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Gulf Coast Gardening: Indoor Gardening with an Outdoor Twist

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Gulf Coast gardeners will appreciate getting their indoor gardening fix while starting seeds for this year’s crop.

Indoor bliss starts with a packet of lettuce seeds.

By Mary Glazer

Spring in the Gulf Coast states arrives months ahead of the rest of the country. Flocks of robins are visiting my bird feeders here in north-central Florida. But the birds have an advantage over plants: They can fly away when a late-season freeze hits the area.

This year I thought I would try indoor gardening to cope with the in-between season. I’m accustomed to handling grown plants. But seeds? When I was a child my parents had a veggie garden, but I was too busy digging massive holes in the middle of their plot—for my doll’s swimming pool—to pay much attention.

It doesn’t take many seeds to start my indoor garden.

With a low-tech beginner’s grow kit, which includes a tray, clear-plastic lid and compressed peat discs, my mini greenhouse only requires three additional items: light, water and seeds. I have a sunny, southwest-facing window in my kitchen and a package of lettuce seeds, so I’m ready to go.

Discs quickly pop up into mini muffin size.

After adding warm water, the discs quickly plump up into mini muffin size. After sowing seeds of beets and lettuce, I cover the discs with a plastic lid and put the greenhouse in a sunlit window. Plants start to sprout within days, so I remove the greenhouse cover to avoid encouraging mold.

A plastic lid turns the tray into a mini greenhouse.

One problem: I made a beginner’s mistake and sowed way too many seeds per disc. Next time I’ll follow the seed packet’s recommendations. For now I’ll have to thin the plants. Thinning is easy. You decide which seedlings look the healthiest and most vibrant, then remove the others. Rather than pulling them up and possibly disturbing the roots, I snip them at the base with scissors.

Within days, seedlings arise from peat discs.

Beets and lettuce are cool-season crops best started right in the ground. But with peat pots it’s easy to start them indoors and transplant outside when they’re 2 inches tall. In the meantime it’s a treat to watch my indoor garden grow, knowing I’ll soon have a fresh salad sprouting.

See more by this author.