Our Top Five Indoor Winter Crops!

December 21, 2014  |  nutritower, NutriTower crops

Our top five indoor winter crops for your indoor garden!

  If you live in a northern climate like here in Montreal, figuring out what to grow during the winter may be a challenge. That’s why we’ve put together a top five list for you! These plants are all pretty easy, low maintenance indoor crops. These plants are comfortable in low light and in a cool climate making them ideal for a winter garden, even if you don’t have a south-facing window for optimal sunlight.

1) Lettuce

As we like to say around here: Let us eat Lettuce! It’s very easy to grow this leafy green indoor during the winter. Lettuce prefers cooler weather and does not need a tremendous amount of light to get going. A sunny windowsill can often do the trick. Remember, not all lettuce is equal. The cos (romaine) family tend to contain higher amounts of nutrients than some of the ‘iceberg’ varieties. Other leafy lettuce varieties are fun to grow and come in a wide range of color and shape! One of our favorites is Deer Tongue – Try it out!! You can plant them thick to grow micro-greens that can be harvested every couple of days or spread them out (4 per square foot) to let them grow full sized. Here is a suggestion for a great little system to grow micro-greens indoors: Grow light garden, otherwise, the NutriTower grows lettuce with ease and will keep your plants going for months before they need to be replaced!

2) Parsley

Parsley is a great herb to grow during the winter time. We’ve picked this herb due to it’s unusually high health benefits. It’s packed with Vitamin K, C, A, folate and iron to name a few and has been know to help promote optimal kidney function. It can be used as a main ingredient in  Tabbouleh, added to a green smoothie or sprinkled on as a garnish. To grow: spread seeds a few inches apart and keep warm until germinated. Keep in a sunny spot and water every other day. Make sure that the soil remains moist but not soggy.

3) Mint

Mint is one of the easiest plant to grow indoors since it does not need direct sunlight to thrive. Mint is a great additive to salads, shakes or drinks and a little goes a long way. Keep this plant around so you don’t need to dash out to the grocery store the next time you’re craving a mojito as a reminder that summer will eventually return. To grow: you can transplant mint from outside containers or plant from seed. Make sure that the soil does not dry out or get too soggy. It is also recommended to keep the humidity up around the plant either by misting between waterings or by sitting the plant on a tray of pebbles half filled with water.

4) Strawberries

Albion and other ever-bearing strawberries are especially fun to grow in the winter time! These types of plants will provide fruit during it’s entire cycle and they are delicious as a bonus. How to grow: plant seeds on top of soil and sprinkle with a mixture of 1  part water 2 parts hydrogen peroxide. This will help the seeds germinate a little faster. once sprouted, thin seeds so that there is one plant every 6 square inches or so. Keep soil moist but not soggy and do not let dry out. Strawberries also need a warm sunny spot to fruit so a sunny windowsill is ideal.

5) Kale

Kale is one of those super-foods that has become a big part of a healthy diet in recent years. It is a very hardy cruciferous plant that can grow in conditions that would be difficult for other plants. Low light and cold? No problem for this plant from the brassica family. How to grow: In a large pot, plant 4 seeds per square foot to maximize plant density. Keep soil warm and moist until germinated, then transfer to a cool spot in the house. Direct sunlight is not a must, but will help speed up the growth rate.  

A few pointers:

If growing in soil, be very selective about the soil mix you use. This will make a big difference when growing in pots. Our friends at urban seedling have an awesome soil mix available, or you can blend your own. Make sure that the mix drains well but also retains moisture to ensure optimal growing conditions. Where to buy seeds? The quality of the seeds you will use is very important. We recommend West Coast Seeds as they provide high quality organic and heirloom varieties that we love. Although gardening indoors does provide the ideal environment for plants, the lack of predators means that pest can spread in a flash. Keep this in mind while setting up and starting your indoor garden. Cleanliness is a top priority and being vigilant and informed about proper maintenance is a crucial part of success. We will cover this more in depth in a separate article. Don’t let this discourage you! With a little knowledge, you’ll be able to recognize the signs of trouble with ample time to apply the right counter measures to avoid potential problems.  

Bonus suggestion!

If you have a wall that gets sun for a part of the day but remains warm throughout, you can try your hand at growing climbing peas and beans! all you need is a planter and some form of trellis for them to climb on. Simply plant your seeds about 3 to 6 inches apart and water. Within a few days you’ll have plants reaching for the sky. Within a few weeks, you’ll be harvesting delicious peas and beans for your stir-fry or simply to have on hand as a healthy snack for the kids! The heat from the wall will be enough to stimulate vigorous growth since they don’t need a whole lot of direct light. FYI peas and beans can self-pollinate, which makes them a good first attempt at a flowering indoor food plant.  

Have Fun!

We hope that you will enjoy giving a few of these plants a try this winter! Growing indoors is a really fun activity to do during the long winter months. Fair warning though, it can be addictive! I personally have become fascinated with the different varieties I can grow indoors. I am currently growing mango, avocado, lemon and have even started a soursop tree this year! Not to mention my NutriTower that is currently full of delicious plants for the winter! Grow on and prosper! Bryce.  

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