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Beacon Senior News

Tricks to bringing your garden indoors

Sep 30, 2019 01:54PM ● By Paige Slaughter

You already know that nothing compares to freshly picked produce. It’s part of what makes this time of year so bittersweet. We’re munching on final harvests, maybe even digging into our homemade canned tomato sauces and dried peaches.

But we know it’s coming: winter, aka grocery store season.

Let’s face it: Our bodies know the difference between a tomato just off the vine and one that tried to ripen in a truck on its way from Mexico. Our bodies feel invigorated by fresh green onions, carrots and butterhead lettuce. We can taste the unique flavors that fresh produce grown in rich soil offers us.

We learn to detect the subtleties of fresh produce in our minds. And over time, it’s not so subtle. It becomes clear as day: our bodies crave nutrients and flavor!

Those of us blessed by garden-fresh produce know that these foods offer us nutrition and flavor like nothing else can.

So how we can access the foods we love throughout winter?

1. Preservation

Before the dawn of a globalized food system, food preservation was common practice. Though it’s now less of a necessity, we can still reap the nutritional, economic, and meditative benefits of preserving food.

2. Making friends with farmers

Many local farms grow food through the winter in greenhouses. Often times you can buy directly from them, or they’ll tell you which grocery stores are selling their produce.

What’s the difference between seeking out a grower and shopping at the grocery store?

Again, you already know: There’s a whole spectrum of food-medicine out there. No two tomatoes are alike, and lettuce is not just lettuce!

Asking local farmers questions about how they grow food year-round is an amazing way to connect with food, learn more about gardening, and enjoy nutrient-rich food all year long.

3. Indoor gardens

If you’re lucky enough to have any sunny windowsills at all, you still only have a limited amount of space. Optimize this prime real estate by growing plants that will nourish your body! Certain culinary herbs, lettuce and other leafy greens grow well in pots and can thrive in partial sun.

Here are a few tricks to bringing your garden indoors.

Choose plants you love. Grow herbs that you love to cook with or make tea out of. If you’re growing your favorite plants, chances are you’ll be willing to put in the extra effort that potted plants require.

Grow lettuce and other leafy greens from seed. Set up a rotational system—a long, trough-like pot works well and fits nicely on windowsills. You can also use four separate pots and apply the same technique.

First, divide your planting area into four sections, planting the next section each time. Scatter seeds throughout the section and keep the soil moist. You can use a wet cheesecloth to help keep the soil moist as the seeds germinate. Harvest and eat baby greens daily to slowly thin out the young plants, giving them more space as they grow. After a few weeks, you’ll have a system established that gives you fresh greens every day!

Start with clean, high-quality, natural potting soil, preferably with slow-releasing organic fertilizers mixed in. Of course, start with healthy plant starters. Since potted plants can’t rely on larger ecosystems for nourishment, consider adding natural and organic fertilizers, compost or vermicompost (worm poop).

Air circulation is another gift of Nature you may need to actively provide for your plants. Turning on a fan or opening a window on a warmer day once in a while will keep your plants (and your body) happy. Keep the soil moist but well-drained, and pay attention to the changes in lighting that happen over winter.

If a goal of gardening is to become more empowered and self-sufficient by growing our own food, we have to expand the boundaries of our gardens: into schools and community spaces, into conversations, and into the colder months of the year.

As gardeners moving our gardens indoors, and as conscious consumers, we can take steps toward supporting, building and benefiting from a healthier food system.

It’s tastier, too.