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Start seeds on your windowsill

Jan 13th, 2011 | Category: Growing

by Claire Davis

A sunny window is a great place to start seeds and grow plants during the winter months, including chard (below) and nasturtium (below). PHOTOS BY CLAIRE DAVIS

January isn’t warm. Depending on where you live, chances are it’s been cold, and snow (in some form or another) has been on the ground at some point. But while it’s freezing outside, and most of us are staring out the window at our iced-over gardens longing for the day we can get out there and start planting and tending, there is one place in our home that beckons you to start growing something: your windowsill.
Growing up, our windowsills were endlessly covered in plants. As a child, I remember long green ivy vines flowing to the floor in some corners, while long stems grew high towards the ceiling in other corners. My mother or father would place a stool near the window so I could take my small watering can and reach high enough to “feed the flowers.” (Most of what I was “feeding” were not flowers, rather veggie starts, but I always called them flowers.)

My childhood experiences of windowsill winter gardening stayed with me after I left home – from my college days (where I don’t think my roomate really liked having our only window in the dorm covered with flowers), to my middle years (when I often had to catch my children from grabbing those long vines flowing to the floor), and now into my older years (when I often have to stop my grandchildren from grabbing those long vines flowing to the floor).

Windowsill gardening is easy, and an option for nearly anyone. No matter the size of your home, as long as you have a sunny window to work with, you have room to grow!

During January, February and March, I start various seeds in small pots, covering every windowsill of the house. (I also have a greenhouse, but I fill that with starts and plants as well; probably a story for another time.)

Consider what you’d like to grow this year. What vegetables do you want to to eat and can this year? What herbs do you want growing just outside your window, ready for a quick pick as you’re preparing dinner? What flowers do you want adorning your yard or porch in colorful displays of the season? And most importantly, how much room do you have? Over time, a pot of chives for example, will require far less space than zucchini.

Once you decide what you want to grow, plant the hardiest varieties first. What can you start now that will be ready to transplant in March or April? For example, leafy greens like hardy lettuce and kale do well planted in containers this time of year. Continue to pull the largest leaves off the plants for your family’s meals, and this will keep the plant from growing too large while inside.

In February, I start chard, peas, spinach, asparagus, bulb onions and scallions. Towards the end of February and into March, it is time for carrots, beets, zucchini, and a host of herbs (parsley, chives, sage, lemon balm and basil).
February is also a good time to start some annual flowers. I grow a large amount of nasturtium for use in my garden. The flowers are pretty and edible, but the plant itself deters some pests, so I like to have it surrounding my potatoes, kale, broccoli and zucchini.

If you’re unsure of what to plant, I recommend you visit your local nursery and get some advice. But whatever you decide to grow, just have fun with it. The seedlings and growth over the weeks will certainly bring a smile to your face during the long, dark winter months. Each day you care for them is one day closer to spring.
Claire Davis enjoys gardening year-round and covering every inch of available space.

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