Cool Season Container Gardening

by Don Trotter


Hello fellow Earthlings, and welcome to the patio. In this discussion we will be touching on some fun ways to extend our gardening addictions through the winter by gardening in containers. So let's don our cool weather gear and take a trip out to the potting shed.

Gardening in containers is a wonderful way to keep your prized plants close to living spaces and, of course, mobile in case of severe weather. During extreme cold plants in containers can be easily moved to protect them, they can be moved out of severe winds, and can even be brought indoors if weather conditions get too inhospitable. One other great thing about gardening in containers is the window garden.

Sunny kitchen windows are some of my favorite spots for indoor window gardens. These windows are often located right above the kitchen sink and the increased humidity from this proximity to periodic running water and steam really allows us to grow a number of different types of plants. Some favorite plants for the kitchen window are certainly culinary herbs. There is nothing like having the luxury of a sprig of fresh thyme or a few fresh basil leaves when cooking. And when your family and guests compliment you on your culinary prowess, you can show them your lovely herb garden in the window. For those individuals who love colorful foliage plants, leaf lettuces make very decorative houseplants during the winter season. I have a friend that transplanted from California to Wisconsin, and really missed her orange and lime trees. Two years ago I sent her one dwarf tree of each and now she has citrus that ripens indoors. The trees are decorative and her guests really get a kick out of her indoor (sunporch) citrus grove when it is forty below outside. She takes the trees outside late in the spring after the threat of frost is past and her trees spend the summer out in the sunniest part of her patio. When the weather begins to cool and frost is eminent, she moves the trees indoors to protect them. She has now graduated to a dwarf avocado and is actually growing coffee beans in what are considered rather impossible climate conditions.

As with all types of gardening, your passion and your imagination are the only things that can limit the possibilities for gardening indoors in containers during the cool season. If space is an issue try smaller plants like herbs and some mini veggies. A pot full of carrots is a beautiful display of greenery that looks a lot like a fern. But the goodies under the ground will be sweet miniatures of the ones that grow outdoors when the weather is warmer. Romaine, Endive, and some of the designer lettuce varieties grow so fast that you can actually trim a few leaves off to make a sandwich or salad each week or every day depending on how many you grow. The idea of having fresh, nutritious food growing in the house really lowers the occurrences of cabin fever and, although it seems odd, brings more fresh oxygen into the house. These fast growing plants are amazing air fresheners as well.

I think my favorite thing about growing edible indoors in containers during cold weather is how children begin to take active interest in the process. Kids are naturally inquisitive and have a tireless hunger for knowledge. If you can provide them with clever home projects when they are stuck inside, you will see that they may take a more active role in family gardening projects when the weather warms up. Pick some veggies that they like to eat and grow them indoors, make a bit of a ceremony when harvest day comes around and let them pick the veggies. They will be more likely to eat vegetables when they are involved in cultivating them. This is also a very good way for you to teach them lessons about how nature works and the benefits of growing food without the need for potentially harmful chemical pesticides and fertilizers. They will gain some interesting insights on the environment and on plant cultivation that will make for active family sharing of ideas as well. Eating healthy food that they grew themselves is a very rewarding experience for a child. Try it and witness how they enjoy. Nurturing is a basic human attribute that can be practiced by growing plants. This is especially true for you apartment/ condominium dwellers without the room for domestic animals.

Materials for these projects are inexpensive, easy to obtain, and the choices of containers can be as simple as a clay pot or any reflection of your creativity. Potting soils, natural liquid plant foods, water, and light complete the list of needs. Container gardening is a simple winter gardening project that will reward you in many ways. Bring the garden inside this winter, you'll be glad you did. See you in the Garden!


Got questions? Email the Doc at Curly@mill.net Don Trotter's natural gardening columns appear nationally in environmentally sensitive publications. For more tips check out Don's books, Natural Gardening A-Z, The Complete Natural Gardener, and Rose Gardening A-Z.

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