|Click twice for an enlarged view.|
The grow tent was sent to me as a complete kit which included a height-adjustable grow light, a fan for air circulation, timer/power strip and everything needed to grow organically from seed. There was even a beginner's manual, written for an "herb" that many Coloradans are growing but I just set it aside along with the ventilation system. I only needed to clear about a 4x4' area of my basement near an outlet, and it assembled quickly. I had the freedom to grow anything I wanted, so I started tomatoes, basil and pepper… in December!
|First week of December. The heat vent in my bathroom provided bottom heat.|
|The seed tray worked so well, even decades-old pepper seeds germinated.|
|The kit comes with (2) 1-gallon "smart pots" which I could've used instead of plastic cups. But the seed starting tray was SO successful, every seed sprouted and I couldn't pick just two. I have trouble with "thinning." Under the sodium vapor lamp, the seedlings were bushier than I've ever homegrown.|
|Decision making in general is hard for me. I crammed the tent with tomatoes, peppers, basil, rosemary, and a sunflower to boot. This is late January.|
|My Valentine's Day sunflower!|
For most veg where I need to "be the bee," I keep a small paintbrush handy, to transfer pollen from one flower to another. This method doesn't work with tomatoes. The pollen of tomatoes is hidden inside the flowers, which is why honeybees don't visit them. Instead, tomatoes (and eggplant and potatoes) are pollinated by bumble bees who use vibration to shake the pollen out. Although beans are another buzz-pollinated vegetable, they grow leggy and a bit pale under the grow lamp. Other plants that would be good electric toothbrush-pollinated candidates include blueberries and kiwi. I'm thinking Top Hat or Jelly Bean, a "charming little puffball of a blueberry." And of course, there's always Meyer lemons… every pastry chef's favorite. I have an orange tree that I bought from Gurney's 16 years ago, and while there's much vaguery as to exactly what a 'Venous Orange" is, I can say for sure that it absolutely loves it in the grow tent.
|The grow tent accommodates two tomato plants easily. It comes with an elastic grid to guide tall plants but I also tried a tomato ladder and a grow bag with integrated tower. The latter was courtesy of Green State Gardener as well.|
|Lesson Learned: indeterminate potato-leaved tomatoes probably weren't the wisest choice. They grew right up to and over the lamp. Then down again.|
|If you want to harvest Stupice "on the vine" don't wait for them to all turn color or some will be overripe. See the glossy green leaves of the pepper plants? They seem to like the high pressure sodium lamp.|
|Come June, when frost and snow were no longer threats, the two plants did get moved outside. No hardening off required!|
|The Tien Tsin peppers got planted in my potager where their once deep-green leaves are now looking jaundiced. BTW chili peppers are another buzz-pollinated crop.|
The basil was a bit of a flop. Apparently, basil doesn't do well under a sodium vapor lamp. The tomato plants have been growing in the same 5-gallon smart pots for months with not much more than top-dressing and light fertilization. Colorado has just had one of its hottest, driest summers yet these tomatoes barely blinked. There were a couple of weeks when they didn't set new blossoms due to the heat (53 days in the 90s!!) but fruit on the vine continued to ripen. It's September and these plants just keep on giving!
As cooler nights set in and the tomatoes grow sweeter, I'm tempted to put them back into the grow tent for a continuous winter supply. But I think I've eaten more tomatoes this year than I have my entire life, and I'm ready for a change. What to grow next? The sky's the limit. Well, technically 5 feet is the limit but you get what I mean. For more specs and details on the Dabbler 2x2 Complete Beginners Organic Grow Kit, click here.
What would you grow if you had a grow tent? Tropicals like citrus or avocado? Vines like cucumbers or melons? Tender herbs? Comment below.
The photo of the strawberry blossom at the top is actually from a guest post I wrote for a client. I moved a few gourmet Mara de Bois strawberries from my outdoor garden into the tent during Fall cleanup but there's nothing to show you yet. All I can say for the moment is that buzz pollination doesn't produce berries.