Perfect for those a little short on outdoor space, a windowsill garden is the perfect way to try your hand at growing your own fresh produce, from the comfort of your kitchen. For those with mini-me’s, a windowsill patch is a great way to introduce kids to the world of gardening – plus, who doesn’t love watching things grow?
All of the windowsill gardens explained below are beginner friendly AND kid friendly – the perfect weekend or school break project.
SPROUTS & MICROGREENS
Sprouts and microgreens are super fast, easy-to-grow and nutritious veggies that you can sprinkle generously on your cooking for a fresh, crisp crunch.
Sprouts are essentially freshly sprouted seeds of varieties such as alfalfa, mung beans, lentils, snow peas, radish and broccoli. They can be sprouted in either a glass jar with a piece of fine mesh covering the opening (secure with an elastic band or piece of string) – this keeps the air moving, or in special sprouting jars, trays and bags, available at nurseries and garden centres.
The process for growing is very simple:
- Soak a teaspoon of seeds in warm water, in your jar, for 6-8 hours (the fresher the seeds, the faster they will germinate)
- Drain and rinse your seeds thoroughly, and set the jar on the window sill
- Rinse and drain the seeds regularly (up to 3 times a day) to remove bacteria, and then allow them to drain fully
- Growing time can be as little as 3-5 days.
TIP: set the jars upside down and on an angle in a dish drainer, to make sure the water can escape after each rinse.
If sprouts are the new-born babies of the windowsill patch, microgreens are the toddlers. They can be grown in shallow trays of soil on the windowsill, or even on moistened paper with a regular misting of water. You can still germinate the seeds in water (refer to sprout growing steps above), but will then need to transfer the germinated seeds to the shallow planter to continue their growing process.
Keep a close eye on your microgreens because if you leave them to grow past the toddler stage, they will become tough and woody… i.e. NOT nice in your salad! Harvest them once they produce their first ‘true leaves’ (usually speaking, each plant will have four or more leaves including the seed leaves, or ‘cotyledon’).
Herbs are a great choice for a windowsill garden – imagine having a go-to supply to season your Sunday roast, or to throw a sprig into your home-shaken cocktail!
The first thing you’re going to need for your windowsill herb garden is enough sunlight, so look for a bright window for best results.
Step one: set up
Use cover pots – i.e. decorative pots with no holes – that can then take a plastic container (complete with drainage holes) inside. This will collect any drips and drops from watering and allow you to rotate plants on your windowsill as they grow, or give them a breather outside from time to time for more light.
PRO TIP: keep track of what you’re planting by labelling each pot with an ice-cream stick stake.
You’ll also need potting soil, gardening gloves and a small spade or trowel.
Step two: plants
There are two main types of herbs: annuals, that grow for a season and then go to seed; and perennials, which grow all year round and can become long-term staples. Nurseries and garden centres usually have a great selection of seeds, seedlings or plants in-store that you can pick and choose from.
Otherwise, if you already have herbs at home, you can grow a cutting in water until it’s ready for planting in soil. Note that this technique doesn’t work well for some herbs such as parsley and coriander. If you’re keen to give this a try, check out this is a handy step-by-step guide on growing herbs from cuttings.
Step three: make it fancy
The final step in finishing off your new herb garden is to get crafty and creative! Crafting is a known antidote to stress and pressure, so put those green thumbs (and the kids) to work pretty-ing up your pots.
Another fun way to grow veggies is by using the scraps you would usually throw away – think the roots of onions and leafy greens, carrot tops, seeds and sad-looking root vegetables. This is a great one to do with the kids, and diverts what would otherwise be household waste into your next salad. Check out this helpful guide that breaks down steps, difficulty level and time frames for 16 common vegetables.
GIVE SEEDLINGS A HEAD START
Even for those that also have an outdoor veggie patch, it can be challenging for herbs and vegetables to grow from seeds where they have to compete with weeds, other plants and the weather. For a gentler start to life, try growing them in egg cartons first in your windowsill garden. All you need is some seed packets, an empty egg carton, soil and coffee grounds. Easy peasy!