Sunday, January 24, 2010

Winter gardening at 2700 feet

Winter gardening in the Canadian mountains? On the coast we had an actual, in the ground, protected by cloche, garden that produced kale, carrots and sometimes beets in January and February. Nothing really grew due to the low light levels, but you could harvest into the early Spring, when growth would resume. That was in a zone 7.

Here in my zone 3 mountains winter garden is either in the house or in a heated greenhouse by necessity. The greenhouse hasn't been built yet. So the winter gardening is limited to sprouts on the kitchen windowsill.

So here's a really simple, economical way to enjoy fresh sprouts in winter. Using a wide mouth pint or quart mason jar with a ring -- cut a piece of fiberglass window screen to fit over the mouth of the jar and into the lip of the ring. You now have a sprouting container.

Fill the container with 2 tbsp. of sprouting seeds (alfalfa, radish, fenugreek, mung bean, wheat etc.) I get mine from West Coast Seed but most bulk food and health food stores carry sprouting seed. Fill the container with warm water (never hot). Let soak for 4 hours and drain. Then rinse the seeds and drain every 8 hours over 4 to 6 days.

After 24 hours you will see the seeds begin to sprout. In 3 days the first leaves begin to form and by 4 to 5 days they are ready to eat. Start a new batch when the first batch is at 3 days and you will have a continuous supply of fresh sprouts all winter.

I get window screen to make handmade paper, and to use for silk fusion. It never wears out and can be successfully disinfected with bleach or vinegar to keep it fresh.

My West Coast seed catalogue had a new winter gardening concept -- micro plants. Much like sprouts but you use a small amount of soil and put the plants under a light -- or if you are further south, in a sunny window. Then you harvest the top leaves for eating. More work than sprouts but a higher yield per seed, too.

This is the time to start onions in the house, in my area, for transplanting out in May.


  1. Valentine's Day is the first day you can successfully start seeds without needing supplemental a sunny window of course:)
    The micro gardening concept is so brilliant, I have been enjoying sunflower shoots, nasturtiums, and arugula all winter, and they are so charming in the kitchen. There was a great article in Mary Jane's Farm last fall on the micro garden as a gift to give...had some great photos and ideas.
    Enjoy the lengthening days and hot cocoas...

  2. Mmmmm. Hot cocoa sounds great. Thanks for the tip on Valentine's Day, Lara.