February 18, 2012

Midwinter Microgreens

If you are chomping at the bit to start seeds in winter, or just crave some fresh greens, try growing microgreens in recycled containers.  It is easy and quick and doesn't require special equipment or even fertilizing.  Microgreens are a great way to introduce yourself or someone else to seed starting because of the high success rate and quick germination.  It is empowering and fun.  Plus tasty and nutritional.  Experienced gardeners can experiment with their own mixes and unusual choices. 

I tried a spicy mesclun mix that was so easy.  But so hot.  Too much for me, but if you like that, be sure to grow cress or arugula.  Milder lettuces and spinach, as well as aromatic cilantro and basil, also do well.  I have last season's parsley and chives growing in their containers inside but I bet they would do well from seed, too. 

The attached blog post from Botanical Interests gives step by step directions on how to grow microgreens, and includes a list of plants the blogger has grown with good results.  I have stuck mine under lights for a quick start but you don't really need to do that.  When I need the grow light space for long term seed starting I skip it and yet can still grow more plants in a limited space.  

I also have not always covered my containers and they have done fine with misting, but it certainly does help keep the moisture in.  It is a matter of what containers you have and how much you care how they look.  Cute ones on the sill or recycled ones from the bin.  I do both.  Just be sure whatever you use has drainage holes.

I hope you try this and have fun with it.  I would love to hear what seeds you sow inside and how they did.  Based on this list I am going to give cabbage a try - a new plant for me to grow this year.  Might as well start now.


February 5, 2012

In The Mood....

A recent study suggests scientific support for the emotional enjoyment we get from gardening.  A specific bacteria in the soil may be a mood enhancer, and exposure to it can lift our spirits. 

I always credited the joy of gardening to a combination of things: being in touch with our agrarian past (it just feels so right to dig in the soil); a connection to nature and the cycle of the seasons; the rewards we get from nurturing our plants; and the satisfaction of a completed job (even weeding) or a creative one.  I think these are indeed psychological factors that can positively affect our physical chemistry, but it is intriguing to think that there may be a purely physical cause that can create this effect. 

My gardening friend told me years ago that in winter she loves to go to a greenhouse and just smell the soil.  I thought that was brilliant and have to say when I have done it the effects were immediate.  The smell of fresh damp soil evoked memories of warmer gardening weather and the excitement to start again.  Part of it, at least for me, is feeling the humidity we lack indoors in winter.  But clearly Nancy was on to something big.

Here's a link to a story about the study.  I would take issue with the term "dirt" since "soil" is what plants love and what we gardeners work to create for them.  Ideally it is crumbly and teams with microbes and beneficial fungi.  Sounds like a good subject for a separate post.  Meanwhile, keep this trick in mind even if you can't get outside or work the land.  It appears we can still benefit from just being around the soil.