With winter approaching, many of us will be contending with a blanket of ice and whipping wind. These are less-than-ideal conditions for most outdoor gardens. This is how to bring some green to your indoor space and keep your thumbs green all winter.
Best Plants for Winter Cultivation
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Herbs are a traditional kitchen-garden staple because they’re easy to grow, they don’t take up a ton of space, and they add that special touch to your cooking. Best bets? Basil, mint, chives, cilantro, and rosemary.
Microgreens are another solid choice for the in-kitchen gardener. Microgreens are the seedlings of plants like radishes, beets, basil, dill, Swiss chard, and kale. Small as they are, they’re packed with nutrients. Microgreens also don’t require huge pots and can be harvested in just a few weeks. Keep those roots intact while harvesting, and your microgreens garden will keep making more.
If you have a larger window sill (or a grow-light setup), you can grow salad greens indoors all winter long. Spinach, iceberg, romaine, arugula, and kale are all good candidates for salad greens. Greens are also a homegrown gift that keeps giving. Take care to harvest outer leaves and leave the root system undisturbed, and they’ll continue to provide fresh food.
Carrots, kohlrabi, beets, yams, radishes, and even ginger are all good root vegetables to grow indoors during the winter season. They’ll take up more space than smaller plants will, so large window sills or a grow-light setup in a basement (or another major indoor area) is ideal.
Lemons, mandarin oranges, tomatoes, and other larger yields can also be grown indoors. These crops usually begin as starter plants instead of seeds and require spacious pots, plenty of light, and well-draining soil.
First, determine what you’re going to grow in your own indoor winter garden. Check out the space you have available and select spots that get as much sunlight as possible. Browse the selection of live plants at your local nursery to get an idea of the space needed to house certain herbs, veggies, or fruit trees.
When it comes to supplies, sterile potting soil is a must; trays or pots that drain well are important too. Small containers or trays can be ideal for compact crops such as microgreens, or pocket-sized root vegetables such as radishes. But you’ll want to choose larger containers for herbs and more substantial vegetables, such carrots or yams.
For plant care, refer to your seed packets or the guides that come with your starter plants. Note: Container plants might need more frequent watering than plants in the ground. Either way, you’ll want to take care to avoid over- or under-watering. (Setting your plants on a tray lined with small pebbles can keep them from drowning in standing water.)
Don’t forget: Indoor plants need fertilizer too. In addition to or in lieu of purchasing ready-made fertilizer, you can choose a DIY option. If you have a freshwater fish tank, you can upcycle some of that aquarium water for your home garden – fish waste is productive for your greenery. Eggshells and coffee grounds are also good add-ons for your indoor garden. And if you have some Epsom salts laying around, follow the package instructions to create a plant-friendly once-a-month watering solution.
Reap Your Rewards
After a few weeks (or many, depending on what you’re growing), you can enjoy the benefits of your hard work. Many plants continue to offer up edibles as long as the roots are left intact and leaves (in the case of herbs) are harvested off several different stems (i.e., don’t grab all the leaves off one stem).
With a little careful planning and a sunny window sill, you can enjoy a garden year-round.