Make Winter Green-Thumb Friendly With an Indoor Garden
Source: Rick Durham, UK extension horticulture professor
Gardening is often thought of as a spring and summer pastime, but you don’t have to give up your gardening hobby just because winter is approaching. Continue working your green thumb this winter with an indoor container garden.
Container gardening refers to planting in containers rather than a traditionally tilled plot of land. Container gardening is a great way to bring your plants in from the cold and utilize small spaces such as windowsills and tabletops.
While the variety of crops you can plant in container gardens isn’t as vast as traditional gardens, there are still a variety of planting options. Here are some easy plants to grow indoors this winter:
- Scallions: For scallions, also known as green onions, you can cut off the tip with the roots and place it in a glass with about an inch of water. When the roots are 2-3 inches long, plant them in potting soil in a shallow container. You can either harvest the green tops and let the plant continue to grow or use the entire green onion.
- Garlic greens: Plant a garlic clove in a few inches of potting soil mix for garlic greens You won’t be able to grow bulbs, but the green portion tastes garlicky and serves as a good substitute, either raw or sauted.
- Microgreens: Microgreens refer to small edible greens grown from the seeds of vegetables and herbs such as broccoli and beets. Make sure the seeds you use are labeled for use as microgreens so there is no coating that may contaminate the plant. Sow the seeds thickly in new, clean potting soil in shallow containers like disposable aluminum pans with one to two inches of potting soil. Microgreens typically mature after 12-14 days or closer to 21 days for larger seeds and reach an average height of 4-5 inches tall. These can be used in salads, wraps or garnishes once fully grown.
- Carrots: Small carrots are easy to grow in potting soil. Sprinkle the seeds on top of the soil in a pot or long window box, lightly cover with damp peat moss and water well. And don’t throw away those carrot tops. They’re edible and nutritious and can be used in soups and sauces and even smoothies.
- Herbs: Basil, chives and parsley are extremely easy to grow indoors. Parsley demands more humidity, so misting the plants will help them flourish. Use organic fertilizer to help your herbs reach their full potential.
One of the biggest challenges with indoor gardening is the lighting limitations. While you should utilize as much natural light from windows as possible, some plants may need additional light from grow lights. Grow lights come in all price ranges and styles, from full-spectrum fluorescent lights to LED plant lights that are a bit more expensive but use less electricity than fluorescent lights. Incandescent bulbs do not emit the right spectrum of light for plant growth.
Another issue you may come across is ensuring your containers have proper drainage. You should use potting soil, which has better drainage, rather than garden soil. Be sure your containers have a hole for drainage and are placed atop a detachable saucer or in a tray to catch extra water. After the water has drained into this catching device, empty excess water to lower the risk of root rot.
Even though you are using clean, presumably "sterile" potting soil, you should wash any plant parts thoroughly before consuming, especially if you are using them raw.