Growing Through Winter
Winter is coming. It is time for the annual hibernation to begin. Squirrels bury the last few nuts to last through the winter. Bears head off for their long naps, gardeners curl up in their blankets, waiting for the arrival of seed catalogs as their very early sign of spring. At Hudson Valley Vertical Farms, the winter is no time for rest. There are CSA members to feed through the winter months. Despite the freezes and flurries, things are always growing with the benefit of several indoor vertical aeroponic growing systems that were conceptualized by the farm and designed and built by Aero, Rethinking Growth. Hudson Valley Vertical Farms, Inc. is a member of Rondout Valley Growers Association and Stick to Local Farms. It shares some helpful tips from its chances and mistakes made over the years from germination to harvest.
Successful indoor growing starts with the seeds. Heirloom and organic varieties that have a high germination rate of over 90% rate are a good beginning.
The farm chooses seeds from the Hudson Valley Seed Library, because they are locally sourced. The Hudson Valley Seed Library also supports affiliated programs, including the artists who design their seed packets.
The weakest link for any growing cycle is germination. This is the two-week period that starts when we plant the seeds in rock wool and add water. A growing mat and thermostat is used for germinating seedlings at their ideal temperature.
When they sprout, plants growing in an inert medium that provides no nutrition require food, light, and wind. The sooner these three elements are added, the more successful the growth will be later. An ideal electrical conductivity reading for seedlings is 0.8, half of the amount of food that is needed for full-sized plants.
The seedlings don't need just air, they need moving air. They may grow just fine with the nutrients they need from light, water, and air, but indoor plants are weaker than their outdoor cousins because they don't get blown around. The wind helps the plants' resilience on a cellular level, helping them grow stalky and bushy. So once the plants' sprout, run a small fan on them for their first two weeks to simulate the blowing of the wind outdoors.