How We Make it Through Winter

by Steve Rapp

My wife Nancy and I employ many strategies to aid us in enduring the non-working in the yard period known as winter. Like a lot of you that have a passion for being out in our gardens, seeing the positive effects on the environment and on ourselves, winter is a challenging time!

We start by planting yet more bulbs in the early fall then we are forced to turn our efforts indoors. We return to appreciating our long-term indoor plants, succulents, cacti, ferns etc. Even the not-usually too exciting lithops are in renewed focus. We’re constantly reminded how cool it is to see colorful blooming African violets and other gesneriads, Christmas cactus and the constant cut flowers we keep refreshing throughout the winter season. Of course, another key element of our winter survival strategy is always our every weekend trip to the Missouri Botanical Garden especially to visit the reinvigorating environment of the Climatron, we never get tired of that. These and reading the cool plant catalogs that show up this time of year along with the many gardening magazine subscriptions help us endure the dark days and serve as sources of ideas.

One of these ideas was to explore indoor cultivation of micro-greens not only for the nutritional value but also for the joy of actually putting my hands in dirt and growing something this time of year. I put together a relatively inexpensive seed germination and growth system consisting of a Jiffy Professional Greenhouse Peat Pellet system and a Ferry Morse high output 24”T5 daylight spectrum bulb system with stand. There is nothing particularly novel about this but I chose it as it is a compact system that I could set up in my home office, just to the left of my computer desk. By doing this, it is always at arms reach for easy viewing.

Adding water to the peat pellets induces swelling of the planting medium and enables immediate planting of microgreen seeds. In general, any vegetable can be planted and harvested when small as microgreens however I purchased a packet of Burpee Microgreens Rainbow Mix that contains 20% red beet, 20% cabbage pak choi, 20% kohlrabi purple, 20% broccoli and 20% Radish. I placed 3-4 seeds per peat plug and within 2-3 days all had sprouted and within 2-3 weeks, I was cutting micro-greens with a scissors and adding to salads. Watering with a couple quarts of water every other day or so keeps the growing greens hydrated especially in the dry indoor environment of winter.

Maybe it’s just me but working at my desk and turning to my left and seeing 3-4” tall plant growth is good for my soul this time of year, I recommend this to anyone feeling the agony of winter.

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