By Brian Barth
Winter is coming. But don't go putting your gardening gloves away just yet.
Gardening is often treated as a seasonal sport, but it's possible to play in winter, too—you just have to learn a slightly different set of rules. The first, and most important, step is to understand which crops are best adapted to indoor growing. Then it's a matter of creating the right conditions for each.
If you have a sunny south-facing window, some of the crops below are fairly effortless to grow indoors in winter. If you have them growing in a pot outdoors already, simply reposition them inside and continue providing water and fertilizer (here's a selection of natural and organic fertilizers suitable for indoor plants). Others will need supplemental lighting in order to thrive, as winter days are too short for many species to photosynthesize sufficiently. Find indoor grow lights and accessories online and at garden centers and hydroponic stores. Full spectrum fluorescent bulbs are the most widely available and cost-effective type.
Basil, oregano, sage, lavender, mint, thyme, rosemary, dill, and other herbs are among the easiest edibles to grow indoors. Of these, mint is the most shade tolerant, though it still needs a few hours of direct light each day to thrive. Basil and dill have the highest heat requirements, so you'll want to make sure they're located in a room that stays above 60 degrees at night.
Lettuces, arugula, spinach, kale, and other leafy greens are also easy to grow indoors, though you'll have more luck harvesting them as baby greens, rather than trying to grow them to maturity. Sow a new batch of seeds every few weeks to maintain a ready supply. Greens do not need supplemental light if located in a sunny, south-facing window. Otherwise, provide 10 to 12 hours of artificial light daily.
3. Cherry Tomatoes
Fruiting plants are trickier to grow indoors in winter because most need ample sunlight and heat to mature. Cherry tomatoes are one of the easiest of the fruiting crops to grow indoors, though they will definitely require artificial light—about 16 hours each day. They also need nighttime temperature to be kept above 65 degrees to thrive. A warm sunroom where daytime temperatures reach 75 to 80 degrees is ideal.
4. Chili Peppers
Chilies (cayenne, jalapeno, habanero, etc) are another category of fruiting edible that is relatively easy to grow indoors. The smallest varieties, like cayenne, are the easiest to ripen. Growing requirements are the same as cherry tomatoes.
Some types of dwarf citrus (which can be kept in a large pot) are suitable for indoor growing, or at least overwintering indoors. The beauty of citrus is that many varieties ripen during winter. For best results, keep citrus in pots outdoors from spring through fall, moving them inside whenever nighttime temperatures begin to dip below 50 degrees. Oranges and grapefruits are tough to ripen indoors, though lemons and limes fair quite well. These subtropical shrubs need 8 hours of direct sunlight in winter, or 16 hours under grow lights.
6. Baby Ginger
This tropical spice needs heat and humidity to thrive, so it isn't the best candidate for a room that is kept at 68 degrees with the dry air of central heating. But it is feasible in a large terrarium, which can be made with any standard fish aquarium that is at least 24 inches tall (to accommodate for the height of the plants). Ginger requires good drainage, so don't just add soil to the bottom of the aquarium; plant it in six-inch deep pots instead. You can start new plants by cutting up store-bought ginger (make sure it's organic, as conventional ginger is often treated with growth inhibitors) into two-inch chunks with at least one knobby tip on each. Provide at least 8 hours of direct sun or 16 hours under grow lights.
Sprouts are by far the easiest way to grow a little fresh food in the depths of winter. Sprouting kits are your best bet—these are basically a mason jar with a perforated lid. Soak the seeds (mung beans, alfalfa, sunflower, etc) for a day or two and then leave them to germinate in the jar, rinsing twice per day. No direct sunlight is required; ordinary room lighting or a bit of diffuse light in a window is all you need.
Microgreens are essentially sprouts that have been allowed to develop their first leaves. Or you could say they are baby greens that are harvested early. Unlike sprouts, microgreens require soil—a seedling tray filled with potting soil is perfect. Soak the seeds overnight to get them started germinating and then cover them with a thin layer of soil in the tray, or just press them into the surface of the soil. Keep moist. Harvest once the first leaves emerge by cutting them with scissors just above the soil. Greens of all types are ideal for harvesting as microgreens, as are peas (that's how you get pea shoots), and root crops, like turnips, beets, and radishes.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
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By Daisy Simmons
1. Stay Informed<p>A first order of business in pet evacuation planning is to understand and be ready for the possible threats in your area. Visit <a href="https://www.ready.gov/be-informed" target="_blank">Ready.gov</a> to learn more about preparing for potential disasters such as floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Then pay attention to related updates by tuning <a href="http://www.weather.gov/nwr/" target="_blank">NOAA Weather Radio</a> to your local emergency station or using the <a href="https://www.fema.gov/mobile-app" target="_blank">FEMA app</a> to get National Weather Service alerts.</p>
2. Ensure Your Pet is Easily Identifiable<p><span>Household pets, including indoor cats, should wear collars with ID tags that have your mobile phone number. </span><a href="https://www.avma.org/microchipping-animals-faq" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Microchipping</a><span> your pets will also improve your chances of reunion should you become separated. Be sure to add an emergency contact for friends or relatives outside your immediate area.</span></p><p>Additionally, use <a href="https://secure.aspca.org/take-action/order-your-pet-safety-pack" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">'animals inside' door/window stickers</a> to show rescue workers how many pets live there. (If you evacuate with your pets, quickly write "Evacuated" on the sticker so first responders don't waste time searching for them.)</p>
3. Make a Pet Evacuation Plan<p> "No family disaster plan is complete without including your pets and all of your animals," says veterinarian Heather Case in <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q9NRJkFKAm4" target="_blank">a video</a> produced by the American Veterinary Medical Association.</p><p>It's important to determine where to take your pet in the event of an emergency.</p><p>Red Cross shelters and many other emergency shelters allow only service animals. Ask your vet, local animal shelters, and emergency management officials for information on local and regional animal sheltering options.</p><p>For those with access to the rare shelter that allows pets, CDC offers <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/healthypets/emergencies/pets-in-evacuation-centers.html" target="_blank">tips on what to expect</a> there, including potential health risks and hygiene best practices.</p><p>Beyond that, talk with family or friends outside the evacuation area about potentially hosting you and/or your pet if you're comfortable doing so. Search for pet-friendly hotel or boarding options along key evacuation routes.</p><p>If you have exotic pets or a mix of large and small animals, you may need to identify multiple locations to shelter them.</p><p>For other household pets like hamsters, snakes, and fish, the SPCA recommends that if they normally live in a cage, they should be transported in that cage. If the enclosure is too big to transport, however, transfer them to a smaller container temporarily. (More on that <a href="https://www.spcai.org/take-action/emergency-preparedness/evacuation-how-to-be-pet-prepared" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">here</a>.)</p><p>For any pet, a key step is to establish who in your household will be the point person for gathering up pets and bringing their supplies. Keep in mind that you may not be home when disaster strikes, so come up with a Plan B. For example, you might form a buddy system with neighbors with pets, or coordinate with a trusted pet sitter.</p>
4. Prepare a Pet Evacuation Kit<p>Like the emergency preparedness kit you'd prepare for humans, assemble basic survival items for your pets in a sturdy, easy-to-grab container. Items should include:</p><ul><li>Water, food, and medicine to last a week or two;</li><li>Water, food bowls, and a can opener if packing wet food;</li><li>Litter supplies for cats (a shoebox lined with a plastic bag and litter may work);</li><li>Leashes, harnesses, or vehicle restraints if applicable;</li><li>A <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/pet-first-aid-supplies-checklist" target="_blank">pet first aid kit</a>;</li><li>A sturdy carrier or crate for each cat or dog. In addition to easing transport, these may serve as your pet's most familiar or safe space in an unfamiliar environment;</li><li>A favorite toy and/or blanket;</li><li>If your pet is prone to anxiety or stress, the American Kennel Club suggests adding <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">stress-relieving items</a> like an anxiety vest or calming sprays.</li></ul><p>In the not-unlikely event that you and your pet have to shelter in different places, your kit should also include:</p><ul><li>Detailed information including contact information for you, your vet, and other emergency contacts;</li><li>A list with phone numbers and addresses of potential destinations, including pet-friendly hotels and emergency boarding facilities near your planned evacuation routes, plus friends or relatives in other areas who might be willing to host you or your pet;</li><li>Medical information including vaccine records and a current rabies vaccination tag;</li><li>Feeding notes including portions and sizes in case you need to leave your pet in someone else's care;</li><li>A photo of you and your pet for identification purposes.</li></ul>
5. Be Ready to Evacuate at Any Time<p>It's always wise to be prepared, but stay especially vigilant in high-risk periods during fire or hurricane season. Practice evacuating at different times of day. Make sure your grab-and-go kit is up to date and in a convenient location, and keep leashes and carriers by the exit door. You might even stow a thick pillowcase under your bed for middle-of-the-night, dash-out emergencies when you don't have time to coax an anxious pet into a carrier. If forecasters warn of potential wildfire, a hurricane, or other dangerous conditions, bring outdoor pets inside so you can keep a close eye on them.</p><p>As with any emergency, the key is to be prepared. As the American Kennel Club points out, "If you panic, it will agitate your dog. Therefore, <a href="https://www.akc.org/expert-advice/home-living/create-emergency-evacuation-plan-dog/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">pet disaster preparedness</a> will not only reduce your anxiety but will help reduce your pet's anxiety too."</p>
Evacuating Horses and Other Farm Animals<p>The same basic principles apply for evacuating horses and most other livestock. Provide each with some form of identification. Ensure that adequate food, water, and medicine are available. And develop a clear plan on where to go and how to get there.</p><p>Sheltering and transporting farm animals requires careful coordination, from identifying potential shelter space at fairgrounds, racetracks, or pastures, to ensuring enough space is available in vehicles and trailers – not to mention handlers and drivers on hand to support the effort.</p><p>For most farm animals, the Red Cross advises that you consider precautionary evacuation when a threat seems imminent but evacuation orders haven't yet been announced. The American Veterinary Medical Association has <a href="https://www.avma.org/resources/pet-owners/emergencycare/large-animals-and-livestock-disasters" target="_blank">more information</a>.</p>
Bottom Line: If You Need to Evacuate, So Do Your Pets<p>As the Humane Society warns, pets left behind in a disaster can easily be injured, lost, or killed. Plan ahead to make sure you can safely evacuate your entire household – furry members included.</p>
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