It’s snowing outside. Right now, I can look outside my window and see the beginnings of (yet another) snowstorm. These are nothing new in Central Minnesota. As hearty Minnesotans, we’re raised to endure the cold. We have flannel pajamas given to us for our first Christmas. We endure, and like your kind old neighbor will have you know, we are nurtured to endure quietly and stoically, one hand on our snow shovel, and when not accelerating, one foot always hovering over the brake.
With this recent (of many) snowstorms, I’m here to tell you that life is more than white landscapes inter speckled with black-barked trees and grey skies. I’m here to remind you that green is still a color. Remember green? Remember color? We can have color, even in the cold snowy winter. Even in Central Minnesota! But, instead of growing your entire garden indoors, let’s start a little smaller. Let’s start with windowsill gardens!
First things first. Take stock of what you want to grow. In the cold and dark winter, it’s easy to forget the taste of fresh greens, but that’s what I’d recommend you start with. They will be able to use the natural light coming in through your window. In central MN, you’ll get the most light coming through your south facing window, so be sure to set up near one.
Which Seeds to Get?
There are literally hundreds of different places to purchase your seeds. You can go to your local home and garden center and pick up many varieties year-round. If you’re looking for more selection, or through seed catalogs is your best bet.
I love the Seed Savers Exchange. They focus on heirloom plants. These plants are able to
produce plants that will in turn produce more seeds for the next growing period. It’s kind of an art; to grow a veggie that hasn’t changed for generations. You can get very defined features from your plant if you go this route. Over the years, growers have particularly cultivated particular qualities to keep the varieties of plants ever growing and ever diverse.
However if you’re just getting started, grabbing some seeds from your local hardware store is a great first step.
One of the best ideas I have heard is to choose herbs to grow in your indoor garden. They will be directly in your first permaculture zone, which basically means, that these plants will grow where you live, ensuring you’ll have the opportunity to take care of them as often as you need without changing your daily routine. Some varieties i’d recommend would be basil, chives, rosemary, and even a little dill. You’re dinners will be so much better.
Where to Place Them?
Speaking of which, so you’ve got your seeds. You’ll now need a place to put them; for them to grow into the delicious greens you’ve forgotten are so colorful. One idea is to reuse any container from your house. My wife and I use used loose leaf spinach containers. You’ll have to use potting soil for the time being. (The cold frozen ground under eight feet of snow will have to wait).
Tea tins make great windowsill containers. Remember, you’re looking to get the feel for growing. You can dabble with the millions of varieties later. If you’re looking for something green to eat right away, you can’t go wrong with sprouts (either buckwheat, sunflower, or pea shoots). However, if you want something that is a little more substantial, you can choose a nice cold crop such as kale, broccoli, or spinach. If you go that route, you’ll need a little more space.
Irrigation? You betcha!
The only thing left to make sure your little guys will thrive will be water. You could invest in a drip irrigation system; a system that waters each plant at its base on a timer. That way you can be a little more hands off. However, setting an egg timer to water them works just as well and is much less expensive.
And that’s about it. Just make sure your seedlings get plenty of light and water and they’ll do just fine. We can do this. Together we can get through this long and winding winter.