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Near yonder copse, where once the garden smiled And still where many a garden flower grows wild; There, where a few torn shrubs the place disclose, The village preacher's modest mansion rose. OLIVER GOLDSMITH, "The Deserted Village."
If You own a sunroom with many large windows, you are fortunate because an important factor in room-gardening is an abundance of light. Few of us have this, so we use the best-lighted windows at our disposal, remembering that even in a north window, into which the sun never shines, many plants may be grown. A glass-enclosed porch is also helpful. Failing the sunroom or enclosed porch, we follow a program something like this:
1. Build an extension onto your inside window sills: it may be a shelf supported on brackets or legs. Then place a table on the room side of it; the construction should be sturdy, for soil is heavy. The table may well be 3 or 4 inches higher than the sill. If the finish of the table is important, cover it with a cloth. Protect the cloth and sill with white oilcloth or sheets of aluminum foil. On this stand a number of watertight metal trays, which may be obtained from a hardware store, the five-and-ten, or in your locality there may be a concern that sells hotel and kitchen equipment. Leave them as they are if they are bright, or paint them white.
The trays are filled one-quarter their depth with small gravel or coarse sand, gathered at the seashore or lake side, unless you prefer to purchase some at a builder's yard. Mix with the sand or gravel about one-fifth its bulk of small pieces of charcoal bought at a pet store; ask for the hen-size, not the baby-chick grade of charcoal. Keep this mixture, upon which your pots will stand, sprayed every day with plain water to surround your plants with damp air. A humid atmosphere is important for most plants, and this should produce it. If pots become dry on the surface within twenty-four hours, the air may still be too dry. If this happens, maintain a V2-inch reserve of water in the pans along with the gravel; also install a small electric stove in the room within 6 feet of your room garden and let a kettle boil on it for an occasional half hour. (For other ways of keeping the air humid, see Chapter 2.)
2. Install glass shelves on the window and window frame. We use glass because we wish to exclude as little light as possible.
3. If you have windows of the usual type with an up-and-down sliding sash, construct a long thin "sausage" of heavy cloth, 31/2 inches wide when flat. After sewing, turn it inside out and halffill it with dry sand; sew it at both ends, making it as long as the window is wide, and lay it at the junction of both sashes to exclude drafts. Consider the possibility of painting the inside of the sash and the frame with white enamel; give thought, also, to painting or papering the walls of this part of the room in a light color.
4. It is a good plan to have an electrician install two or more fluorescent lamps near the top of the window. This will extend your hours of light and enable you to grow a wider range of plants.
5. Procure twelve long-shanked screw-eyes for each window; place them in six pairs on the room side of the window, two pairs at top and bottom, one pair on each side in the middle. Plants may be in pots standing near by or suspended on brackets. Picture wire stretched from screw-eye to screw-eye, vertically, horizontally and diagonally, will furnish support for climbing vines, ivy, hoya carnosa, and similar plants. Use short lengths to fasten the wires together where the diagonals cross.
6. Between the shelf extension to the sill and the table place a plant stand with a metal box, which the florist calls a liner. Plants in pots may stand in the liner on a surface of gravel and charcoal, the smaller ones standing on wood blocks to make the pot rims level. Stuff peat moss between the pots, first moistening it, and use enough additional peat moss to hide the pots. From time to time the pots may be turned when any plants show a tendency to grow toward the light. When a plant matures or fails, another can readily replace it and the peat moss can be smoothed over. Spray the peat moss as often as necessary to keep it damp.
7. Pots may be stood on a radiator against a window provided a sheet of non-burnable material is used on the top by way of insulation. On this the same flat trays containing moist gravel and charcoal may be placed.
You will need the following equipment for your indoor garden if you intend to garden to any extent:
Topsoil, 1 garbage pail full
Coarse sharp sand or gravel screenings, 1 garbage pail full Humus, 1 garbage pail full
Peat moss, 1 garbage pail full Sphagnum moss, 1 garbage pail full (If your indoor gardening is on a small scale, instead of these you might purchase a package of some ready-mixed potting soil at your supply store.)
1 garden trowel
1 mason's pointing trowel
1 pair pruning shears, small
* 1 watering can, small, with a fine rose nozzle 1 hand continous sprayer, brass, 1 quart
1 thermometer, self-registering
1 small hand sieve, 1/2 inch mesh 1 small hand sieve, 1/4 inch mesh
* Clay flowerpots, a quantity in assorted sizes
Glass saucers for flowerpots
Plant stand with liner, as described in step 6 above.
Self-irrigating window box
Wooden stick labels, 4-inch
Light bamboo stakes, 18 inches long
Twistems or pipecleaners for attaching plants to stakes Small hand duster, 1 quart
Pail, 12 quarts
Package Hormodin powder No. 1
Package Hormodin powder No.2 (The two items above aid in production of roots on cuttings.) Bell jars
* Old metal table fork
* Old metal tablespoon Ant traps
1 pound Bordo Mixture, powder
1 ounce Black-leaf 40
1 ounce Dimite
1 package DX Pyrethrum-rotenone spray
1 package Chlordane dust, 6 per cent
* Basic requirements for indoor gardening on a small scale.
Window curtains of the average type may be replaced by narrow ones of transparent plastic, to which water will do no harm. They are narrow so that when they are gathered at their lower third they will obstruct very little light. Please yourself if you want them plain or with figured designs, though the former are to be preferred. And use your judgment as to color, possibly light tints of yellow, blue or pink.
Your room may have a large modern picture window, along which you may wish to build a garden. Make a strong shelf 3 to 5 feet wide and longer than the window is wide. Construct it like a greenhouse bench on solid supports; 9-inch sides will enable you to have an 8-inch thickness of damp peat moss. The garden will be partly in shade, but sun should reach most of it.
A shallow metal pan may be installed where the sunny portion merges into the shade to serve as an indoor pond. See how the larger exhibitors at flower shows mask their metal pans with tufa rock or cork-bark.
The following would be set in the sunny portion:
These shade-tolerant kinds would go into the areas away from the sun: