We got an interesting “Ask Bryan” question today from Nick, a gardener in New York, who wrote this:

In looking to be more of a gardener and less of a consumer/dependent on
grocery stores, I started gardening. And over the last 3 years I have
gotten the knack down for what to do and how to do it better yet I know
I’m nowhere near knowing it all. So I come to you. Can I, with success,
create an indoor garden in my basement for over the winter? I live in NY
and the reason I ask this is I would love to buy heirloom seeds from you,
plant them and grow them over the winter and thus capture the best of the
best seeds from that harvest to use for that upcoming spring. Am I able to
pollinate a plant indoors without insects? What would I need to keep a 2
tomato plants and 2 pepper plants alive, vibrant and super healthy to make
it through a winter in NY?

So, here’s our answer!

Nick,

Here’s a link to an article on our blog about growing seedlings indoors.

How To Plant Seeds and Grow Starts Indoors

To grow your seedlings to the food stage indoors, we’re going to tweak the
above a little bit. Here goes: First of all, to grow successful tomato and
pepper crops indoors your temps inside where the plants are growing need
to optimally stay between 68-72 degrees. They can vary slightly on the low
side of those temps (no lower than 50 degrees), and can go up to 88
degrees for short periods; however, 68-72 degrees is optimal and will
ensure that your pollen is most potent.

In terms of pollinating without insects, no problem since both of these
plants are self-pollinating. However, shaking the blooms a little by
tapping the vines where there are blooms lightly before 11:00 in the
morning every day will ensure proper pollination.

Follow the raising and lowering of the lights exactly how it’s explained
in the seedling article; however, mature plants are going to need a rest
period. So, once the plants are approximately 2-3 months old and you can
see they are wanting to bloom (or start prior to 2-3 months if you start
to see any blooms). At this point, shut off the lights for 8 hours or so a
day to fool the plant into thinking it’s going through a night. This will
promote blooming.

Now, we have to address the soil issue, because in the seedling article
you are growing in a soilless mix, which is ideal for seedlings but
doesn’t provide enough nutrients for a plant to produce full-size,
flavorful fruit. So, what we need to do is transplant your seedlings at
around 10 weeks into containers that are at least 3 gallons or larger.
Add some organic potting soil to the bottom, then add some MegaBone or
MegaStart into the pot, add your plant, then fill to the top of the soil
line with more organic potting soil.

Here’s a helpful hint: If you choose 3 different cherry size tomatoes,
then you can transplant all 3 into one container. For larger varieties,
then just one transplant per container. Here is a large sampling of heirloom tomato seeds if you want to check it out. Same with heirloom pepper seeds. If you go with a few elongated, smaller-type frying peppers then you can get away with 3
varieties per container (like Sweet Banana, Jimmy Nardello, Super
Shepherd, Garden Salsa, etc. But only plant sweets with sweet, and hots
with hot).

In terms of organic soil amendments and feeding your plant, spray the leaves of your plants each week with
MegaSea, and rootfeed with MegaFish every 2 weeks. Use MegaPepe and
MegaMator as a soil side dress each week as well to ensure you can really
pull off a good crop indoors.

Keep us posted on how it goes, Nick! And send us some photos. What a fabulous idea!

Bryan and Kim

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