The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
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.
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.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Colorado senator and 2020 hopeful Michael Bennet introduced his plan to combat climate change Monday, in the first major policy rollout of his campaign. Bennet's plan calls for the establishment of a "Climate Bank," using $1 trillion in federal spending to "catalyze" $10 trillion in private spending for the U.S. to transition entirely to net-zero emissions by 2050.
When Trump's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its replacement for the Obama-era Clean Power Plan in August 2018, its own estimates said the reduced regulations could lead to 1,400 early deaths a year from air pollution by 2030.
Now, the EPA wants to change the way it calculates the risks posed by particulate matter pollution, using a model that would lower the death toll from the new plan, The New York Times reported Monday. Five current or former EPA officials familiar with the plan told The Times that the new method would assume there is no significant health gain by lowering air pollution levels below the legal limit. However, many public health experts say that there is no safe level of particulate matter exposure, which has long been linked to heart and lung disease.
By Andrea Germanos
Animal welfare advocates are praising soon-to-be introduced legislation in the U.S. that would ban the use of wild animals in traveling circuses.
By Tara Lohan
It's been the wettest 12 months on record in the continental United States. Parts of the High Plains and Midwest are still reeling from deadly, destructive and expensive spring floods — some of which have lasted for three months.
Mounting bills from natural disasters like these have prompted renewed calls to reform the National Flood Insurance Program, which is managed by Federal Emergency Management Agency and is now $20 billion in debt.