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How to Create Your Indoor Edible Garden

Food

It's the deep heart of winter. Those cheerful strings of lights and garlands of pine have come down. Perhaps you're flipping wistfully through the early-arriving seed catalogs, dreaming of warmer weather and sweet-smelling, fresh-tasting herbs and vegetables.

Your windowsill herb garden can put a taste of summer in your salad bowl.
Photo credit: Shutterstock

There's no need to just dream. Maybe talk of hoop houses, cold frames and row covers leaves you scratching your head and a houseful of special shelves with grow lights installed is beyond your means and ability. But you have some of those tasty summer edibles all winter long without that much fuss and bother. Got a sunny windowsill or two? You're all set. Here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Be realistic in choosing what you grow. Pick out plants with shallow roots that do well in containers and thrive despite shorter days and less light. If you want to grow tomatoes in the winter, you're looking at a big investment of time and money; that's for people with well-equipped greenhouses. But if you'd like fresh salad greens year round, that's well within reach of even a casual grower. Radishes, lettuces of all types and many other leafy greens, such as kale, watercress and bok choy, all do well indoors and don't need special tending.

2. Winter is a great time to start playing around with fast-growing sprouts and microgreens, which are essentially early-harvested baby versions of lots of other plants such as kale, cabbage, cilantro, amaranth, broccoli and radishes. Many garden centers (and those seed catalogs you've been browsing) sell mixtures. You're looking at only a few weeks before you harvest a crop and because they are perishable, growing your own is always better than buying them at the supermarket, where they can be expensive. Microgreens are not only trendy, but they add variety to salads and pack a nutritional punch.

3. Try planting herb seeds like basil, dill, chives and parsley. Oregano, sage, thyme and rosemary, which grow better from planter starters than seeds, also do well inside. Keep that in mind this summer and bring in those pots of perennials come fall—or if they're planted in the ground, take cuttings and pot them up before the first frost comes. With luck, they will get you through until your outdoor plants awake from hibernation. More and more garden centers and even grocers are selling herb pots in the winter, so you can pick up these kitchen staples now. Most herbs only require a windowsill and occasional watering to keep going. Rosemary actually prefers cooler temperatures so keep it away from radiators, heating vents or space heaters.

4. Give them as much light as you can. Herbs and leafy greens typically need less light, even outdoors, that plants like tomatoes, peppers, squash and beans. In fact, most leafy greens don't do well in the heat of summer, and herbs have a tendency to thrive even in shadier sites, as anyone who has ever had a whack back a mint patch surely knows. It can boost your plants to expose them to a few grow lights even if you don't have a full system. Some plants, especially herbs, will probably make it through the window just on what daylight there is.

5. Go easy on fertilizing and watering. Plants need water and fertilizer to fuel their fast growth during peak summer months. They need less when they're indoors because their growth rate is slower. So don't overdo it. Make sure they're not soggy and make sure they've got plenty of space around them for air circulation so they don't attract fungus and mildew.

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A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.

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