Just because it’s chilly outside doesn’t mean you have to put a mitten on your green thumb until spring returns. Winter brings not only cool weather but also delicious cool-weather crops that don’t require as much light as summer crops and that you can grow indoors on your windowsill successfully. Here’s how to start your own winter garden on your windowsill.
Winter crops include beet greens, chard, Asian greens, kale, lettuce, mustard and other leaf crops as well as vegetables, including carrots, cauliflower, peas, cabbage and beets. Herbs that grow well in cool temperature include rue, sage, mint, marjoram, parley, and chives.
Follow this step-by-step guide in order to get your winter garden started.
- Purchase pots that can accommodate your plant comfortably as it grows. A single green leaf plant can grow in a gallon pot, while a more elaborate and heavier plant, such as beets, will require a 3-5 gallon container. Make sure there is a hole at the bottom of the pot to allow excess water to drain.
- Choose a soil with medium texture. Such soil will hold moisture, air and nutrients much better than a fine or coarse soil mix.
- Pack soil into the containers up to 1-2 inches from the top of the pot.
- Dig a hole and place the germinated pant you purchased at your local greenhouse into the soil, covering the edges with soil to hold it in place. You can germinate your own seeds instead of buying them ready. Do not plant crops close together or else they will compete for water.
- Water immediately and keep plant near a window. A south-facing bay window that receives light from the south, east and west is an ideal place for a windowsill garden. Avoid shadowed areas. Keeping the plant in a white or light-colored room also helps, as light colors reflect the sunlight and will enhance sun exposure.
- Autumn and winter vegetables grow best at temperatures between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit in the daytime and 50 degrees Fahrenheit during the night. If you keep the roots warm with a special heating pad made for plants, they can withstand temperatures that are 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than advised.
- As the plants grow, snip away any weeds and water regularly with room temperature water. If you dip your finger into the soil and it comes out dry, water the plant. If your finger comes out damp or wet, do not water the plant. Plants demand less water in the winter.
- Feed your plants every two weeks with compost tea, liquid fish emulsion, liquid seaweed or any other organic liquid fertilizers. This will help plants grow strong and resist disease.
- Keep an eye on plants as they grow so as to avoid pests and disease. A foliar spray of fertilizer will help to avoid this.
Growing a winter garden on your windowsill is a lot like doing so with your summer garden, only it requires a bit more awareness of which crops to plant, how to access the best lighting and how often to water them. The rules change slightly, but the results are game changing. Now, roll your sleeves up and get planting!
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Photo Credit: Jenny Downing