I pulled out my aerogarden last month and decided to use it to grow some herbs. Only herbs, nothing crazy. I started basil, cilantro and chives however the chives never sprouted so I may just put some more basil in. These are herbs that I like to eat fresh and are a pain to continuously buy from the grocery store only to have them go bad if I don't use them quick enough. I've learned that the aerogarden works best if you are regularly pruning the plants (therefore can use the trimmings at least once or twice a week). So I don't use their standard herb packages because I don't always use things like dill or thyme on a weekly basis. This time I used the empty pods that I can fill up with my own seeds. I am conflicted about growing hydroponically because essentially you are controlling every aspect of the plants growth. I am a believer that you do need to give some control to mother nature. There is too much about food and plants that we don't understand and minimizing plant growth to water, artificial light and a well composed liquid fertilizer is an oversimplification. However in the winter time when the ground outside is frozen, I allow myself some slack on this. The aerogarden is admitedly a very expensive way to grow herbs but for me its a fun toy, I don't have to worry about fungus gnats (or other soil based probelms) and the big one is I don't have to remember to water it regularly (it actually has sensor which beeps when the water is low) which is a common problem for me.
So its that time of year... time to start the seedlings. I really enjoy starting seeds, fussing over them, watching how the different seeds grow differently. Usually I start the first week in January with onions and basil but this year I decided not to start those seeds. Last year I bought a basil plant from the grocery store in February and just kept it alive till it got warm. Then I directly sowed basil seed, this way I had some basil to tide me over till my seeds were big enough. Honestly the grocery store plant was a pain to keep watered hence why I went the aerogarden route this winter. As for onions, the seedlings also really need to be watered regularly and I did a very poor job of this. Onions seedlings seem to be just too fickle for me. I was thinking of just buying onion transplants from Dixondale farms. I've used these in the past and they were great.
February I usually start with my eggplant and chilli seeds. Here are the varieties I am growing this year:
- Eggplant: Seeds I saved from a particularly hearty eggplant from last summer. It was a white casper eggplant and I'm hoping the seeds are as good as the fruit was. This particular eggplant survived crowding from nearby chilli plants and not being watered for two weeks while I was away last summer.
- Hot Lemon Pepper: I've had my eye on this variety for several years and decided to take the plunge this year. I cook a lot with lemon and chilli's in the same dish so I thought it would be fun to try this one.
- Thai Hot Pepper: For years I have been using a hybrid variety from Johhny's seed and last year I used the last seed from that original packet. So instead of repurchasing the same one I thought I'd try a heirloom variety and perhaps start saving my own seed.
- Bhut Jolokia: These are seeds I saved from chillis I grew and dried two years ago. (you can see them in the upper left corner of the picture). Last year the seedlings didn't do well so I didn't plant them out. If they don't grow this year then I will probably have to suck it up and buy new seed.
- Ancho Peppers: I had so much fun with these last year. I originally grew these for my mother
- Cayenne Pepper: Somehow these didn't do as well as the others did last year but I really want to start making hot sauce with Cayennes so we are going to try this again.
- Jalepeno: These were a huge success last year so we are doing them again. Mostly in part because I figured out how to make Baked Jalepeno Poppers. It was actually quite fun making my own garlic cheese stuffing for these. I will admit breading them is quite labor intensive so on week days I would just stuff them and bake them without the breading but they were still good!!