Outdoor Living

Avid Gardener’s Winter Activities

Text by Nancy Johnston

Winter does seem never-ending, doesn’t it?

For those of us who long to see the lifecycle of a flower, or can’t wait for the excitement of summer harvest, there are some great ways to experience that gardening feeling and harvest the rewards indoors.

You may be surprised at the variety of interesting ways you can satisfy the gardening urge while the ground outside lies dormant in its frozen state.

Many things can be grown indoors over the fall and winter and an avid gardener keeps an open mind to all the possibilities.

Traditional ways to keep your thumb green in the off seasons range from the herb container growing in the window, or with a little help from a small fluorescent light that will supply you with everything from fresh herbs to forcing bulbs of exotic flowering plants.

Are you up to trying something a little different this year?

If so, with a container, a screen and some seeds, you can grow a variety of sprouts for use in salads and stir-fries.

Alfalfa, bean and broccoli are the most popular seeds to sprout. It’s an inexpensive project that takes very little time or effort.

If you decide to go ahead with this growing project, make sure the seeds you use are untreated.

Or, you could grow your own mushrooms.

Oh, sure, a little research on the subject is necessary before you begin, but you can do that online or at your local public library in a few hours. You can purchase a mushroom growing kit that comes with detailed instructions as well as everything you need to get growing.

If this sounds a little too complicated, you can actually purchase logs with spores pre-plugged. You just soak the log in a tray of water and sit back and wait for them to appear.

One such source for mushroom growing supplies is The Gourmet Mushroom Company located near Winnipeg. They offer the convenience of ordering online through their web address at www.gourmetmushrooms.ca

If you have a workshop, a certain amount of ambition and some handyperson skills, you can use this time to plan and even assemble trellises/arbors and stake cages.

You could buy Muskoka chair plans and build your own outdoor furniture. Or construct a cold frame.

You can choose to passively enrich your knowledge of gardening during those seemingly long winter months by reading the latest gardening books, attending home and garden shows, or by joining an online gardeners’ club where you can exchange growing tips, post questions, even trade seeds.

Winter is also the time to order seed catalogues, reflect on last year’s garden and plan this year’s crops and locations. You can start a garden journal to record your thoughts, observations and plans for the next growing season.

There are also gardening planning software programs that help you plot your garden and are actually quite fun to play around with.

Starting seeds indoors to set out as transplants is another way to get your hands dirty while the ground outside is still frozen solid. Vegetables such as peppers should be started by the end of February, with others such as tomato and cucumber no later than mid April.

Alas, this year’s outdoor growing season has come and gone, but you don’t have to just sit by the window dreaming of spring.

The avid gardener knows how to keep busy, all the while quietly planning and plotting for next year, and before you know it – spring will have sprung!

In the meantime there is plenty to do to ensure next year’s yields will be even bigger and better than last.

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