January 2nd

theresa albert - my friend in food


Window Sill Farming


Winter can be a tough time of year for those who’ve been bit by the vegetable gardening bug. The ground is frozen, the days are short and dark and the only green around are Christmas trees. But don’t despair. It may appear that there’s nothing left to do but plan for next spring but it’s not true. You can keep your hands in the dirt and fresh food on your plate by bringing your summer garden in from the cold. Plus you can start shallow rooted crops on a south-facing windowsill or transform a tabletop into an indoor greenhouse with grow lights.

In From the Cold

Anything you have already growing in pots outside will likely do well indoors. We managed to keep a pepper plant growing all winter long and brought it back outside in the spring. It grew to six feet tall and was a prolific producer. You don’t have to leave your perennial herbs lying dormant in the ground. Sage, thyme, oregano and other perennial herbs will come back in the spring but if you want fresh cut herbs all winter long try transplanting them from your garden beds into pots and bring them inside.

Sow New Seeds

Many tasty veggies grow well in pots especially shallow rooted plants like lettuce, spinach and arugula. You may even have success with radishes, which are especially satisfying because they grow relatively quickly. Try chard and kale, basil and cilantro which all do really well in pots too. All you need is a south facing window, a planter with a drainage hole and saucer, potting soil, seed or seedlings and a watering can.

You can start your windowsill edibles from seed or you can get a head start by planting seedlings. Visit Richter’s Herbs just north of Toronto for a wide range of culinary and medicinal herbs then tour their greenhouse. It’s a perfect fix for those craving a taste of summer.

No Time? No Problem.

One big stumbling block for many would-be gardeners is lack of time. If you’re concerned that the care of your windowsill garden will suck up as much time as it does water, try self-watering pots. These containers have water reservoirs in the bottom so the plants can feed from the roots up. Your plants will love it and so will you.

For DIYers, make your own self watering container by converting any pot or windowsill box using perforated pipe, landscape cloth and a plastic water bottle with the bottom cut off. All you do is lay the pipe in the bottom of the pot, score a hole in it at one end then invert the bottle and insert the into the scored hole. Lay a sheet of landscape cloth over the pipe and fill the pot with potting soil. The inverted bottle will poke above the soil line and serve as a funnel for water that goes directly to the roots. Make sure you score a little overflow hole in the side of your container a few inches up from the bottom so you’ll never overwater.

This is the month for giving so treat a pining gardener to a little indoor gardening kit. Instead of store-bought sweets choose a semi-home made gift that can be eaten. Fill a decorative pot with gardening gloves, a spade, a growing medium like potting soil or coconut coir, a pack of seeds or a gift certificate from Urban Harvest an organic seed company in Toronto.





Arlene Hazzan Green is an urban farmer and television director with one foot in the dirt and one in high heels. Along with her husband Marc Green she founded The Backyard Urban Farm Company with the goal of igniting people’s passion for growing their own food. Together they design, install and maintain organic vegetable gardens in homes, schools and businesses in the Greater Toronto Area. For more info about Arlene please visit www.bufco.ca


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