Year-Round Indoor Salad Gardening
January 16, 2019 12:29 PM   Subscribe

Through trial and error (mostly error, he says), Vermonter Peter Burke has developed a great way to enjoy fresh greens year-round without special equipment and at low cost. He describes his method in a book and a podcast. Yankee ingenuity at its finest.
posted by No Robots (14 comments total) 61 users marked this as a favorite
 
I was looking for a new hobby and hit on indoor gardening. I started with some herbs, and then asked Mrs. Robots for requests. She said she wanted salad. I was scratching my head about how to grow lettuce indoors. The time and space necessary for a single head that would be eaten in minutes seemed to make the whole thing unfeasible. Then I found Burke’s book. I am now growing enough greens to make a salad every day. The footprint for the whole operation is about one meter square. Materials per day are 4 liters of (recyclable) soil, a few grams of compost, and a few grams of seeds. Total time commitment per day is less than half an hour. Burke emphasizes that no special lighting is required: any windowsill will do.

One of the coolest aspects of the whole project is the enormous variety of sprouts you can grow: purple kohlrabi, ruby beets, pink amaranth, spicy arugula, hot mustard. You can stick to basics like peas and sunflowers at about CAD 5.00/kg, or get exotic with Spigarello or Tokyo Bekana at about ten times that price, which is still cheap when you consider how much salad a kilo of seeds makes.
posted by No Robots at 3:02 PM on January 16, 2019 [5 favorites]


I've grown sprouts at home on multiple occasions, first using mason jars and later a set of 3 stacking trays made for growing sprouts. I put my stuff away during a move but it is back in the kitchen now so I should get back to doing it because I think my kids would be into it as well - my daughter got some craft toy where she sprouted chia seeds in a little heart-shaped dish and has been really excited to see them grow and she's even eaten a couple (which is a big step for her because while she likes vegetables she is also a picky eater). I just placed a hold at the library for this book so hopefully it'll provide some additional inspiration.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 3:19 PM on January 16, 2019


Here's the Amazon link.

I'm happy to buy the book for full details - it's cheap if it will save on buying fresh lettuce every couple of days - but would someone in the know be willing to give a brief summary of the method and the dimensions required?

I don't want to undermine the author's income stream, but I'd like to get a sense of whether I have suitable apartment windows and cupboards, as well as an appropriate schedule.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 3:26 PM on January 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


Quick summary:

• 5 half loaf aluminum trays (~20 cm x 10cm each)
• Put in a few grams of compost
• Put in about .75 liter moistened potting soil
• Put in a few grams of hydrated seeds
• Cover with wet newspaper
• Keep dark and warm for four days
• Put in sunlight (indirect is ok) for 3 days
• repeat, doing 5 trays per day
• total trays = 5 x 7 = 35
posted by No Robots at 3:32 PM on January 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


It appears the author used to have a website that sold kits. Here's a wayback link to the instructions included with the kit that gives a rundown of the method.
posted by asterisk at 3:37 PM on January 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


Thanks, No Robots and asterisk! I'll buy the book as promised, as I think I should be able to find enough child-proof space near the windows of my apartment.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 3:40 PM on January 16, 2019


I love sprouts. At this time there is no reliably safe method to grow sprouts - that 4 day warm and wet phase is the perfect environment for any bacteria on the seeds. That’s why the current recommendation is avoid raw sprouts entirely regardless of source.
posted by zenon at 4:41 PM on January 16, 2019 [3 favorites]


Healthline provides a full risk/benefit profile for sprouts.
posted by No Robots at 5:04 PM on January 16, 2019


The podcast episode mentions he has a step-daughter in Prince Edward Island and I got excited. We are the Vermont of Canada so this is a nice congruence.
posted by Space Coyote at 5:58 PM on January 16, 2019


Hmm, a few photos of the results would be great -- so I'm getting a large number of very small leaves versus a small number of large leaves, and that's how we get quick results? I'm not sure I like the idea (it seems wrong!)

But I do have a lot of south-facing windowsill and only one sad basil plant on it right now, so maybe this is something to try.
posted by batter_my_heart at 11:01 PM on January 16, 2019


batter_my_heart, I was also wondering about this (and with all the talk about sprouts, I was wondering whether there were any leaves involved at all). However, I'm working off the photo on the front of the author's book and the fact that in asterisk's link there's mention of developed root systems.
posted by chappell, ambrose at 7:13 AM on January 17, 2019


I love sprouts. At this time there is no reliably safe method to grow sprouts - that 4 day warm and wet phase is the perfect environment for any bacteria on the seeds. That’s why the current recommendation is avoid raw sprouts entirely regardless of source.

I thought it was pretty telling that the author of "How Not to Die" recommends just about every possible vegetable, leaf and fruit but then just nopes right out on sprouts.

I grow south african succulents (gasteria and haworthia) and did it just using window light for about 4 years with pretty mild success. I gave in and bought lights and they are doing far better.

batter_my_heart: South facing windows are actually problematic in the summer because the sun will be directly overhead (depending on where you live of course) - in my apartment I lose all direct sun in the window of my living room for about a month and a half (there is also an awning ledge above mine - great design for reducing summer heat - terrible for people who want the light). Most plants do better with east or west facing windows because they can get half a day of direct light (and it also avoids the winter solar oven problem when south facing windows do get direct light).
posted by srboisvert at 10:51 AM on January 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


Burke deals directly with the safety issue. He says that there has never been an incident with homegrown sprouts, and that al known problems come from large alfalfa sprout operations. He suggests that if people are still worried, they can give their seeds a chlorine bath.
posted by No Robots at 8:45 AM on January 23, 2019


I've now been at this for over a week, with great results. I would say, though, that for me a good grow light is essential.
posted by No Robots at 8:47 AM on January 23, 2019


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