Under the Grow Lights

This year, just like last, the grow lights are nowhere near as cramped as usual.  The main reason for this is that we are revamping the side yard vegetable garden which contains 8 of our raised beds (Area #1).  The original plan was to redo that area last year...and then we had a pandemic and most plans, including that one, flew out the window.

So 2021 is the year.  All the beds (old and new) in that area will be out of commission for most, if not all, of the season.  While the actual building of the beds is a relatively quick process, everything else that goes along with that (such as filling them, mulching the paths and redoing the drip irrigation) takes much more time.  And just like last year, I'm planning on doing this at my own pace & not stressing myself out with deadlines.  I spoke about my New Approach to the garden last July and I intend to stay the course on that - more enjoyment & less pressure is the name of the game.

Lettuce will be on the hilltop this year - a little less convenient,
but you gotta do what you gotta do

Most of the vegetables will be grown in the 6 hilltop beds this year, plus one of the beds in Area #2.  This last area has 4 beds, but one is occupied by strawberries and another is completely falling apart and has to be removed.  Since my husband is not fond of the beds in that spot, I'll likely not be replacing them and that area will eventually become an ornamental bed or I may plant a fruit tree or two.  So that leaves 2 beds, one of which will be for cutting flowers while the other will be for vegetables.

Going from 18 beds all the way down to 8 means that I've had to be very selective when it comes to what I grow, both in terms of the "what" as well as "how many".  No need to juggle with trays, pots and cell packs under the lights this year - there is more than enough room to spread out.

Eye spy...the final tray of last years onions underneath the light stand, lol!

So on to the main event - a quick rundown of what's under the grow lights right now.  Ironically, you'll have to excuse the lighting - as anyone who has ever taken photos of plants under grow lights knows, what's good for plants isn't ideal for the camera 😁

We'll start with the ornamentals, some of which are going in the ground while others are going in the cutting flower or vegetable beds.  First up are the Gaillardias - I'm growing 3 different varieties this year:

Gaillardia 'Double Sunset' & 'Indian Blanket'

Gaillardia 'Lollipop'

I seeded 2 varieties of marigold, but only the Orange Flame germinated.  Not surprising as the Janie series marigold seeds were pretty old.

Marigold 'Orange Flame'

Five different varieties of nasturtium were sowed, three of which ('Papaya Cream', 'Pheonix' and 'Tip Top Apricot') have yet to make an appearance.

Nasturtium 'Orchid Cream' & 'Moonlight'

And the Gomphrena is just beginning to pop up - this one will be a first for me:

Gomphrena 'Mandarin Orange'

Two 'Summer Jewel' salvias, Lavender and Pink:

Salvia coccinea 'Summer Jewel Lavender'

Salvia coccinea 'Summer Jewel Pink'

I'm not sure what it is about Tithonia, but I always seem to have issues getting them to germinate.  Out of 6 seeds (and they were freshly purchased this year), only 2 have come up.  I think of bit of research is in order.

Tithonia 'Red Torch'

Of course, I wouldn't be without my zinnias, although I am cutting back a LOT on those - this year,  I'm only growing 4 varieties:  Cherry Queen, Lavender Queen, Orange King and Carousel.  And while 4 varieties isn't bad, it doesn't quite compare to the twelve I grew back in 2019 (pre-Covid, which will from here on in be referred to as "the good ol' days"!)

I'm also growing a few sweet peas - can you believe I've never grown them before??  I can't believe it either!  I actually did try growing them last year but I sowed them directly into a garden bed and they never ended up doing much, which I'm convinced was more user error than anything else.

Three of the zinnia varieties are keeping
'Saltwater Taffy' sweet peas company

And while I didn't go crazy with other ornamentals, I can't say the same about sunflowers.  All that pent up seed starting energy had to go somewhere.  I'm growing 8 different varieties:  Evening Sun, Fantazja, Autumn Beauty, Fun 'N Sun Blend, Moonshadow, Royal Flush, Birds & Bees and Lemon Queen.  By the way, did you know that it's the Year of the Sunflower?  I'm pretty sure that's what spurred my sunflower purchasing frenzy this year - not that I'm complaining 😉

A tray of sunflower starts
I just have to figure out how to keep the bunnies away from them
so that they don't get decapitated like they have in years past!

Now we are on to edibles & first up is the basil I posted about last time:

Lemon & Custom Blend basil 

Profumo di Genova & Dolly basil

Thai basil

The onions were a bit touch and go there for a while - but that's a story for another time:

Stuttergard, Wethersfield Red & Brunswick onions

I'm only growing one bed of tomatoes so will be concentrating primarily on the paste varieties:  Amos Coli, Opalka, Chico III and Striped Roman.  I've also included one of my favourite cherry types, Mexico Midget, as well as a new AAS favourite I first tried last year, Apple Yellow.  I have my fingers crossed for a good tomato year as I need to restock the freezer!

The tomato starts have been sluggish this year - so far,
only Chico III and Striped Roman have germinated

And then there was the organic ginger and turmeric that I picked up at the grocery store, thanks to some inspiration from Dave's blog.  I had been planning on throwing them into a pot all winter long and finally got around to it a couple of months ago.  These will need to be repotted soon:

Turmeric (front, left) & ginger (back, right)

I have one tray of spring crops that are finally hardening off, after having to hang around inside for the better part of last week because of a sharp cool down with snow and chilly temps.  I had to start the hardening off process all over again, but now they are well on their way.

On this tray we have:
Kohlrabi (Kolibri & Vienna), lettuce (New Red Fire, Black Seeded Simpson,
Mignonette Bronze, Tropicana), heading cabbage (Coracao de Boi Temporao),
kale (Red Ursa & White Russian) and flatleaf parsley.

I am so looking forward to finally getting something planted outside.  Hopefully, the weather doesn't thwart my plans again!

While this may not seem like a lot of starts for 7 beds of vegetables, there are quite a few that have either not been sown yet (i.e. cucumbers, squash) or are sown directly outdoors (beans, potatoes, carrots).  There are also some veggies that I'm simply not growing this year, such as peppers (I still have several bags in the freezer) and eggplant.

When your bed space is cut down by more than half, you have to be brutal when deciding what and how much you REALLY need.  And yes, I do NEED the full tray of sunflowers, thank you very much 😆


  1. My lord, even your scaled-back vegetable garden seems like a heck of a lot. I am having mixed results with my own grow lights. Only 3 of 6 Royal Ensign Dwarf Morning Glory have germinated, and not a single Cleome. Others are doing mostly fine, except only one of the Red Verandah Hybrid tomatoes have germinated - out of three.

  2. That's still a lot of seedlings, Margaret ;) Although I bought a very small seed-starting set with lights years ago, I've really no good place to put it (there are few basements here in earthquake country!) so I generally rely on things I can direct sow. I've had somewhat disappointing results thus far this year, possibly because our rainy season was virtually non-existent, and it's getting to be time to admit failure with my spring crop and start sowing zinnias and sunflowers. Your comment about the Year of the Sunflower had me checking my sunflower seed stock, only to discover that I've failed to buy any sunflower seeds so far. That will be remedied today!

  3. Margaret you are the most industrious gardener I know of !
    I think I would lose what is left of my mind trying to be that organized and set to go the minute frost is no longer a danger .. do you know what is under my single grow light I bought from Lee Valley ? .. my yoga FROG ! LOLOL

  4. Exciting times, from so many perspectives! Sounds like you have some big plans for the planting beds this summer. Woot! And your active gardens will still be large and productive. Almost time to plant outside. Yay!

  5. There's still more than enough there, both ornamentals and veggies. I don't think you can have too many sunflowers, and you've got your excuse with it being Year of the Sunflower.


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