Friday, August 13, 2010

And the winner for the first herbs to show up--basil and thyme

Well, that didn't take long. After only two days, we have two little seedlings popping their little heads out. 

To commemorate their entry into the world, I will be cooking the following dishes upon my first harvest, each of which use copious amounts of basil and thyme!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Indoor Gardener: The 2010 Reboot (Part 2)

The first step to getting ready to start the herb garden again was to get replacement parts for my old Aerogarden Classic.

The thing I needed the most was a new set of Aerogarden arms. Here's what the contacts on the old arms looked like:

The metal contacts were corroded to the point where they weren't conducting electricity anymore. In retrospect, they say that such corrosion can be cleaned by using a Q-Tip with vinegar, but I figured the corrosion was so widespread I may as well order a replacement arm. Here's what that looked like.

The other replacement part I'd ordered were more filter pads for the old style Aerogarden pump.

I'd gone onto the Aerogarden Store a few months ago and created a custom herb seed kit consisting of all the herbs I find most useful in cooking. They were: Basil, Sage, Parsley, Thyme, Cilantro. I also had Mint and Chives left over from my herb seed kit, so I figured I'd throw those in too.

I brought out all the parts from where I was storing them and laid them out.

The pump was the replacement Aerogarden pump I ordered last year, so it was still in great working order. I just installed a new filter pad.

Installing the new arm was a snap (literally). Just remove the old arm, insert the new, and plug the power cord in. Extremely simple.

By now, I'm getting real good at planting the Aerogarden seed pods. I arranged all seven of them into the unit.

Then, I poured water into the basin to the fill line, added the starting nutrient tablets, put the dome covers on top of the pods.

And then the big moment came where I plugged the unit in again for the first time in months.

Have you ever seen one of those movies where they come across a long-abandoned shipwrecked boat and then they start up the engines again for the first time? This is the feeling I had when this old Aerogarden started up again. The water started trickling just like old times.

And so, in under 4 minutes, I had my herb garden planted. Then it was on to the tomatoes.

The seed kit from Bed Bath and Beyond looked like the seeds were prepared almost two years ago (which explains why they were on clearance). It'll be interesting to see if they grow.

It came with nutrient tablets, three seed pods (two red tomatoes and one yellow), and pods for spacing.

I plopped in all the pods, and put the dome covers on top. I left the old trellises in place, hoping that some day I will be able to support the three cherry tomato plants.

And there you have it. We're starting anew with cherry tomatoes and a bunch of new herbs. Stay tuned in the coming weeks as we watch the seeds grow and yield a harvest.

If you have any suggestions for what I can cook using the herbs I listed above, please leave them in the comments section!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Indoor Gardener: The 2010 Reboot (Part 1)

Seems that "reboots" are all the rage these days. Hollywood's brought back everyone from Batman to Captain Kirk. This fall, you'll be able to see Danno book 'em again on Hawaii Five-O, and Jim Rockford open up his files again. There's even chatter about a "CHiPs" reboot. What I wouldn't give to see a tubby Ponch and a gumpy old Jon climbing upon their Kawasakis again. Of course, Erik Estrada seems busy hocking real estate on informercials, and Larry Wilcox is the CEO of a mining company. but one can dream, can't one?

Anyway, for those of you who've grown tired of seeing that ladybug on the blog since March 21, get ready for a whole new indoor garden blog. I'll be starting over with a brand new herb garden and a brand new tomato garden.

By the way, if you're wondering what happened to the tomatoes, here's what the VeggiePro looked like on June 6.

At its peak I'd been getting a few small tomatoes every week, but the yield was getting smaller and smaller, and I was out of nutrient tablets. The plant was getting a bit unwieldy, and the water in the basin was getting a little nasty. So I figured it'd be a good time to retire this crop.

Step one was detaching the trellisses that were keeping the plants up. Here's what it looked like.

Needless to say, trellises are a must-have when growing any kind of veggies in your Aerogarden.

Step two was removing the one remaining seed pod.

The stalks were thick and the roots were impressive as always. I suppose if I had an outside garden, I could have transplanted it outside and have seen the plant grow to its full potential--even though Aerogrow said these would be "full size tomatoes", they never quite got bigger than very large cherry tomatoes, probably due to never having quite the amount of space and nutrients that outdoor plants have. So my dream of reliving my glory teenage years of harvesting gigantic "Burpee Big Boy Tomatoes" will have to wait until I buy a house with a yard, I guess.

And so how would I summarize my tomato experience? I'd say good and bad. I ended up being able to harvest some fresh tomatoes indoors, but certainly not full-size nor extreme amounts. Still, it was convenient being able to reach for the VeggiePro when I needed a fresh tomato for a salad or sandwich and didn't want to have to go to the supermarket to get one.

The next step was using warm water and dish soap to clean the unit inside and out. There was a lot of white residue from the nutrient tablets to scrub off, but after a few minutes of washing, the unit looked just like new again. And so the VeggiePro was ready again to take on a new crop. But I ended up going on various business trips in July, so I figured I'd plant the new crop when I return.

I figured I'd plant herbs in the VeggiePro this time and just let them grow really, really tall. But yesterday at my local Bed Bath and Beyond, I noticed they were selling some aging cherry tomato kits on clearance. And so, I decided to give tomatoes a second go, but this time going with the cherry tomatoes instead of the Ruby Heirloom tomatoes.

And so, strap on your seatbelts. We're going to start indoor gardening again, planting cherry tomatoes in the VeggiePro (which I notice Aerogarden's marketing department, which can't ever seem to settle on a name for their extra-tall Aerogardens, has renamed the "Aerogarden Extra"), and setting up one of my old 7-pod Aerogarden Classics to once again grow herbs.