I have been writing this column long enough to know that in the next few weeks the media will be full of articles, opinion pieces, clickbait advertisements and columns, all centered on indoor gardening as the new “It” hobby. It is The Virus, of course, and growing your own salads during the winter is going to get a major push.
As it happens, Alaska’s indoor growing season starts just a bit earlier than most, so you are hearing it earlier than most. This gives us time to act before the shortages develop! This is my second call to get a decent set of lights under which to grow plants this winter and to order seeds. I predict there will be intense pressure on mail- and internet-order seed houses, just as there was this spring. In fact, the demand may be bigger this time around as there are fewer greenhouses and nurseries open during the winter months, no seed racks left and it is the in-between seasons for many seed suppliers.
Now, I could be wrong, but so what if I am? If you read this column, I know you want to extend your growing season. When you throw in virus-related restrictions, indoor horticulture during the winter takes on more aspects than just growing some fresh produce. It is something to do to keep you busy, productive and stimulated. Enough said!
Don’t wait to read the articles that confirm my predictive skills. Now is when you need to order seeds. So what to order? You have just about as many choices as you do when gardening outdoors in the summer.
At the top of everyone’s list are herbs, perhaps because so many already grow a few during winter months. Which ones should you try? Chives and cilantro are perhaps the easiest. Dill and parsley are perhaps the hardest. Basil, sage and mint are pretty easy.
I suppose sprouts are even easier than the easy herbs, as you can grow these in a jar and don’t even need soil. And, you may be able to find sprout seeds locally, though you should act quickly and stock up. Mung beans, of course, alfa, too, as well as mustard seeds for a bit of punch or sunflowers for bulk but look around on the internet and try to stretch your boundaries.
Plant sprout seeds in soil and you can grow micro greens. Peas and sunflowers are my favorites. Once their first leaves appear, mow down with scissors. Many will re-sprout, and the gleanings are terrific.
Leaf lettuces are popular for indoor gardens. Arugula is a favorite in this family and like almost all other leaf lettuces, tastes better fresh rather than from the grocery. You can grow head lettuces, but they take longer and only give a single crop whereas leaf lettuces can be re-harvested if cut properly.
I don’t mean to leave off tomatoes and peppers. By all means they should be on the list, but realize you need to keep temperatures above 55 at night and get them up into the 70s during the day. You also need to supply 16 hours or so of light, and you have to be the pollinator, as there are no insects to do the job. Cayennes are the easiest peppers, and isn’t this is the time to grow one of those really extreme-heat peppers. Indoors is when many grow non-heirloom tomatoes. Cherry varieties are the easiest to grow indoors.
If flowers are your thing, then try edible flowers They are just the thing for a winter garden. Lavender, edible violets and calendula are the ones most advise. Nasturtiums should be on the list if you have room, as they vine.
Don’t forget soil, labels and, of course, those lights.
Jeff’s Alaska garden calendar:
Garlic: 'Tis the season to buy and plant. The Alaska Botanical Garden Garlic sales begin Thursday, Sept. 17 at 8 a.m. No pre-orders and no in-person sales or tasting this year. Buy online, pick up at the Garden, or request curbside pickup.
Garden dance: Momentum Dance Collective and The Forest That Never Sleeps perform at The Alaska Botanical Garden — a great way to be entertained outdoors. 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 18-19.
Faucets: Turn yours off so it won’t freeze. Disconnect any and all attachments.
Bird Feeders: Too early to put 'em up, but clean yours. If you buy seed, store it in a way that’s bear-safe.
Brown spruce needles: Remember that spruce will lose 10% to 15% of their needles in the fall. Sometimes a whole branch will go. This is probably not spruce bark beetle kill.
[Because of a high volume of comments requiring moderation, we are temporarily disabling comments on many of our articles so editors can focus on the coronavirus crisis and other coverage. We invite you to write a letter to the editor or reach out directly if you’d like to communicate with us about a particular article. Thanks.]