Windowsill gardening

PUBLISHED: 10:13 30 January 2014 | UPDATED: 10:13 30 January 2014

Snowdrops

Snowdrops

Archant

For many of you, and certainly for me, winter is quite a sparse time in the garden. There are, of course, always jobs that can be done, tidying, or planning for the coming year, but it feels to me that winter is a time of hibernation for the garden, and for me personally as a gardener.

A lot of gardeners take the largest amount of pleasure from their work when they are able to eat the fruits of their labour. Owning an allotment is something which gives a lot of enjoyment, and a real sense of satisfaction when the time comes to pick and eat the fruit and vegetables that you have grown. During the winter, this feeling of self sufficiency can wane somewhat and although there are winter crops which are still providing delicious meals throughout these months, it’s easy to become slightly despondent.

I was standing in the kitchen of a friend’s new apartment and noticed that he had a chilli plant on the window sill. He told me that he had been getting quite a healthy crop from the plant, and I presume he’ll be using them in his cooking. Living in an apartment, he doesn’t have the option of a garden, but I got to thinking about what it is possible to grow when you don’t have access to an allotment, or a garden.

It is well known that some allotments have huge waiting lists, and for many people, the idea of a whole allotment is too much. With many of us having busy lives and jobs in the city, it is often difficult to find the time, or perhaps the inclination to take on a whole vegetable garden, so I have been giving some thought to the large variety of plants that can be grown on the windowsill for eating.

A nice herb planter is quite a common sight in kitchens these days – normally some kind of cream or terracotta pots, in a handy little tray, designed for the purpose. They bear the names of the herbs they carry – parsley, basil, thyme – and are standing ready at hand to be added to cooking. I have had a similar item on my own kitchen windowsill for several years, and after realising that I only ever used the basil; got rid of the rest of them!

I have two bay trees which stand either side of my conservatory doors, which do get used occasionally, but I think the rule of thumb should be to grow plants that you know you will use. The herbs looked lovely in my kitchen, but as you all know, unless you are using them, and trimming them regularly they get unruly and soon start to look a bit straggly.

A chilli plant is a great idea – if you enjoy using chilli in your cooking, to have a small plant which you can pick from regularly, is a fabulous addition and has the added bonus of looking great and colourful on the windowsill. Tomato plants are a great “small space” plant, and can be grown in hanging baskets, or in little pots, on a balcony or window box. Growing plants inside means that you can often have produce at times of the year when you wouldn’t be able to grow them outside.

Another benefit to being a “windowsill gardener”, is that it is often the first step to learning about and enjoying gardening. Although you may only have a small space for growing things now, in time, if you move to a larger house, you may want to try having a small vegetable patch – all of the very best gardeners had to start with growing something for the first time!

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