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Growing Greens Mid-Winter – Part One

Posted Jan 20 2012 9:19am

Young lettuce and swiss chard

While visiting a neighboring mama for tea on a mid-winter morning, I marveled at her kitchen window alcove filled (filled!) with lettuce greens. They were growing out of rustic boxes she built herself. Not only were they in the perfect spot for thriving, but they were in the perfect spot for snipping and eating.

I, indeed, love to shuffle to where my food is growing. Our vegetable garden is decidedly too far away (poor planning on my part years ago), so when I can grow something here or there and it’s within my hungry reach, I feel a small, somewhat lazy victory. I have also made a recent pledge to only eat greens grown by local organic farms or myself. So, this winter, we will try the south-facing window salad box to eke out another month of homegrown goods.

Materials you will need:

Containers: Ideas for larger containers include old soda bottle crates (I found mine at a yard sale for $5), wine crates or even up-cycled wooden dresser drawers. Just make sure to put some drainage holes at the bottom and you are set. It doesn’t need to be anything huge, if you don’t have the space. I have read of people using those take out containers that come with clear lids. Just enjoy the process of watching something sprout in the middle of winter.

Seed starting mix: I’m using a homemade mix from You Grow Girl and may amend it with some compost tea or worm castings from our worm factory. You can use regular compost, as well. Try to use organic seed starting mix, if possible and if store bought. The less random chemicals or fertilizers in your greens, the better.

Got all the stuff? Fill your container with soil, moisten the soil with a spray bottle (this is a fun part of the process to hand over to a child) and sprinkle down the seeds. I am going to put ersatz cloches from glass storage pieces and bowls to create a temporary greenhouse. You can too.

Place everything in a south-facing window and keep thinking about maintaining moisture and light. I always feel like things are on the right track when I see condensation on the inside of whatever type of glass is covering my soil. Once the seeds have sprouted, remove the lids and watch things grow.

Next: Growing Greens Mid-Winter The Cold Frame

Tracey Crehan Gerlach lives on five acres in Sugar Hollow, west of Charlottesville, with her husband and daughter. Their organic gardens include edibles, perennials, natives, herbs and vegetables. She blogs about these gardens at Life in Sugar Hollow (

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