Sunday, March 23, 2014

Skill Set: How Does Your Garden Grow? Part 1 - Welcome to My Indoor Edible Paradise!

hudson valley seed packets 

. . .with silver bells, and cockle shells. . .And pretty maids all in a row.

In Building Blocks of Intent (Pt. 1), we looked at the importance of developing or refining different skills in leading a life of intent. I refer to them as “life skills”— those directly related to meeting basic human needs, such as
  • food and nourishment
  • shelter
  • clothing
  • maintenance of basic health and well-being
With that in mind, one of my goals this year was to do just that. So, this past January I enrolled in an introductory gardening class through the New York Botanical Garden’s adult education program. I had always wanted to try my hand at gardening, but just never got around to doing it until now.

You’re probably wondering “January! Why would anyone take a gardening class then?? What kind of gardening could you possibly do in the dead of winter especially with all that snow we got…???” You are not alone! Everyone I told about the class asked these same questions. However, there’s quite a bit that goes into achieving the beautiful (or edible) end result that most people associate with gardening, and we spent the time covering fundamental theories and concepts such as
  • the basic parts of a plant how they function
  • soil health & structure
  • organic gardening techniques
  • pest control
  • basic garden tools
  • plant selection and care
  • propagation and pruning
  • general site considerations when planning your garden
all done from a nice, warm and cozy classroom!

Also, you may not realize it, but there's a life cycle to gardening, so there's always something to be done year round.  In fact, our final course assignment was to take what we learned and create a simple plan covering a year of maintenance and planning for the garden of our choice (you can see my final report here). The tail end of winter is a key time for indoor seed starting, so your plants will be ready to go into the ground come spring. Then of course, there’s the main growing season from spring, through the summer, and depending on what you’re growing, even into the fall. In the late fall it’s time to begin preparing your garden for winter…clearing out dead growth, sprucing up the beds and so on. Something else you may not know is that there are things you can plant in the late fall at the end of the season, also known as “cover crops” or “green manure” (e.g. ryegrass, winter rye, clovers, oats, buckwheat, etc), which help protect and prepare the soil for spring when the cycle begins anew! This provides ground cover that helps prevent soil erosion, replaces nutrients depleted during the growing season (e.g. nitrogen), and helps with weed suppression as well as pest control.

Unlike most of my classmates, I don’t currently have access to any outdoor gardening space (not even a terrace!), so I will be adapting what I learned for an indoor garden. Another challenge for me is that I live in a small apartment with limited space.

But, be those things as they may, I am starting with the picture on the left and intend to move towards the picture on the right!

indoor garden, before & after

And, after listening to a podcast by Erika Harris of Empathic Writer, during which she talked about her grandfather and his talent for turning his back yard into paradise (go to Episode 001: Say the Things You Want to Hear in the World and jump to the 00:03:09 to 00:03:30 mark), I was further inspired to create my own Indoor Edible Garden Paradise.

As described in my garden maintenance plan, my goals are modest. I plan to get started with some herbs and other edibles (cilantro, scallions and rainbow chard) suited to my particular site constraints.  I have some seeds I purchased from the Hudson Valley Seed Library. I originally bought them because the outer packets were so beautiful, never thinking to actually plant them, but now I figure “Why not!

However, I also have a Plan B, just in case! I purchased a BurpeeCulinary Herb Garden All-in-One Kit”.  According to the package it includes “everything you need to grow 5 delicious herbs

     > 5 seed packets – parsley, cilantro, chives, basil and oregano
     > 3 containers and a watering tray
     > growing pellets
     > instructions
     > recipes!

So, we’ll see how it goes and which approach works for me. I hope you’ll join me on this journey, and be inspired to try it yourself! If I can do it, I’m sure you can too!

Changing Your Intent

Get Skilled: What You Can Do Now!
  1. Pick a new life skill that you would like to learn whether it’s gardening, sewing, cooking, first aid, fishing, or whatever tickles your fancy. Your local weekly paper is an excellent resource for discovering workshops and classes that might be going on in your community.

  2. Tell us about what you've decided here or start a discussion on the With Intent Facebook or Google+ page.


  1. Love this post, Jill!! Gardening is a great hobby (although I don't do it myself). My boyfriend cares for our balcony garden, and I'm just in charge of watering when he's gone!

    I was just thinking lately that I wanted to pick up a new skill -- learning about wine. I drink a lot of wine and of course live in Southern California so go to a lot of wineries, but I don't really know it well -- how wine is produced, the different wine regions, what to look for etc. Was just thinking about purchasing a DVD course and I think I will now!! Thanks for the encouragement!! (Although, I don't think that would fall under Life Skill so I may need to pick a different topic after I finish the wine course!)

    1. Hi Jennifer!

      Watering is very important! You may have told me before, but what are you all growing? Maybe you could send a picture and I'll post it to my Permie Peeks blog, as a Guest Peek.

      Enjoy your wine course. You've gotta start somewhere!

      Thanks for stopping by With Intent!

    2. Hey Jill!

      We're actually growing mainly herbs -- rosemary, basil, and thyme. We also have arugula and lettuce plants. We are going to replant soon, so will send you a pic if and when we do that!!

    3. That sounds great. I look forward to it!