A Basement Garden. Chapter I – A Wishful Need

I miss our backyard garden – the battle with the red clay, the monster zucchinis and tomatoes, plentiful peppers, even the dispirited cantaloupe. When the yard was re-graded a few years back, the last remnants of it were wiped away.

So there’s this large backyard with nothing to do. It’s a shame, having the yard space but less than ideal circumstances for utilizing it as you’d like. Things that make creating a new garden unlikely include a yard that tends to sprout holes, unthoughtful neighbors, and increasing mobility concerns.

indoor freestanding vertical garden

SOURCE: Creative Commons

But I want a garden. Why not garden indoors?  A few planter boxes, a ginormous vertical garden. Imagining a living wall in your living room is one thing, but a garden blooming on a basement wall? Sounds a little creepy, just picturing moldy things.

There are some expensive options out there, like converting an entire room into a garden, complete with its own climate (Hey, cacao plants anyone?).  How cool would that be?  But for those of us on a very tight budget and even tighter space, staking out space for a basement garden, even if it’s just  suspended growing lights over a planter box, is just fine.

My ideal indoor planter would have:

  • A metal and (natural) wood frame for durability
  • Self-watering system
  • Full-spectrum grow lights
  • Generous size to try out a variety of plants

Can a garden grow in a practically airtight underlit basement? I sure hope so! But before I place my order, I’ll keep in mind the words of an ancient proverb, “The plans of the diligent surely lead to success” and do lots of thoughtful planning.

Things to Consider

What do I need to know?

  • Which plants grow well together, synergistically
  • The soil best suited to growing food indoors
  • Whether the garden will attract insects
  • If the basement’s climate (humidity/climate mix) is suitable
  • The cost of running the grow lights

My fantasy garden would grow:

  • Carrots
  • Cooking herbs, especially chives, dill, cilantro, rosemary, parsley, basil
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Turmeric
  • Jerusalem artichokes
  • Greens
  • Lettuces
  • Cucumbers
  • Berries
  • Potatoes
  • Beets

I had a book on container gardening; I think it went to recycle-land. But hey, that’s what libraries are for – brick & mortar and virtual.

I know the questions I want answered. But most likely there are questions I haven’t even thought to ask. But I’m sure they’ll come as I delve into this subject.

The advantage of an indoor garden is that there isn’t a growing season to worry about. So there wouldn’t be a question of when to plant something. But other questions:

woman biting nails and looking scared

SOURCE: Creative Commons

  • Will my harvest taste like it came from an airtight basement?
  • What about ventilation?
  • Will I have to worry about mold?
  • Will I be inviting outdoor creatures in? Spiders, ants, mites, and flying things that would attract snakes. (If we get to that point Mom would just move and sell the house)
  • How much will this add to the electric bill?
  • Can I run use solar energy?
  • Will the plants be warm enough?
  • Can my less-than-green thumb improve?
  • Will I ever stop asking questions and get to growing something before next year this time?

The answer to the last question is yes, possibly. You’re invited to follow my quest for The Nearly Subterranean Kitchen Garden.

In this series:

  • The art of indoor gardening
    • Lights
    • Growing medium
    • Watering solutions
    • Humidity
    • Economics
  • Basement gardens, container or vertical (is a basement too dark for hydroponics?)
  • The art of plant grouping
  • Pest avoidance
  • Soil maintenance
  • Harvest
  • Taste test

It may be that my research will lead me to the conclusion that a basement garden won’t work out. Perhaps some of the topics above won’t lead anywhere; maybe other topics will suggest themselves. If you have any, share. I’m looking forward to seeing where this journey leads. C’mon along.

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