Ways to make winter a tad less horrible


I don’t want to sound to dramatic or anything, but winter in Minnesota kind of makes me want to die.

Every year. Year after year.

Yes, yes, I know all about winter sports. I’m not sporty in good weather. The thing is, my husband is from here, and like so many native Minnesotans I know, he wants to stay. So, at least for now, I’m trying to make the best of it and not be too much of a giant pill.

Paging through seed and plant catalogs while planning for spring helps. And growing a few things under lights in the basement cheers me up even more.

That’s why, even if winter doesn’t make you feel like putting your head in the oven, I’d still recommend setting up a little bit of growing space if you can. Sure, the gross, smelly cat box is just a few steps away from my basement potting area. But it’s still really nice to go down there and tend a few growing green things when everything outside is so blindingly white.

Lately, I’ve been planting different types of microgreens and harvesting them to put on salads and sandwiches and in soups. You’ve probably seen microgreens in grocery stores and on restaurant menus. Delicious and nutritious, they cost a zillion dollars if you buy them pre-packaged. But you can easily grow them at home yourself. All you have to do is get some salad, vegetable, herb and/or edible flower seeds (I really like basil, broccoli, radish, arugula, cabbage and sunflower seed microgreens) and plant them in potting soil in just about any shallow container.

Keep your seeds watered but not soggy, and let them grow under lights or in a sunny window. In about two to three weeks, your tasty greens will be ready to harvest, which you can easily do by snipping them off just above the soil line.

Sound fun, or at least like something that might help you keep your wits about you during these cold months? Great! Then I’d recommend checking out the Sprout People website. There you’ll find much more detailed information about growing microgreens and sprouts. They also sell a fantastic variety of organic seeds, and they offer recipes too, so you’ll have some ideas for how to use all those greens once you’ve grown them.

In addition to microgreens, I’ve got a few varieties of lettuce coming up downstairs. I don’t wait until they mature. Instead, I like using the “cut and come again” method where you harvest the young leaves two, three and sometimes even four times before the plants run out of steam and need to go in the compost bin.

If want to try this, I’d recommend looking for seeds on the Renee’s Garden website. They’ve got a wide variety of lettuce blends, many of their heirlooms. I plant Renee’s lettuce mixes outside in pots all summer, so we always have fresh greens on hand —unless the critters get to them first.

Soon I’ll be starting some herbs, greens and flowers to transplant outdoors in the spring. On my list for sure this year are blue flax and scarlet flax as well as orange-red Mexican Torch (Tithonia rotundifolia) sunflowers. Butterflies love Mexican Torch, which grow to about 5 feet tall and bloom all season.

I get most of my seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, one of my favorite seed sellers because they are devoted to growing organically and promoting and preserving rare and heirloom varieties. They also have the most beautiful catalog you will EVER see. I save mine from year to year just to look at the pictures again and again, reminding myself that spring will come.

Spring will come.

Meleah Maynard is a Minneapolis-based writer and editor who blogs at Livin’ Thing.