| Don't Let Winter Put a Damper on the Garden! |
Year-round gardening in every climate is an idea that is definitely trending. From the popular Twitter hashtag #Garden365 to new books on vegetable gardening in winter using cold frames, the traditional seasonal limitations are being challenged and successfully defeated by gardeners everywhere. But what about indoor gardening during the shortest and coldest days of the year? Is it really feasible, as seed catalogs would have us believe, to start the whole garden indoors in winter, root cuttings of annual plants, and keep tender and tropical plants alive and healthy?
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Of course! The two secrets to growing successfully indoors during winter are heat and light. By investing in a few inexpensive, durable pieces of equipment, gardeners can sprout seeds, root cuttings, make flowering plants bloom, and even keep the vegetables and herbs coming no matter how deep the snow is outside.
Room temperature conditions are fine for growing most plants, but what if gardeners want to set up indoor winter plants in the chilly garage or shed? No need to heat the room; use a plant heat mat to distribute radiant root zone heating only to the soil the plants are growing in. Inexpensive and reliable, heat mats such as the new Kwik Grow models plug into any household outlet, and never get hot enough to damage the surface on which they are placed. Seed flats and potted plants can be placed directly onto the mats and left for months to grow at the ideal temperature.
The partner of heat is light, and during winter the shorter days of weaker sunlight are often not enough to keep plants growing their best. Many gardeners start seeds under the fluorescent lights of the kitchen, but this can result in "stretched" seedlings with long, spindly stems and fewer leaves. A long-term solution is plant lights, which offer wide-spectrum light that mimics the effect of true sunlight.
Once quite expensive, plant lights are now far more cost-effective and compact. Portable light stands such as Park's Intense Light Tabletop System make it possible to position several seed flats or plants beneath cool-white T8 fluorescents on adjustable stands that fit below kitchen cabinets or on the top of the fridge. And for the serious winter gardener, multi-tiered light trays such as Park's Intense Light Grow Shelves offer more than 12 square feet of growing space on a moveable stand that can be tucked behind a door or in a corner of the mudroom.
Given heat and light, plants will thrive indoors throughout the winter months. Grow food crops, begin seeds for the outdoor garden, and overwinter tender plants using inexpensive, convenient heat mats and grow lights.