Sunday, March 31, 2013

Blinded By The Light

Our makeshift growlight, that is!

Noah the mini-gardener

Yes, I know. I've boasted for 2 growing seasons now that I don't need a growlight. That by rotating my precious seedlings from windowsill to windowsill throughout the day to catch maximum sunlight, my seedlings have done just fine. But the sun has decided to absolutely disappear for much of the time the past few weeks, and it's been bad news for my baby Amish Paste tomatoes. They began to droop, bend over, and in general look very, very sick.

very sad and droopy baby tomato

I panicked. My first ER action was to dose them with some fish emulsion, diluted (1 t. in about 4 cups of water). After watching them for over a day and seeing that didn't give them a magic boost, I transplanted them all into larger spaces, in case their roots were not getting enough room to breathe.

before: tiny, messy homes
after: bigger and cleaner-looking rooms..ahhhhh

Start a gardening hobby and say goodbye to perfectly manicured nails

I gave them a day in their new, larger homes and still saw little improvement. It hit me, in a sudden 'lightbulb' moment, that the sunlight had not been strong at all for days.

I don't have the cash to plunk out on some special growlight system (I'm saving pennies for other precious items, like a soaker hose). I thought to myself, 'hey, I've got this florescent fixture over the kitchen sink...I wonder if it would help? I mean, how different is a regular florescent light from a special growlight available for substantial bucks at the garden center?'

After a quick search in the garage, I came up with a setup that would get my plants close to the light source. 2 five gallon buckets (which, incidentally, still smelled of the apples I stored in them during apple picking season--I had to stop for a moment to breathe in that wonderful nostalgia), a shelf borrowed from one of our toyshelves in the toyroom, and my seed container (appropriate use for that, or what!).  I also found an empty food container of the right size to boost the seedlings up just a big more--right up to the light.

This setup has worked wonders. Within one day under the lights, our plants grew noticeably,  and they looked happier and healthier. They have reached up toward those florescent photons like their little lives depended on it. The closer I can get those babies to the light the better--in fact I read it's okay to let the leaves actually touch the light. The less effort the leaves have to make to get to the light, the more energy they can put into growing thicker instead of upwards.

I been putting the plants in the windowsills any day that we have strong sunlight, but those days have been very far and few between. So, they spend a lot of time under our little growlight system. I've had to remove the extra container by now, and soon will have to lower the plants even more, because they are growing so big.

Although it's taken some getting used to, working around the baby tomatoes is not a big deal. I spend a lot of time at the kitchen sink, so I'm getting to know each plant by heart, at my eye level. The light has always been a little too bright for me, and at just the right angle that my eyes hurt a bit when standing at that sink, but if it's helping the plants survive, I've got new tolerance for it. Leaving it on for the plants has been a challenge--I'm one of those mamas who seems to be constantly turning off unneeded lights left on by someone. I have to stop myself as I reach to turn out that kitchen sink is now serving a very good purpose! And, I didn't have to go out and spend any more money that I don't have on this gardening adventure.

Baby tomatoes keep me company while washing unending piles of dishes

Take a peek at how wonderful our tomatoes look now, after bigger pots, a little fish emulsion, and a week under our growlight:

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