Novice to Use Sunroom for NEW year-round kitchen garden

winspiffSeptember 11, 2012

Hello Everyone!

I'm looking for a bit of advice on starting up a year-round edible garden in a sunroom. I have limited experience with planting (very good at killing plants) but a year-round garden is something I've wanted to do for some time.

The room faces south and is L-shaped. The attached picture is of the bottom of the L. The southern window wall (bottom of the L) is 10'10". The western window portion is 5'7.5". Its depth, to the crook of the L, is 4'7".

You cannot see it in the pictures, but the eastern wall (or the side of the L) is full of windows but has a door. The top of the L (northern direction) also has a door. The entire thing looks to be an addition to the outside of a brick home. It has electrical sockets and windows that will open.

I think at this point I will need to have auxillary lighting for winter months. I do want to have something that waters itself, as I usually err too far in one direction or another when it comes to watering. I don't want to use the room only for a garden - I would also like to have space for seating or reading a book (hypothetically).

I'm looking for some logistical advice at this point - what good self-maintaining planters/lighting units are available for window height, even interior design ideas if you are so inclined! Basically, I hope to draw upon your experience with what you've found would work well in this type of situation.

If it helps, I've brainstormed a "dream" list of plants I eat often. Not all of them may work themselves into the plan, but I want to try to fit in as many foods as I can:

Tomato (heirloom?)

Lettuce

Spinach

Bell peppers

Rosemary

Thyme

Basil

Cilantro

Other spices?

Oranges (dwarf)

Banana (probably not! haha)

Carrot

Celery

Chilis

Broccoli

Garlic

Onion

Asparagus

Peas

Edible flowers

Strawberry

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winspiff

Here's just another view if it helps visualize how and where to put things.

Thanks again!

    Bookmark   September 11, 2012 at 12:33PM
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marricgardens

I think that would be a great sunroom! Out of the plants listed you could grow all except, IMHO:
- the heirloom tomatoes because they get to tall. There are some nice patio types out there that would be better.
- the carrot, celery, Broccoli, Garlic,Onion, Asparagus, peas I would leave out in the garden. For celery why not grow lovage? It's an herb that tastes like celery. I use it the same as celery. Garlic chives and onion chives instead of garlic and onions. A lot of people grow dwarf bananas and oranges in their sun room, so why not try it? The rest of the things listed should do well for you. Good luck.

    Bookmark   September 14, 2012 at 8:38AM
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northerngurl(5)

I am so jealous. How cold does that room get in the winter? That should be a consideration as well.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2012 at 12:56AM
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defrost49

This will be our first winter with a high tunnel but I expect only cold hardy plants will last all winter. Here are my comments on your list. Please keep in mind that I do NOT have experience with a sunroom.
Tomato (heirloom?)
Lettuce
Spinach
Bell peppers - I understand peppers are actually perennials
Rosemary - popular tender perennial but a challenge to winter over indoors because of low humidity in homes
Thyme - needs a winter dormancy
Basil - should be a fun project
Cilantro - I have trouble with cilantro. It always bolts in the spring. Right now, I have a nice little crop that has withstood a couple of 21 deg nights (I'm in NH) but it wasn't planted until late summer. I think it needs cooler temps.
Other spices? - saw some ginger from a local farm at the food coop. You might also consider lemon grass if you cook with it.
Oranges (dwarf) - I would check temperature requirements compared to other things you want to grow
Banana (probably not! haha) - Ditto
Carrot - Carrots are a biennial. I didn't plant any in my hight tunnel but probably should have.
Celery - no experience at all with this.
Chilis - same as peppers
Broccoli - should work
Garlic - I grow hardneck garlic. Plant in October for summer harvest. This may be another veg that needs a winter outdoors. You might look at garlic chives.
Onion - I don't have very good luck with onions while neighbors say they are easy. Check light requirements for bulbing. Suspect these would be tricky if you don't have enough light.
Asparagus - spring veggie. takes years to develop roots and needs to complete growing cycle as ferns to feed roots. Dont think it would be suitable as an indoor crop - would take up too much space.
Peas - might work but can't take hot temps
Edible flowers - calendulas are easy for me to grow.
Strawberry - not sure

I think basically you should group your list according to temperature and light requirements because right now I think it is too mixed. Keep in mind the low level of the sun in winter can cause it to get very warm near the glass but still wouldn't be enough daylight for some plants. I've read that my outdoor veggies in the high tunnel will go dormant when light levels are low in November - early March so I think you will have to have supplemental lighting.
Wish you luck with your project.

    Bookmark   October 23, 2012 at 7:09AM
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northerngurl(5)

Currently from that list I am growing peppers, tomatoes, basil, thyme, and strawberries indoors. They are slow growers but I do have two mignonette strawberries and have started more seed. I will be starting a batch of cilantro shortly.

    Bookmark   October 31, 2012 at 12:38PM
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