Plant a winter garden, indoors and out
HUGHESVILLE – Learn to garden all year long. A presentation was given at the end of September at the Hughesville Area Public Library by Master Gardener Helen Grosso of Hughesville.
A series of programs on garden related family activities took place at the library to inspire growing vegetables all year long. Gross presented several ways to keep plants growing inside during the cooler months.
Getting off to a good start was the community garden that was planted over the summer and spearheaded by Victoria-Thompson Hess of the library. Tomatoes and peppers were planted, some squash and culinary herbs. “We hope to expand it for next summer,” Hess said. Most of the plants were grown in raised beds that staff and volunteers built.
“Growing lettuce indoors can be fun,” Grosso said. She explained ways to yield a decent crop during the waning warm weather. Using shallow plastic containers with clear covers from TJs Food Market, Grosso demonstrated a hands-on garden to grow lettuce inside. “Select the best location with light,” she said. Suitable, sunny spots are ideal or a south facing window is best. “If you don’t have enough light on a windowsill, grow your crop under lights,” she suggested. “Choose a spot away from cold drafts and hungry pets.”
Gross held up some rinsed out dairy containers with holes punched in the bottom that she uses to start seedlings. “When it comes to choosing seeds, some varieties are better suited for indoor growing,” she added. “Look for loose-leaf varieties such as Baby Oakleaf or Black-seeded Simpson. They grow well in winter light.” Others to try are Arctic King, Winter Marvel and Winter Density. She suggests combining them for a “salad bowl favorite.”
Avoid head lettuces, as they are difficult to grow indoors.
Moisten the soil, using a good fertilized soil filled to about 3 to 4 inches in the container. Scatter the seeds on top and cover them in a thin layer of planting mix. Grosso likes to use a seed starting mix. “Do not use garden soil or potting soil,” she said because it is often too coarse for seed starting.
Place containers in a warm sunny window and cover loosely. Check daily for signs of sprouts and when they appear, remove the cover when they are about an inch apart. Keep them moist and monitor growth for adjustments.
“Lettuces are delicate,” Grosso said, “and require extra attention when growing indoors.” In about three to four weeks, the baby lettuce should be about 4 inches tall. “Cut only what you need, starting with the outer leaves first. Trim each leaf at the plant’s base, about an inch from the soil. “When harvest is complete, plant another set of seeds,” Grosso said.
In conclusion, Grosso talked about growing garlic and the different types grown in zone 5. She suggested hardneck types of garlic which adapt well to colder climates. Garlic is planted now outdoors in fertile, well drained soil and is harvested in July. “Poke the cloves into the ground 4 inches deep and 6 to 8 inches apart. Then cover with organic mulch.”
Another program was held Tuesday night at the Hughesville Library and Grosso demonstrated how to make a pine cone feeder.