup that meets these criteria.

After research, I decided that a PVC light frame would be the best for my purposes. I mostly followed the tutorial I found on My Square Foot Garden. I made some adjustments, which you can find in my directions below.

1. I measured my space to determine what size frame I wanted. I did not alter the original directions in this respect as it was just the right size for my living room.

2. I gathered my materials. I ended up going with 3/4″ PVC pipe and fittings as they didn’t have everything I needed in 1″ size. I bought one 10′ pipe and cut it into the four 5″ pieces, two 24″ pieces and one 52″ pieces that were recommended.  Home Depot had a cutting station with a hacksaw I could use to measure and cut easily. It was also much easier to haul the pieces home than a 10′ pipe.

In addition to the pipe pieces, you will need 2 Ts, 2 90-degree elbows and 4 caps.


3. I snapped everything together. This took me less than 10 minutes. No need to use glue: it will stay all together. Plus, this makes it easy to take down and store when I don’t need it.

PVC light frame

How much this setup cost me:

3/4″ PVC and fittings to make the  frame: $7.34
2 LED grow lights: $22.99 each
2 clamp lamps: $9.49 each
Total: $72.30

tomato seedlings
My tomato seedlings are starting to really grow. This is 4 weeks after planting.

This setup definitely reaches my goals I outlined above. The LED lights provides just the wavelengths that the plants can use. At 12 watts each, it would cost me $1.50/month to run these full time. Totally reasonable.

Since they’re LED, they also will last a long time: over 5 years of continuous use. I’m sure I’ll add more lights to it in the future, but for now sliding my two lamps from side to side helps me ensure my seedlings get 12-18 hours of light a day.

The bonus of starting so much from seed this year is that I get to enjoy gardening for a larger part of the year.

Ronnica’s Garden Plan, 2016

balcony garden in evening sunThis may be the blog post that I’ve spent the most time on. I know that I’ve spent at least 5 or 6 hours before I even started typing the first sentence.

Clearly, I take gardening very seriously.

Daydreaming about gardening is one of my favorite things to do. Before you have planted your first seed, you can imagine months of produce. Powdery mildew, late-coming spring and windy days do not appear in my daydreams, so the fruit is always abundant.

I think that is one of the exciting things about gardening: you’re always trying to game the weather, elements and pests. What choices will provide the highest yields this year?

What’s New

The biggest new thing I’m attempting this year is to grow my tomatoes and peppers from seed. I plan on completing the transition of part of my living room into a plant nursery in order to make the most advantageous environment for them.

I want to grow my plants from seed for a few reasons:

1. Save seeds. I’ve had a dream to save my own seeds for a while now. In order to do so, you have to have heirloom (not hybrid) plants.

2. Save money. I spent $8.50 for heirloom seeds, instead of twice as much for hybrid plants. If I’m successful in saving seeds, this may be my last expenditure for these seeds until I want to add another variety when I have more garden space.

3. It’s a fun challenge. There’s a reason kids get excited about growing their own plants from seed: it’s exciting.

What I’m Growing

garden seedsVeggies: cucumbers, onions, snap peas, bell peppers, tomatoes (Amish paste), spinach, zucchini
Herbs: basil, chives, cilantro, dill, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, thyme
Flowers: lavender, nasturium, likely some others

Last year I only grew nasturium, but I want to up my ante for flowers. They are the best use of my hanging baskets, and I want to grow varieties that will be useful for bees and butterflies as well as good companions for my veggies and herbs.

I still have a couple of weeks before I can start to plant, even indoors. But when it’s time, I’ll be ready!

What are you wanting to grow this year?

My Winter Garden

As the nights (and days) started getting cooler her in Denver a few weeks ago, I transitioned my balcony garden to a living room garden.

Between powdery mildew and a cool/overcast May, I didn’t have as much success outside this summer as I would have liked, but I learned a lot and know steps to take to have a more productive garden next year. (Vinegar water did nothing to the powdery mildew, but watered-down milk did.)

One thing that will help my garden next year be more productive is if I can get a head start. I don’t have the space to make a makeshift greenhouse, but I can take advantage of my sunny living room.

So this year, I’m growing a winter garden.

I brought the herbs I had left inside. I’m hoping to keep them growing through the winter so I don’t have to start anew from seed next year. Having them inside has had the added bonus of making them more accessible to use fresh. These are the herbs I brought inside:


I’m also trying to grow again a few that I didn’t have a lot of luck with outside this year. I already had the seeds, so it is definitely worth trying. I’m trying this with thyme and cilantro (and may try chives, too).

And then there is the final plant I’m attempting to grow: a tomato plant.

A month ago, I cut off a few suckers from my tomato plants and placed them in containers of water. I refreshed the water a few times, and after 2 weeks roots had grown that are 3-4 inches long:

tomato sucker roots

I then planted the now-rooted suckers in new containers. One shriveled up, but the other successfully took root and now looks like this:

planted tomato sucker

I don’t know what will happen with this plant, but it doesn’t really hurt to try.

While my winter garden has settled in front of my sunny sliding glass window, I know that won’t be enough light as the days are getting shorter and shorter. I’m supplementing daylight with an LED grow light (the first purchase from my homesteading fund…much better than Diet Dr Pepper!).

Here’s my entire garden set up:

indoor garden under grow light

I’m happy to see what happens with my little garden going forward. So far, they seem to enjoy their new set up, and it’s great to have so much green inside as everything outside is going brown.

Are you trying to grow something inside this winter?

Using Herbs

growing oregano and basil
Oregano and basil. These window boxes helped me make great use of my balcony space!

I’m pretty passionate about growing your own food. Ideally, I’d love to be able to grow at least half of my own food (or more??) and just have to supplement my garden with staples such as flour, rice and beans. To continue my dream, I would love to one day be able to barter for the things that I can’t grow with the things that I do grow.

Not only do I get great joy from growing my own food, I want to save money and be less dependent on foods shipped from far away (expending greenhouse gases into the air we breathe).

Obviously, I’m not there yet. I likely won’t be until I get a yard. But while I still have my balcony garden, there are many things I can grow in a small space, the easiest of which is likely herbs.

Before I go much further, I should admit that I’m not a gourmet cook. I have learned to use herbs based on my own personal tastes. My spice and herb vocabulary has grown from maybe a half dozen when I first started out on my own. I’m constantly expanding what I know how to use and experimenting to see what I like best.

This year I tried growing quite a few herbs but only got a few to successfully grow. It’s much harder to start seeds here since it’s so dry! I ended up with five: basil, oregano, sage, rosemary and parsley.

Picked these herbs to put in a breakfast casserole.
Picked these herbs to use in a breakfast casserole.

Those that I didn’t successfully grow: cilantro (though I got some from a friend!), dill and thyme. I’ll also be trying to grow garlic over the winter.

Now that I’ve gotten these going, how am I going to use them year-round?

1. Fresh. Obviously, this is the best way to use herbs. It’s such a change of pace from store-bought dried herbs so I’m still getting the proportions correct.

When the frost comes (early, here in Colorado), I’m going to try bringing my herbs inside to my sunny living room to see if I can keep them going year-round.

The latest oregano cuttings drying. Once dried, I crumble my leaves in a reused spice jar.
The latest oregano cuttings drying. Once dried, I crumble my leaves in a reused spice jar.

2. Frozen. As far as taste, frozen is as close to fresh. I froze cilantro (just stuck it in a Ziploc bag) and make my basil into pesto and freeze it in ice cube trays. I have also added a little olive oil to basil and pulsed it in my NutriBullet before also freezing it in ice cube trays.

3. Dried. So far, I’ve only dried oregano. At the pace it grows, I’ll be able to easily keep up with my taste for the herb so I’ll be soon sharing it with others.

What herbs have you tried growing? What have been your successes? What do you wish you could grow?

Updates on the Striving Stewardess

It’s that time again to give some updates on some previous posts.

Ronnica’s Updates

Quitting Food Waste

I am getting better about wasting less food. I still throw out way more than I’d like: but I’m conscious when I do so. Just as before, my food waste is most often cause my inattentiveness. All the more reason to boost my diligence and mindfulness of when things will go bad.

Time to boost my creativity, too!

balcony container gardenRonnica’s Garden Plan

My garden is doing great. As I write this (May 10th), my cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes are currently hiding from the winter weather under various containers I found around the house.

One thing I’ve done differently this year is doing a garden journal. I’m hoping this information will help me to revise future garden plans to incorporate what I’ve learned from previous seasons.

Reviving the Art of Biking

Well, I haven’t taken another bike ride since that post.

I suppose I’ve been prioritizing other things (including my own laziness). My garden has taken a lot of my energy on my days off, which I’m fine with. I’ve also gotten back into hiking.

I need to do a little maintenance on my bike to get it working for me, and I just haven’t done that yet.

Amanda’s Updates

Giving Our Time

I still love the idea of giving of my time and talents, but as of this writing (mid-May), I haven’t done much in the way of exploring options for doing just that.

As Ronnica mentioned above, I, too, have been prioritizing other things.  Quite a number of things have been happening on the family front lately–that’s my justification.  The hope is that when things settle down some I will have more time/energy/desire to serve others outside my family.  There are two worthwhile organizations that have personally served my family that would be logical places to start my volunteer search.


Count this as a work-in-progress.  One of the things I have discovered is that my friends with whom I would feel most comfortable bartering with are perfectly content to give me what I need without strings attached, which is both awesome and humbling.

It’s also forcing me outside my comfort zone.  If I want to hone my bartering skills, I will have to do so with people who are not as close to me, which is something that does not come naturally to me; as a result, it will have to be an item or service I really want!

Mechanical Turk

My earnings on Mechanical Turk are a lot more than this now!
My earnings on Mechanical Turk are a lot more than this now!

I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of conversation this garnered on our Twitter account.  Nearly all of it was encouraging me to stick it out.  (You may recall I argued that, unless you have considerable time at your disposal, MT is not a way to rake in a lot of dough.)

I’m glad I did because once I established a good rating, more lucrative opportunities came my way, and many of the tasks were actually sort of fun and not too time-consuming.

There may be some who claim to make hundreds on this site, and while I will never have the time/energy/desire (see above) to make that a priority, I do see myself making enough to help pay for Christmas presents when the time comes.  A definite bonus!

Ronnica’s Garden Plan

balcony container gardenOne of my favorite things about spring is getting to plant my garden. This will be 6th year to plant a garden, but only my 2nd in Denver. Each year has been a learning experience and new challenges have presented themselves. By far, last year’s greatest challenge was getting used to a new climate with a shorter growing season.

I have a strong heritage of gardening. Summers were marked by eating garden-fresh cucumbers (my favorite), strawberries, radishes and beets. Garden onion flavored every dish.

Though this is my 6th year gardening, I’ve never had a plot of land to do it in. Instead, I’ve gardened in containers on apartment balconies. Container gardening has it’s own challenges, but I love the opportunity of taking advantage of the space and light I do have to grow much of my summer veggies (and increasingly, feeding myself year-round).

To add to my inspiration, this winter I’ve been reading several books that have encouraged me towards sustaining myself like Depletion and Abudance and Year of Plenty.

So what am I planning on growing this year?

garden plan
My garden mock-up. We’ll see where everything really goes when it’s time to plant!


Please don’t hold me to my plans: I’m constantly changing my mind! Still, this is what I’m thinking:

3 tomato plants
9 cucumber plants (3 per pot)
3 bell pepper plants
3 basil plants
2 window planters of onion
2 pots of carrots
1 window planter of spinach
1 window planter of lettuce
1 window planter of radishes
balcony container garden1 zucchini plant
1 pot of snap peas

This is the most ambitious garden I’ve tried yet, trying the greatest variety I have ever had. I wanted to increase my variety because that will make it more likely that I’ll not need to buy many vegetables.

I’m antsy to get started, but in Denver, I can’t plant even the earliest vegetables until mid-April. Make sure to consult an almanac or your local agriculture extension office to know when to plant.

Be sure to check in tomorrow when Amanda shares her garden plan this year. What are you plans for gardening?