Grow Your Winter Herb Garden Indoors

 

I’ts officially winter out there and the coming of winter is a not always the most exciting or activity packed time in most gardens. During this season of short, dark days, indoor herb gardens offer welcome greenery and fragrance. You can easily bring herbs indoors for the nippy months even if you have little experience with plants or very little space to work with.

Some herbs naturally lend themselves better to indoor growing conditions. Parsley, basil, sage and thyme are known to hold up stronger inside. Extra perk is they are all perfect herb solutions for winter stews, casseroles and roasts. Isn’t it great when those things work out?

To bring your herb garden indoors for winter you need to find a table or shelf with sufficient fluorescent light (you must remember that to a plant, light is food) this will guarantee that your herb plants obtain all the necessary light and will also prevent them from die-back that occurs from being against a cold window. In warmer months, you can move your herbs to a sunny window or a shady balcony that receives at least six hours of sunlight per day so that they thrive.

The easiest way to start your indoor winter herb garden is to buy established plants especially if you’re only a novice gardener. There are several types of containers you can use for the plants, but terracotta planters are very popular and can me the modest option if you’re only starting out. Make sure the pots and container you select have drainage holes in the bottom Whatever container you select it should be deep enough to promote proper root development. You can plant multiple herbs in one container or select individual pots for each herb plant. You should also make sure that your herbs are not to overcrowded as this, too can lead to fungal problems that may kill your plants.

When repotting It’s a good idea to go with a store-bought potting mix. Be sure the mix is lightweight and will drain well. Pour a 5cm layer of potting soil into the bottom of your container and place your plant gently in its location. Finish filling it with potting mix, pressing it firmly around the plants. Leave about an 3cm of space at the top to make room for watering.

Remember that too much love can kill your herbs by watering too often: Excess water is harmful to the roots and causes rotting. Fertilize your herbs once a month with an organic fertilizer. Once you start to see new growth, you can begin to use your herbs for cooking.

Here are a few herbs that are particularly well suited for indoor growth:

  1. Parsley: Parsley needs at least eight hours of direct sunlight each day. If you can’t provide enough natural sunlight, grow the plants under fluorescent lights.

  2. Basil: Requires bright light and warm temperatures.

  3. Sage: Appreciates a manicure (prune back spindly branches) and drier conditions.

  4. Chives: Member of the onion family is best used fresh. Chives like bright light and cool temperatures.

  5. Dill: Choose a dwarf variety. You’ll need to make successive plantings to ensure a continuous crop since dill doesn’t grow back after harvesting.

  6. Lemon balm: This is easy to grow from seed and its fresh fragrance can be enjoyed in salads and drinks.

  7. Oregano: The soil must need to be loose and well-drained to prevent over-watering. The plant requires partial to full sun light either in a well-lit window seal or under a florescent light for at least 6 – 8+ hours per day

  8. Rosemary: Soil needs to be well drained, but don’t let it dry out completely.

  9. Thyme: Many varieties of thyme are available. Very well-drained, or gravelly soil is especially important for woolly or creeping thymes. Keep the plants moist by misting until you see new growth.

 

Growing Lettuce At Home

 

Before I started growing our home grown food, I spent a fortune on organically grown salad ingredients. It wasn’t just the lettuce that cost so much. There were the tomatoes, herbs, specialty greens, radish, cucumbers, and more that went into making my lush salads healthy, beautiful, and satisfying.

When I finally did start growing, at first, it was hard to produce all the ingredients required for a salad at the same time. My radishes and lettuce heads would be ready before everything else. Then they’d bolt before I had a tomato ready to even pick.

How Long Does It Take Lettuce Seedlings to Sprout?

If you’re only starting out, lettuce is a great choice and vegetable to practice your green thumb skills and it’s also an easy way to add wonderful flavour to your meals as nothing tastes as good or as satisfying as home grown and fresh picked lettuce.

Since lettuce is a fast growing vegetable, it’s easy to start from seed as they also rapidly-germinate with not much effort and within a few weeks. Lettuce is also great for container-gardening as well as in-ground planting. An added bonus is that they look very ornamental in large terracotta pots. The goal is just to begin Including lettuce in your garden, and watch your family’s enthusiasm for salads increase as you bring this versatile vegetable to harvest. If all the right conditions are present — sunny, mild days, cool nights, sufficient water and good soil fertility — lettuce can go from seed to salad bowl in about under 2 months. Most full-head varieties take 45 to 60 days to reach maturity.

Germination

In good growing conditions, lettuce seed will germinate within 7 to 12 days, depending on variety. Loose-head varieties may sprout more quickly than heading types, but all seeds need similar soil, moisture and light conditions to support germination. Growers vary in their estimate of the percentage of lettuce seeds that will germinate per packet, but you can expect 75 to 80 percent of seeds packed for the current growing season to sprout. Rates decline each year, and a packet of lettuce seeds is usually viable for three years so make sure your continue planting all year round if your climate and weather permits.

Soil Temperature

Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is an annual vegetable with many varieties able to be grown all year round, but if you’re from colder climates than the Lettuce is defiantly a spring grower. Lettuce requires soil temperatures between 15 and 30 degrees Celsius for seed germination (germination rates decline markedly above 30 degrees) and seeds are best planted outdoors two weeks after your local climates last frost date. If you are uncertain about soil temperature, many garden centers and nurseries carry inexpensive thermometers to take guesswork out of planting.

Soil Quality

Lettuce grows best in neutral to slightly acidic soil, as do many other garden vegetables. Because lettuce seeds are small and fragile, the most important feature of planting soil is texture. Raking and screening soil before you plant lettuce ensures successful sprouting of these delicate seeds (one way to get around this is by making sure your soil is high in composted organic material). One to two inches of fine soil in the bottom of your lettuce furrow and a 1/4-inch to cover your seeds create prime sprouting conditions or just cover your seeds with vermiculite. If your soil is heavy clay or drains poorly, dig in well composted organic matter, coco peat or sand to improve drainage before planting. If you’re planning on starting your lettuce seed indoors, standard potting soil or seed raising potting mixtures have the texture that let seeds sprout and root in your seedling containers.

Moisture

Soil for sprouting lettuce seeds needs constant and consistent moisture. With good drainage, soil will remain moist rather than wet. Regular watering will keep the top of the soil from crusting, which can become too hard for seed sprouts to penetrate. A fast grower, lettuce will absorb a lot of water, but standing water can rot seeds. Do not let the soil dry out, but avoid keeping the surface soil constantly wet. In hot weather or dry conditions, lettuce may require watering every day. Keep growing beds weed free; cultivate shallowly to avoid disturbing lettuce roots.

Light

Lettuce seed needs light to germinate and grow successfully. If you start seeds inside, you will need a sunny window that receives direct light or a grow-light. It’s preferable to grow lettuce in full sun when the growing season is cool. In very warm to hot growing regions, grow lettuce in partial shade–between taller crops or trees. Lettuce requires a minimum of 4 hours of sun each day.

Planting

Lettuce can be planted in the garden as early as 4 weeks before the last expected frost in spring. For a continuous supply, plant lettuce every couple of weeks until about 4 weeks before the average daytime temperature exceeds 28 degrees or the lettuce will just go to flower (after that plant lettuce in the shade). Begin sowing lettuce again towards the end of the growing season, about 8 weeks before the first expected frost in autumn. If you’re lucky and don’t experience frost in your microclimate than you will be planting and growing these gems all year round. Lucky You! More than any other crop, lettuce works best with succession planting because it turns bitter as it matures, especially in warm weather.

Sprouting Stages

When lettuce and many other seeds sprout, the first foliage is a pair of small rounded leaves called cotyledon leaves, or seed-leaves. Cotyledon leaves are the plant’s first food-source and enable the growth of roots and real leaves, but they sustain the plant for only a week to 10 days. Seeds started indoors will need to grow for between four and six weeks to sprout enough leaves to sustain plants in the garden.

Harvesting

One of the keys to having tender lettuce is rapid growth, which is why spring-grown lettuce tastes so good. An exciting thing about lettuce harvest time is that it can be a repeat performance. Pick lettuce on a cut-and-come-again basis; pick the outside leaves as soon as they are big enough to eat. You can harvest loose-leaf varieties twice — and sometimes three times — before the quality of the leaves declines. For heading lettuce–crisphead and Romaine varieties–cut heads as soon as they are solid and firm.

Note: The greatest menace to lettuce is neither slugs nor veggie-hungry aliens, but the heat. When temperatures exceed 30 degrees, lettuce seeds don’t germinate well and mature plants tend to bolt (meaning they stop producing leaves and go to seed). Regular watering, using shade cloths or tall, shade-making companion plants, and planting heat-tolerant varieties can help, but extreme heat over time ultimately takes a toll on lettuce’s flavour and texture.