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Grow an indoor windowsill garden of fresh herbs and greens for the kitchen

A shelf added to a glass door is the perfect place for a hanging basket of nasturtiums, or a cat.
A shelf added to a glass door is the perfect place for a hanging basket of nasturtiums, or a cat.
Haley Fox

There is something magical about sowing seeds and watching them sprout, leaf, and grow big enough to harvest. Usually a joy reserved for warmer months, even most indoor seedlings are not started until March at the earliest. But there is no reason why you shouldn't get that spring feeling a little early. Even now as it snows outside, a new crop of little seeds is settled content in moist seedling mix in my brightest south-facing window, needing only water and sunshine to split their hulls and send a fresh green shoot out into the light.

Since it is still too early to start outdoor transplants such as tomatoes now, the best thing to do for your itching green thumb is to grow plants that do well in containers and fast growing early season greenhouse items. You can start herbs from seed and begin harvesting them for culinary use within weeks, and greens such as mache, arugula, mesclun and lettuce will do fine in pots in a strongly lit window. Cut them off a few inches above the soil and many of those will sprout again, giving you homegrown salad greens every few weeks.

Setting up an indoor garden seems intimidating, but is in fact very simple. Seeds want to grow, so you don't have to do much other than prepare a nice place for them and let them do the work. Different seeds have different needs, so be sure to read the back of the packet when sowing them. In general though, all your little plants need to thrive is dirt, water, and sunshine. The days are getting longer, so sunshine abounds here in Boulder. As for water, the lukewarm stuff from your tap will do just fine. A spray bottle with a mist setting is good to have to avoid flooding tiny seeds out of their beds. Organic potting soil or seedling starter can be purchased at McGuckin's, and I'm sorry to say is rather necessary to planting indoors. Dirt from your garden is simply too clumpy and does not retain water the same way Miracle Gro or Black Gold will do.

You will also need containers to grow your plants in. You can get old flower pots at thrift stores in town for very reasonable prices, just make sure they have a drainage hole in the bottom. Pick up a few old plates to put underneath to prevent stains and leaks. You do not need to invest in seed starter trays either. If you are planting delicate seeds, plant them in old egg cartons. They are porous enough to drain on their own, and easy to pop inside out to get your seedling out for transplanting. Old cookie sheets or lunch trays make good bases for your pots.

Finally, you must think about where you place your pots and trays. Find your largest south facing window. If it has a large sill, excellent. If not, you can add a shelf or two on which to place your pots, or put a table in front of it to extend the growing real estate. The most important thing is for your growing things to receive as much sunlight as possible. Fill your pots with soil, arrange them on trays and plates on you sill, and you are ready to start planting!

Read on for some plant suggestions and specific instructions for growing some herbs and greens.


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