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Windowsill Herb Garden

Indoor gardening reduces the withdrawal symptoms that we avid gardeners suffer as autumn comes to an end and winter begins. We can tend our potted plants indoors and give our green thumbs a bit of exercise at least. One thing that indoor gardening cannot do, however, is supply the fresh produce that we become accustomed to getting from our outdoor vegetable patches during the summer and fall. Oh, how we miss that fresh garden taste!

One way to get a little bit of the taste of fresh growing things is to cultivate herbs on the windowsill or in the light garden. Several herbs will grow quite well indoors, and if they are given enough light, it is amazing how productive they will be. If you just want to grow a very few herbs as a novelty and do not have much windowsill space to accommodate many plants, you might consider growing the herbs in one container in dish-garden mode. If you choose herbs that like the same growing conditions and that will not get so large as to crowd out the neighbours, this might serve your purpose.

If you wish to grow enough herbs so that they can be used regularly in the kitchen, you might choose to grow several pots of herbs, one or more pots for each kind. This will allow you to grow more herbs and enable you to give each herb the conditions it prefers since the pots can be located in different spots in the home depending on the conditions desired. Heat-loving plants can be placed under the lights of the light garden where the heat from the bulbs will raise the temperature considerably, while herbs preferring cooler temperatures can perhaps be placed on a south-facing windowsill where the temperature will be considerably cooler.

You may have brought a couple of pots of herbs in from outdoors; I often dig up one of my parsley plants and a couple of clumps of chives in the fall, pot them up, and move them indoors. Herbs such as dill, basil, rosemary and sweet marjoram are relatively fast growing and can be seeded indoors during the early winter. Soon you will be able to snip succulent pieces off the plants to enhance the flavour of food dishes.

Be sure to grow herbs in a well-drained soil (I use a basic soilless mix), give them lots of bright light, water and fertilize them regularly (I use a balanced water-soluble 20-20-20 plant food). Plant successive crops so when one pot has been harvested to the point where it will not produce more growth, another is ready to take its place. When harvesting the herbs, do so by snipping off tops of stems to encourage the plants to bush out.

Growing herbs indoors is not only good for the body by adding flavour to our winter diet, but also good for the soul as it allows us to “putter in the dirt” and pretend we are really gardening. Both help to get us frustrated gardeners through a long winter.

– Albert Parsons writes from Minnedosa, Manitoba

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