The art of veggies and social empowerment

How rooftop farms contribute to community resilience and food security.

On a rooftop nestled in the Plateau Mont-Royal, volunteers are hard at work, like bees buzzing around a garden. The rooftop is lush with greenery, growing fresh produce for the local community. Or at least it will be in a few weeks’ time.

Santropol Roulant is a non-profit organization that grows food on their building’s roof for the local community. They cook it in their kitchen, deliver the meals to those who need them most, and compost part of the scraps thanks to The Compost Collective’s worm farm in the basement. 

“Initially, it was really like a kitchen and delivery program that focused a lot on youth volunteering,” said Adrienne Richards, the gardens and accessible agriculture coordinator at Santropol Roulant. 

The Roulant was started by the team at Café Santropol on St-Urbain Street. They realized there was a need for a meals-on-wheels service that catered to isolated people, elderly people, people with accessibility issues, and others who don’t have access to sufficient quality food to meet their needs.

According to Richards, about half of their rooftop farm’s produce goes to their meals-on-wheels service, and they currently deliver about 100 to 120 meals per day to clients, referred to them by health and social workers.

The company MicroHabitat was co-founded in 2016 by Alexandre Ferrari-Roy and Orlane Panet in Montreal to promote ecological farming in urban areas. Their role is to help their clients green their buildings, whether they be industrial, commercial, or residential. While philanthropy came first at Santropol Roulant, gardening was the starting line for MicroHabitat.

The initial goal for MicroHabitat was simply to build ecological urban farms, but their focus shifted to food security when clients started donating their produce to local organizations.

“I was actually very happy and thrilled,” Ferrari-Roy said. MicroHabitat decided to facilitate the process for their clients by creating the Urban Solidarity Farms program. “It’s the bridge between them and the food banks,” he added.

The Urban Solidarity Farms help their clients donate their harvest to organizations like Accueil Bonneau, Dans La Rue, Le Chaînon, and others. Roughly half of their projects are aimed toward giving access to healthy and fresh herbs and vegetables to local food banks. MicroHabitat also donates part of their profit to the Breakfast Club of Canada and No Kids Hungry in the United States.

Ferrari-Roy explained that food banks often don’t receive fresh produce and normally only have access to lower-quality food or non-perishables. “We see the impact of our work when we’re donating,” he says. “It can definitely make someone’s life better to eat something fresh and tasty.”

While these rooftop farms give locals access to fresh and healthy produce, volunteers also benefit from the experience. “People are committed and willing to give so much of their time and energy because we’ve created a meaningful system,” Richards said. 

Meanwhile, at Concordia University, the mind.heart.mouth initiative started by researcher Andrea Tremblay looks at gardening as a vessel to build community resilience. Tremblay quickly noticed positive impacts on volunteers through her doctoral research around the buzzing network of people tending to the garden.

Tremblay recalled a volunteer who was in cancer remission a few years ago who had never grown food before. When Tremblay saw a ripe cucumber on its vine, she decided to save it for her. “She told me she’d never seen a cucumber grow,” Tremblay said. “When I showed it to her, she just burst into tears and said that was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen.”

The woman had been very shy until that moment, but everyone at the garden came to hug her. “It really sealed the small community of the garden,” Tremblay said, adding that people look forward to coming and look out for each other.

mind.heart.mouth collaborated with Concordia’s PERFORM Centre so physical therapy patients could participate in gardening to help their physical and mental health. 

“Being in the garden and working towards growing food for food banks and community organizations is giving everybody in this garden a real sense of empowerment by contributing to the community,” Tremblay said.

Through her research, Tremblay learned that gardens are a great tool to create social opportunities and learn together in a safe and inclusive space while also contributing to food security. 

“A garden is conducive to creating community,” Tremblay said. “You’re both just there to look for bugs and conversation is made easy.”


How to not kill your plants

A short guide for amateur plant enthusiasts

It’s always the same scenario: you wake up with an abnormal determination to reconnect with nature, or perhaps you’ve built up some motivation after hearing your friends getting excited by their new leafy friends — whatever it is, you decide that it’s finally time to bring home a few plants to take care of.

You read up countless mom blogs telling you how to care for your plants, scroll through “Top 20” lists telling you what fertilizer brands to get and avoid and the different types of soils you must get. After a trip to the store, where you get a couple of cute, small succulents, you set them up on your windowsill… Only to see them grow browner and sadder every week.

Having a collection of plants has become a really popular hobby recently. This isn’t so surprising, considering the many benefits of adding greenery to your home or work space, on top of the desire to bring the outdoors inside while we wait for this pandemic to allow us to leave our houses again.

But for those who have not been blessed with a green thumb, buying a new plant is more complicated than just going to the store, finding a nice looking one, and reading off the small care tag stuck in the soil. As a recovering serial plant killer myself, I thought I’d share some tips to help you one day build your own indoor forest.

Start small. Get one plant that you’ll be focusing your attention on for a little while until you’re certain you have the time and energy to dedicate to your plant friends. Remember, plants are alive, and although you can always go back to the store to buy more, you can save yourself the heartbreak, trouble, money, and negative environmental impact by testing out your ability to care for them before going all out.

Dracaenas and snake plants are pretty safe bets if you don’t have much time to care for or water your plants. They’re both also quite versatile when it comes to the amount of light they can tolerate.

Be realistic. Just like we have to accept that we need to donate that shirt that hasn’t been worn in months but could be useful “at some point,” we can’t pick our plants based on the level of devotion we think we could give it. In other words, don’t pick your leafy friend if it means you’ll have to adapt to its lifestyle and care needs, or at least not while you’re just beginning. Take it from me, someone who has killed more than one cactus thinking less water meant less maintenance, and then went on to forget to water them altogether.

If you’re the opposite and you tend to give your plants a little too much love, try going for a Chinese evergreen or a Boston fern — they won’t turn yellow when overwatered.

Assess your space. Be wary of where you place your pots. Don’t place a low-water plant in the bathroom, where it will be at the mercy of an overly humid and steamy environment. And if you’re not sure where to put that plant that needs “medium light,” you can do a shade test: wait until noon, when the sun is brightest, and stand around in your house. The more well-defined your shadow, the brighter the light in that area.

With time, you’ll find yourself looking into more advanced (and daunting) aspects of plant-owning, like soil drainage and water acidity. You’ll get there eventually, but just focus on keeping them alive for now.


Feature graphic by @the.beta.lab

Plants: filling the void and helping you succeed

Plant babies are offering hidden benefits in their new homes, especially during quarantine

Are you a plant parent? No? What are you waiting for? Many see those green leafy items just as some-thing to forget to water. Those ideas are changing.

In recent months, there has been a rise in plant culture. Videos of plant tips and tricks, and some of plant parents just showing off their collections, have been taking the internet by storm. You can scroll through the vines of Instagram as well as “PlantTok,” the plant side of TikTok, watching plant-filled content for hours.

Odarlyn, the creator of plantiiplants on Instagram and YouTube, started her page in October 2020 and has since grown a community of over 22,000 plant lovers. With her community rapidly growing, she shared her thoughts over Instagram on why plants were suddenly becoming such an interest: “Quarantine! People are in need of feeling responsible for something. In this case, keeping plants alive.”

All throughout quarantine, many nurseries reported soaring plant sales, as people used plants as an outlet for all things they were missing from the pre-COVID world.

“Somewhere amid COVID-19 lockdowns, pandemic plant parents are filling the voids in their social life — and apartments — with an influx of flora,” stated an article by NBC.

Plants can actually do more for you than fill the void left from pre-COVID times. Overall, houseplants have countless benefits, especially in your workspace.

When spending all week preparing for an exam, the last thing you want to worry about is the space in which you work. However, your space can have an impact on your studies. Small changes like adding some greenery to your desk can actually improve your concentration. Multiple studies have been conducted over the years demonstrating how having indoor plants can lead to better focus and more productivity overall.

Even for the most focused students, school can be extremely stressful. Getting a plant to put on your desk won’t eliminate all that pressure; however, a study done by the University of Hyogo in Japan proved that having plants in your work environment can lead to less stress in your life. The researchers agreed that stress is a pressing issue in today’s workspaces and felt that adding some greenery is a solution that is often overlooked.

Nature and greenery have been known to reduce stress compared to urban landscapes. By adding a small house plant on your desk and looking at it when you feel stressed, you are providing your brain with a little bit of natural scenery to decompress.

When you have a new plant and it’s thriving, you feel as though you’re thriving too. New leaves can be almost as exciting as passing that course you have been working so hard for. This is because the answer is also in the interaction: the Hyogo study showed that people who took care of their plant grew a positive attachment, which leads to greater stress relieving benefits.

Don’t worry — there is no need to buy millions of houseplants and turn your office into your own personal forest (although you could if you want). The study shared that even just one small plant reduced the stress of their participants.

Now after all that information, there is only one final step in becoming a plant parent, and that is to buy a plant. This can seem like a daunting task as there are many varieties of houseplants you can choose from. It’s important to take a look at the kind of environment the plants will be living in and use this to guide your decision.

Plants aren’t always easy to take care of, especially if you don’t have the greenest of thumbs (I know I’ve killed quite a few in my time). What’s important is that if you keep trying; eventually, you will find the right plant.

And don’t forget to water it.


Photo by Christine Beaudoin


Free Gardens For All

Zac Clarke wants everyone to have a garden — so they’re building them for free

For Zac Clarke, founder of “Free Gardens for All,” the pandemic was an opportunity to rethink the direction of their life. Clarke owns “Dirty Pizza” on Mont-Royal Avenue, and after three years of working 60-70 hour weeks, they were completely burnt out. Then came the pandemic.

“I call coronavirus ‘the great pause,’” said Clarke. “I kinda stopped and thought: is this what I wanna do? And I decided that I wanted to make more money with my labour and less money exploiting the labour of others.”

Clarke originally studied carpentry at École des métiers de la construction de Montréal, but worked a series of kitchen jobs after graduating, which led them to Dirty Pizza.

Clarke’s goal now is to return to woodworking as an entrepreneur, and in the meantime they had a great idea: building free garden boxes. Not only would this allow them to get back into the swing of things with carpentry, but “as a baby socialist and anarchist, it’s good praxis!”

Garden boxes are small, raised planting beds that can be placed in a backyard, on a porch, a balcony, or even on the sidewalk, turning what was once bare concrete into a place to grow your own organic produce.

Clarke finds scrap wood — their first three boxes were all made from one-third of an old deck — and constructs the boxes with the help of volunteers.

The plan is to construct 20 boxes over the cold season and get at least 80 per cent of them producing food by next summer. After that, they’ll register as a nonprofit co-op and, if all goes well, Clarke can leave the project to grow on its own.

“When I was in high school I had a great theatre teacher, Louise Chalmers, who always said ‘If I get hit by a bus tomorrow, I want this production running,’” said Clarke. “The hope with this is that I get the legs going, I get people motivated, and people can build free gardens whether I’m here or not.”

But they need volunteers to help make that happen. In particular, Clarke is looking for someone with a truck and anyone who has carpentry experience, but they made it clear that Free Gardens For All is an anti-ableist organization and welcomes everyone who has time to help.

Right now they’re focusing on building boxes and getting them installed, and once the spring comes, Clarke and volunteers will fill all the gardens with soil and compost from the Eco-Quartier so folks can get started planting.

With this project, Clarke hopes to get food back into the hands of the people. Another way to achieve that, they told me, is to get the city to expropriate roofs from the landlords who are hoarding them. All that extra growing space is a huge, unused resource.

“We’re fucked when it comes to climate change, when it comes to where our food comes from, when it comes to people not being able to afford food or healthy food,” they said.

But by making as many boxes as possible, hopefully “The spaces get greener, the money gets greener, and if the rooftops start coming, instead of people like Lufa, you’ve just got free fuckin’ gardens on people’s roofs.” Lufa is a Montreal-based company that sells produce grown in rooftop greenhouses.

Free Gardens For All is taking an intersectional approach for distributing garden boxes, and giving priority to anyone whose life would be really improved by having access to free, organic produce.

To volunteer, or to request a free garden box of your own, email and they’ll send you a Google form.

Student Life

Go green in urban areas year-round

Find the resources to start a small garden and optimize your growing space

Gardening is tough manual work, especially when you are living within the cityscape of Montreal. Surrounded by concrete and limited green-space, attempting to plant vegetables can be restraining. Last Wednesday, the Concordia Greenhouse offered a compromise for those who live the city life but still crave natural produce.

On Jan. 30, the “Grow Your Own Food Year-Round” event, led by Urban Homestead Montreal, gave a presentation about public resources and areas to harvest edible greens. Sheena Swirlz, coordinator for the organization, taught various tips and tricks to approach interior and exterior food cultivation.

On the 13th floor of the Hall building, Concordia students and Montreal residents were invited to discuss various methods to start their own small-space indoor and outdoor, year-round gardens. Surrounded by hanging foliage within the glass structure, Swirlz spoke about seasonal harvesting and explained the beneficial outcomes of gardening, when done effectively.

Swirlz delved into sprouting and microgreens, hydroponics, window farming, and more. While adapting to the seasons, gardening in the city can seem daunting: “I think people think that it’s simple […] but, in the beginning, there’s a lot of set-ups, a lot of research to optimize your growing systems,” Swirlz explained.

Swirlz highlighted that a garden can be personalized. “In my garden, I almost exclusively grow things that you can’t generally find. So, I’ll grow things like cucamelons, which are these little things that look like miniature watermelons, but they taste like cucumbers. They look like little mouth-watermelons. So adorable!”

Urban Homestead Montreal hosted their event in the Concordia Greenhouse on the 13th floor of the Hall building. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

When planting in the spring, whether indoors or outdoors, Swirlz recommends Swiss chard and kale or hearty herbs like parsley, oregano, and mint, all of which regrow every year. For Swirlz, Swiss chard and kale are the go-to vegetables “because they are super easy to grow, [and] they’re not prone to pests as much as other things, they’re extremely nutrient rich.”

Swirlz mentioned that during the spring season, people can be introduced to wild harvesting by getting involved with various Montreal organizations and plant shops that will take you on foraging walks. Neumark Design, Naughty Nettles Medicinals and Myco Boutique all offer plant-identifying workshops and activities. During these walks, you can forage for edibles like fiddleheads, morel mushrooms, dandelions and stinging nettles.

According to Swirlz, gardening can bring communities together, all while offering a self-reliant lifestyle. “It’s like knitting and baking. It’s to make people feel better. It does feel good to do things with our hands,” she said. “Gardening really connects us with plants, makes us feel like we’re part of nature again, and it makes people feel better.”

During the winter, growing mushrooms or germinating your own sprouts indoors are some of the most exciting and cost-effective ways to cultivate during the cold months.

Martha Martinez, a Concordia student and event attendee, thought the topic of mushrooms was the most interesting of Swirlz’s presentation. “It’s something that we eat a lot where I live with my family. We don’t buy shiitake every week. That is an expensive kind of mushroom.”

Swirlz enjoys planting indoors during her free time and prefers this cheap alternative compared to always shopping at grocery stores. “It is a way of saying, ‘No more capitalizing on food.’ Being able to feed your family and being able to have food on your table should not be a business,” she said.

Feature photo by Alex Hutchins

Student Life

Potting up with Grand Potager

A second breath of life for Verdun greenhouses

Two years ago, a group of people from the farmers market in Verdun decided to revitalize local greenhouses. This idea has sprouted into what is now Grand Potager, an urban agricultural centre in the district’s municipal greenhouses. Grand Potager has spent the last few years revamping local greenhouses as a way to give back to their surrounding community.
Lia Chiasson, co-founder of Grand Potager, explained that she and a group of people were walking alongside riverbanks with unused greenhouses and felt they had to do something. “One person talked to another who talked to another and that’s how the project was born,” said Chiasson. She explained that, because greenhouses are municipal property, although they submitted their district application in the fall of 2016, it wasn’t until 2018 that they were able to launch their pilot year. Grand Potager currently consists of twelve members.
According to Grand Potager’s website, the centre promotes urban agriculture—or growing food in a city setting and distributing it within local food systems. “Our goals are also forming social ties in gardening altogether,” said Chiasson. Grand Potager positively impacts the fabric of their community by bridging communication between other organizations working out of the Verdun greenhouses, local residents, and the municipal borough.

Clementines in full-bloom at the Grand Potager greenhouses in Verdun. Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

Chiasson explained that, while people from the neighbourhood frequent the greenhouses more often, everybody is welcome. “It’s a beautiful place near the river,” she said. “It’s perfect to do some workshops, conferences, harvest.” She also said that different people need different amounts of land for their gardens, and that they’ll do their best to accommodate that. “We have to meet the needs of all.”
Grand Potager is a vector of food security for its patrons, which are mostly local farmers. “We’re offering organic and local products of a good quality to our members. With this food security, we also teach [members] about vegetables, how they grow, where [they are] from. It allows [them] to develop culinary knowledge,” said Chiasson. Grand Potager offers many weekly events, both to Verdun residents and the general public. According to their website, the centre participates in the Verdun farmers market every week and occasionally partners up with other agricultural centres, like the Concordia Greenhouse. Chiasson said kids are more than welcome, and that a few schools near Verdun arranged for their students to visit and discover the greenhouses.

Grand Potager will be hosting their Harvest Party Friday, Oct. 12 in the Verdun greenhouses at 7000 Boulevard LaSalle, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

This system allows for a sustainable environment and, thanks to cleverly thought-out spacing and creative garden construction, Verdun is slowly turning green. “With our plans, we reduce heat islands, so we reduce greenhouse gases,” said Chiasson. “It’s also a sustainable economic view. The local market is a business incubator for emerging companies. It can help to develop their projects in greenhouses, also linked to food security.”

The next step for Grand Potager is to acquire more greenhouses, reorganize them to optimize their greenspace, and ultimately, welcome a larger community.

For more information about how you can get involved with Grand Potager and become a member, visit their website

The Grand Potager Harvest Party is on Friday, Oct. 12. in the greenhouses at 7000 Boulevard LaSalle, Verdun, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Feature image by Mackenzie Lad.

Student Life

Slice of Life: Bloody botany

Watering your plants with diluted menstrual fluid

Do you like plants? Do you bleed once a month from the holiest of holy holes? Are you always looking for ways to save a few bucks and produce as little waste as possible? Well boy do I have a rad tip for you! If you’re up for the challenge, try diluting your menstrual fluid with water, and use that when watering your plants—it can essentially replace your need for fertilizer.

According to Planet Natural Research Centre, fertilizer mainly consists of three macronutrients: potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen—the same nutrients found in blood. Many organic gardeners also use blood meal fertilizer, which contains a high percentage of nitrogen and is made from dried animal blood, usually cow.

“Farmers have used blood meal since blood meal has existed,” said Jade, a Concordia master’s student who practices horticulture by fertilizing her plants with diluted menstrual fluid. “If you want, you can buy fertilizer at the store, but who knows where it came from,” she said. “Who knows how it was made—it’s probably a petrochemical.”

After Labour Day weekend, Jade and I sat down in a sunlit café to talk about her botanical practices. It was only after almost one year of using her menstrual cup that she one day stopped and thought, ‘Why am I dumping this and how can I make use of it?’

“For me, it was just obvious. I have plants—I’m going to use it on them,” Jade said. Properly diluting your blood is not an exact science, she explained, “but your plants will tell you.” The typical dilution ratio is 10 cups of water to one cup of blood.

In her apartment, Jade has multiple plants that she has grown from seeds: figs, bell peppers, lemons, dragon fruit, tamarillos. She even has a third-generation tomato plant, meaning Jade eats tomatoes that grew from the seeds of an earlier tomato, that came from the seeds of the original tomato (whew). She uses her menstrual fluid dilution on all of her plants.

Jade said that when people learn of her horticultural practices, she’s typically met with skepticism. “There’s definitely a stigma, but we eat plants from the grocery store that we don’t ask any questions about,” she said. “We just accept it.” Jade said she often gets put into a box with a big man-hating, feminazi label on it. “This has absolutely nothing to do with the patriarchy, and everything to do with zero waste.”

Feature graphic by @spooky_soda

Student Life

Lazy gardening 101

Plant care tips and tricks for those who suck at gardening

If you’re anything like me when it comes to gardening—meaning you kill 75 per cent of all plants you touch, but are still first in line whenever Plantzy has a liquidation sale—then this article is for you, wannabe master gardener.

I have about 30 plants and counting in my apartment that are thriving, surprisingly, so I’m clearly qualified and in a position to be giving advice about plants. (Shout-out to my roommate who takes care of literally everything plant-wise whenever I’m slacking hard, which is basically all the time). So here’s my fool-proof, totally legit, how-to guide on care for low-maintenance indoor houseplants. Don’t worry, all of this advice has been approved by Concordia Greenhouse official Paul Fournier.


Only water your plants when the soil has dried out. Stick your finger in the soil, and if the first two centimetres are dry, it’s time for some H2O. Waterting proportions typically depend on how large your plant is and how quickly the soil dries out. On average, you should be checking your plants about once a week, and more frequently as ambient heat increases.

Re-potting, or “potting up,” should be done yearly. Increase your pot size by about five centimetres in diameter each time. Keep in mind though: commercial pots are sold in inches! Do not increase your pot size by five inches. A pot that’s too big will cause root rot. Also, be sure to give your plants fresh soil when re-potting.

Most indoor houseplants can’t handle direct sunlight. Some can in small amounts (see examples below), but as a general rule, just avoid it. Unless the species you have requires direct light, indirect, medium-low light conditions are ideal.

Developing roots from plant clippings in water instead of moist soil can be effective for some houseplants—but not all. If you choose to start with water, make sure that, once the roots have grown to about one centimetre, you put them in soil. Many plants, if left in water for too long, will develop a water-root system and their growth will stagnate. Once this happens, the plant is likely to suffer when transferred to soil. However, some plants can be left in water permanently and will grow very well (see examples below).

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum). Photo by Alex Hutchins

Pothos (Epipremnum aureum)

Sunlight: Medium-low, indirect (no direct sun)

Soil: All-purpose

Bonus tips: Pothos’s are one of the few houseplants that tend to thrive just as well with a water-root system as they would with a soil-root system. (For all the broke students reading this who are not willing to spend money on dirt, just leave your pothos in a mason jar with water). They also grow well in the shade of other plants.

Spider-plant (Chlorophytum comosum). Photo by Alex Hutchins

Spider-plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Sunlight: Medium-indirect is best (but will grow in almost any type of light)

Soil: All-purpose

Bonus tips: If you add a bit of fertilizer every time you water your spider babies, they will grow like crazy—even during those dreary winter months. They are one of the easiest plants to propagate and, like pothos, thrive with a water-root system.

Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron cordatum). Photo by Alex Hutchins

Heartleaf Philodendron (Philodendron cordatum)

Sunlight: Medium-indirect

Soil: All-purpose

Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata). Photo by Alex Hutchins

Snake Plant (Sansevieria trifasciata)

Sunlight: Indirect-low (but will tolerate a bit of medium sun)

Soil: Succulent mix is best (but can manage with all-purpose)

Bonus tips: Some succulent care rules apply to this plant—mainly avoid over-watering. So many plants belonging to the sansevieria genus have similar care requirements: Starfish, Silver Queen, Robusta and Bird’s Nest, to name a few.

Weeping Fig (Ficus Benjamina). Photo by Alex Hutchins

Weeping Fig (Ficus Benjamina)

Sunlight: Medium-low, indirect (no direct sun)

Soil: All-purpose

Bonus tips: Weeping figs don’t like to be moved! Find that sweet spot, and leave ‘er be.

ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas Zamiifolia). Photo by Alex Hutchins

ZZ Plant (Zamioculcas Zamiifolia)

Sunlight: Medium-low, indirect is best (but will tolerate a bit of direct sun)

Soil: All-purpose

Bonus tips: ZZ plants like to be “pot-bound,” meaning they thrive in a pot that constricts them. (Yearly re-potting rules still apply). They’re also very forgiving if you forget to water them, or forget that you’ve already watered them.

An important gardening lesson that can take years to learn (you’re welcome) is that all plants have a mind of their own. Trial and error is key when developing your green thumb, and don’t always trust the internet—shocker, I know. Everything you’ve just read here are merely suggestions. More than anything else, it’s important to pay attention to your plants and how they adapt to your specific growing conditions. Even if your methods are unconventional, if they work, keep doing whatever your plants seem to like.

Get started on your garden by hitting up the Concordia Greenhouse plant sale on March 6 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Student Life

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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