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Growing Your Own Garden Inside-By Elysa Markowitz
What warms my heart is the sight of fresh greens growing in my garden. Not many climates support a garden year-round. It's too cold or too hot. However, there is one garden that can be cultivated year- round indoors: a garden of sprouts.

Most folks know about sprouts. Alfalfa, clover, and mixed bean sprouts are most commonly found in supermarkets in small plastic containers. However, if you want buckwheat, sunflower, or broccoli, a trip to the health food store is in order. The stores rarely germinate grains, beans, nuts, or seeds. This is better done at home: the start of your indoor sprout garden.

When I first started exploring sprouting, it was with glass bowls covered with towels. Almonds and pumpkin seeds were my favorites to soak in water overnight, rinse and enjoy the change that happens. Germination is simply the alchemy of water and air doing its magic to produce a seed that is rich in nutrients and ready for blending into smoothies or sauces.

Then, I became more sophisticated ?glass jars with screens in the lids starting with simple screens from hardware stores then graduating to orange, green, and yellow plastic with different sized openings for drainage and air circulation. Baskets and trays were next for growing larger gardens. Now, the more exotic sprouts were available in my garden - fennel, flax, and sunflower.

Remembering to water them consistently made the difference between sprouts or slime. The process would take one to four days. If I only needed a germinated nut, seed, bean, or grain, soaking them overnight and rinsing would do. When a longer tail was desired, more time and more rinsing was required ?up to five days for a full green patch of indoor, soil-free gardens. The hotter the day, the more frequent the rinsing.

One summer, I lost an entire garden by spending the day out of my house. Summers in the desert are harsh and hot. I looked for another system, a less labor intensive way to grow my indoor garden. I found it with the Freshlife?Automatic Sprouter. It is a series of stacking barrels, water in the bottom barrel, a tube up the middle and a sprinkler on top of the unit (you can have more than one sprouting barrel on top).

My watering dilemma was solved; it was done automatically by the sprinkling unit on top. I change the water once a day. My days of covering jars with towels were over. As the sprouts grow up ?they push the top tray (building their little sprout muscles) letting in more light through the side of the barrel. What a simple and workable system!

I could mix and match the kinds of sprouts I wanted, having the same kind in one barrel and another kind on the next level. Or, I could have a spring variety in one or both upper barrels. Sometimes technology can make our lives simpler and easier to manage. My sprout garden tends itself, and I get to enjoy the harvest with much less effort and much more joy.