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Consider planting trays of kale, fern lettuce and mesclun greens for indoor growing

Growing your own organic basil and microgreens through winter is easier and less expensive than you think

While having your own garden of edible greens ready for spontaneous snipping may seem like the ultimate luxury in dark and dreary winter, it’s apparently easier than you might think.

And, outside of a small outlay initially for some basic supplies, it’s also an inexpensive way to eat organically and ecologically. Recently visiting the indoor garden of Chris Rowlands, a young man growing his own greens (and basil!) all winter long in a basement suite, I asked him to share his strategy for microgreen success. H

Here’s what he had to say:

Winter Gardening Must-haves

  • Full-spectrum growing lights (plant-grade T8 or more powerful T5 tube lamps are the best picks)
  • A water source (a watering can or even a coffee cup could do)
  • Sterilized potting soil
  • Organic seaweed fertilizer (or ask your local garden centre for suggestions)
  • Small trowel (for scooping soil)
  • Planting trays – I am using the Lee Valley deep-root trays, however you could even just use old baking pans as long as you can drill adequate drainage holes into them.
  • Undertrays – same deal: you can buy plastic undertrays, or pick up some old baking sheets (with edges) from your local thrift store.
  • Wood, 4 crown bolts and lightweight metal lighting chain (read more on this below)
  • A place to set it all up!  (I used an old workbench)

Winter Gardening Extras

  • Small planting pots if you want to enable any “greens” to grow into bigger crops
  • A wall-plug timer for your lights (helps to maintain a consistent day-night cycle for the plants, and lets you off the hook from worrying about it)
  • Transparent covers for your seeding trays to create more of a greenhouse growing effect (or recycle those clear-plastic salad tubs you don’t know what to do with)
  • A container to store leftover soil

For hanging the lights, a cheap suspension frame can be made: With a quick measurement of the desired lamp height and table width, and an hour’s access to some borrowed woodworking equipment, I was able to make some basic frames for the lamps. 

Now it’s time to pick your seeds!  Seed vendors like West Coast Seeds often have them available in bulk (by mail order) – as you need a lot of seed for microgreens – try kale, fern lettuce and mesclun greens, or aim for the exotic and enjoy basil all winter long with this indoor-growing approach.