While many gardeners take a break over winter, those of us who can’t bear the thought of removing our fingers from the soil are beginning to sow and grow all over again! Whether you’re in the cool south or the warmer north, gardening outdoors, in the greenhouse, or on a sunny window ledge, there are loads of opportunities to get growing right now. And we have some special tips to help you do it!
Turn your car into a greenhouse!
Did you know that one of the warmest places to raise seedlings-in-a-hurry is the dashboard of your vehicle? It’s true! All you have to do is sow your seeds into a shallow (6-10cm) container of finely crumbled soil (avoid commercial seed raising mixes which, especially in enclosed environments, can cause harmful diseases). Moisten the soil, then pop the container into a larger water-proof vessel (a roasting dish is perfect). Place this on the dashboard of your car. Because your vehicle is moveable, it can be parked in any safe place that receives all-day sun – perfect for hurrying along the germination process. Keep the soil moist. Once the seeds germinate, you can leave the seedlings where they are so they can grow on for a few days before removing them from the vehicle. Never drive with containers on the dashboard – always place them at floor level when you’re on the move!
How to double-grow your microgreens
Most gardeners grow autumn-sown microgreens in trays as a quick salad ingredient or sandwich filling, but these little treasures have a secret bonus that few ever think about. To the inexperienced gardener it may seem that microgreens are a variety of vegetable, but that’s not so. Microgreens are a collection of several different vegetables which (depending on the mix you purchase) include, beetroot, cress, mizuna, rocket, kale and broccoli, and herbs such as parsley, basil and parcel (a parsley/celery combo). While you can harvest these when they are just a few centimetres high, you can also prick-out a few of the individual seedlings to grow on in pots on a sunny window ledge, or in the greenhouse or garden, When you do that, you’re dramatically increasing the amount of greens you can harvest from that one small packet of seed!
Hardy beans make delicious greens!
While many don’t enjoy broad beans (usually because they aren’t aware of the myriad delicious ways in which they can be used in the kitchen) these hardy seeds happily germinate in autumn, and keep growing outdoors in the garden through winter in all but the most severe climates. And what many don’t realise is that the tender new-growth leaves of broad beans are a delicious green. The leaves can be steamed, and served with lemon juice and olive oil, or simply tossed into a salad with parsley and grated carrot. To hurry germination of these big, tough seeds, first soak them in tepid water for 3-4 hours, then drain and remove to a dish lined with a clean, moistened tea towel. Cover the dish with a plastic bag, and seal to lock in the moisture. Place the dish of beans in a warm (not sunny, or the seeds will ‘cook’) place until shoots appear from the seeds. This is your queue to pop the germinating seeds (spaced 10cm apart) gently into a row or patch of loosened garden soil. Cover the seeds with 2-3 cm of soil, and cover again with strawberry netting to keep birds and domestic animals away. Harvest the leaves as microgreens or let the plants grow up to half a metre high before gradually plucking the leaves for use.