Thursday, October 23, 2008

bringing the outdoors indoors

It's always sad when the temperatures start dropping and garden stuff starts to wither up, especially in Duluth where the growing season is so short, and especially for me because I guess I'm just not very good at container gardening because the plants don't start to mature until right about when the frost hits. So this year I thought I'd experiment and try to extend the season a little bit, so I hauled my most robust tomato and pepper, the parsley and basil, the strawberries, geraniums, and the stupid cabbage that were just starting to form heads now, and I put them on the indoor landing outside my apartment and set up my old lightbox in front of them. It didn't really work for its intended purpose, but it is a Very Bright Light, and I thought maybe it could at least ripen a few tomatoes.

That was three weeks ago, and I'm afraid the experiment was not much of a success. The basil is dying very quickly now, and the tomato is going brown now, too. There was an old article in Mother Earth News about overwintering tomatoes, but I don't think mine are getting enough light, even with the lightbox. The pepper is still hanging on (and still flowering!) but it looks kinda sickly and I doubt I'll get any fruit off it. The cabbage are still trucking along, but I doubt they'll turn into anything edible (the leaves are as thick as burlap). The parsley still looks beautiful, and I carried parsley through the winter last year, too, so that's a small success. The strawberries, oddly enough, still look really good too, even though I later learned that I "should" put them back outside or in the garage or something so that they can go dormant and I can replant them next year. (And I really should do that, and not try to force them to flower and fruit in the winter, because if they're not allowed to go dormant they'll almost certainly die in the spring then. But it's kind of temptng to carry on with the experiment just to see what happens.)

But the geraniums are soldiering on, too, and both of them are putting out flowers now, so they might make it though the winter. I think I'm going to ditch the lightbox and bring the geraniums in the apartment, once I find a sunny, cat-free place to put them.

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