Winter is coming – bring your plants inside

Indoor gardens are cheap, delicious, and fresh

With winter just around the corner, many people are scrambling to harvest the last fruits of the summer. Aside from cooking, canning and drying everything from the garden, why not bring some of your plants indoors to enjoy year-round?

If you’re not already a gardening aficionado, but the idea of cutting costs and having fresh produce on hand is appealing to you, this may just be the perfect time to start.

The Concordia Greenhouse is there to help with their upcoming workshop “Hot Topics in Urban Agriculture: Window Farms workshop on Thursday”, taking place on Oct. 9. The workshop will demonstrate how to set up a new indoor green space. In the meantime, here are a few things to consider.

Before beginning

Prior to committing to an indoor garden, take note of the environment you will be placing your plants in and plan ahead. Remember, all manner of plants require light, warmth and room. Make sure that they will have all three before beginning.

Although it’s tempting to place them near a large window, resist this urge. Keep in mind that windows, in the winter, are a source of cold and may damage plants placed too close to them. Similarly, as pointed out by  Sheena Swirlz, Communications Director of the Concordia Greenhouse, putting plants too high may cause them to wilt, as heat rises in your home.

Like their outdoor kin, house plants require good soil and good drainage. Swirlz advises giving plants at least four inches of root space for proper growth. Consider bringing in outdoor pots to serve this function. Also remember to fertilize often, as potted soil has no way of replenishing its nutrients. Consider using fertilizer pellets or sticks as they need less maintenance.

Finally, keep in mind the housemates who will be interacting with your plants. Pets, children and roommates may try to taste the new arrivals. Be sure to research each plant before growing and make sure no harm will come to inquisitive hands and mouths. The Greenhouse suggests trying scents such as citrus and oils to keep cats at bay.

Now comes the time to select what to grow.

Spices – inexpensive and tasty

Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet.

Many of the herbs grown in pots outside may be transferred into your home. If you were already growing them outside, consider transplanting a portion into a pot that will fit your space. If you know of someone who has a lush herb garden, ask to have a few sprigs.

For many herbs, if a piece of about four to six inches is taken off and planted in good soil, a new plant will begin to grow.

If none of the above are an option, consider buying some seeds. As winter is considered the off season for gardening, they are often sold at a significantly lower price than the rest of the year.

Expect to spend between $1 and $5 for a pack of seeds that will last somewhere from a few months to a year. This may seem like a sizable investment but fresh herbs in the middle of winter may cost the same, if not more, than their seeds when purchased at the supermarket.

When starting fresh, consider how much time and care your new venture will take. Keep in mind that while mint, basil and chives require little to no upkeep, others such as cilantro or parsley require a careful eye to make sure they thrive.

Veggies – fresh and healthy

Growing vegetables indoors can lend a splash of color to your home décor, and is a yummy addition to your diet. Although they will probably not replace those bought at the grocery store, they are an inexpensive treat. Root vegetables such as green onions and radishes thrive indoors. There is also the possibility of growing miniature pepper plants, sprouts and tomatoes. Experienced gardeners can even try their hands with miniature lemon or orange trees.

As with herbs, some vegetables may be brought inside.  Keep in mind that they may still require spacious pots. If space is an issue, consider growing them from seeds, or buying a juvenile plant.

Photo by Jocelyn Beaudet.

Seeds may cost as little as a dollar. On the other hand, juvenile plants may cost somewhere between $3 and $20, depending on the type of vegetable – miniature citrus trees being the most expensive due to the care they need.

Vegetables should be viewed as a long-term investment that will pay off over time. For example, the average tomato plant will produce 20 fruits or more and may cost as little as $5 to acquire. Growing your own at 25 cents per tomato will save on the food budget in the long term.

As vegetables tend to be more labour-intensive, consider slowly incorporating them into your space, as tending for one new plant is less stressful than 10.

Aloe – not your typical houseplant

If growing spices and vegetables seems daunting, there are options other than traditional house plants. A must-have for anyone who likes to cook is the aloe plant. Aloe does not necessarily need a lot of space and is hugely practical. In cases of small burns, a leaf of the plant may be torn off and the sap applied as a skin soother. It is just as effective as the aloe gels sold in the pharmacy, if not more so. A bonus is that by growing it there is virtually no way of running out.

Whether growing herbs, veggies or medicinal plants, bringing nature indoors is a great way to liven up any space and keep a reminder that spring will eventually come again.

For more information on how to start your indoor garden, and to reserve a place in the upcoming workshop which will take place in the Concordia Greenhouse on Oct. 9 from 5 to 7 p.m., go to

Also: Some foodie inspiration for what you can make with your freshly grown produce.

Homemade Pesto (from the Food Network)
2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2cloves garlic
1/4 cup pine nuts
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/2 cup grated Pecorino cheese
Combine the basil, garlic and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add 1/2 cup of the oil and process until fully incorporated and smooth. Season with salt and pepper.

If using immediately add all the remaining oil and pulse until smooth. Transfer the pesto to a large serving bowl and mix in the cheese.

If freezing transfer to an air-tight container and drizzle remaining oil over the top. Freeze for up to three months. Thaw and stir in cheese.

Easy Curry-Garlic Dip
1/2 cup sour cream
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp curry powder
Mix ingredients in a bowl. Adjust spices to taste.
To serve, drizzle over any crunchy vegetable or use as dip. Goes well with radishes, peppers and mushrooms.

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