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Winter Salads, Winter Light


When John Dickson first met Rachel Shaw they were both living in small apartments and she was trying to satisfy her gardening bug with volunteer work and Master Gardening classes. Looking for ways to support his soon-to-be-wife’s passion, John turned his inventive mind to the problem of growing indoors, and later, when they had moved into a larger place and Rachel had signed up for a community garden plot, to growing seeds.

He soon discovered a major problem in the design of seed-starting equipment: If the light was placed too high the seedlings grew quickly into tall, spindly plants, straining to reach the light. If it was placed too low, on the other hand, there was no room for them to grow. The solution equipment designers had come up with struck John as absurd: to place the light at an angle to accommodate the seedlings of different height. Instead, he came up with an innovative design of his own: seeds are placed in trays on shelves that can be moved up and down on a rack. He has a patent pending on the design, but all the parts are standard, everyday items that you can pick up at a Container Store, or build using lights and parts you already have at home. He is offering both kits (with a few tools which make setting up the racks to which the shelves are attached easy) and instructions on how to make your own on his business website, Daylight Design.

Standard Sun Station

Standard Sunstation (TM)

I am not much of a gardener, myself, but I did think having light and growing things indoors in the winter was a great idea– particularly if I could grow things to eat! Since I had a special ‘inside’ on this new business– Rachel is my sister– I began asking for something small, cheap and portable. John added other designs, including one table-top Sunstation (TM), but none of them was really suitable for my tiny room and peripatetic lifestyle. So John went back to the drawing board and came up with another design– this time not requiring shelves or any more space than a little room on a desk or table.

I brought my new ‘mini’ Sunstation (TM) home a couple of weeks ago.

Mini Sun Station

Mini Sunstation (TM)

It includes 4 ‘self-watering’ pots (another one of John’s inventions so you don’t have to worry about over or under-watering), humidity cups to protect the seeds before they sprout and a standard shop lamp.

Here they are today, with 3 healthy looking young lettuce plants and one laggard sprout.

Baby lettuce on mini Sun Station

Baby lettuce on mini Sunstation TM

Lettuce almost ready to harvest.

Lettuce almost ready to harvest.

And here it is today, about three weeks later, almost ready to eat!

I am still not interested in gardening, but I must admit, it is fascinating watching the seedlings sprout and grow as I sit here at my desk in front of my computer. And I am looking forward to some great salads!

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