Gardening Tips for Seedy Characters: Week 43

What to do this week

I have been potting-up things this week to bring indoors. There are lots of things you can bring in, but one of them is not basil, so I didn’t bring in any. Here is why:

The only way I have ever successfully overwintered basil in Cape Breton was one time when I had an unused aquarium at the local school, so I put it in that. With the lights and the warmth it got there, it did survive. But other than with lots of artificial help, it is very difficult to get basil to survive in the low light and coolness we have here in the winter, even indoors. You may want to try it if you have lights, but I don’t think it is ecologically sound on a broad scale, so I don’t do it.

Photo by Madeline Yakimchuk

Photo by Madeline Yakimchuk

Oregano is much like basil. It really doesn’t like low light, and is not happy indoors over the winter.

However, you can dig up some chives, and bring them in, and some parsley — just pot it all up for windowsills.

This year I actually have some celery going in the greenhouse that was accidently left behind there during the spring transplanting frenzy. It is going to be fine in the unheated greenhouse all winter, so I will have leaves and stems for soup, to keep me going until next spring.

If you want to dig up some kale and pot it up for the greenhouse, or even put some row covers on it outside, before the snow comes, you can do that now as well. It is still warm enough to do transplanting. Even if you don’t have a greenhouse, you might be able to transplant some to a place of shelter where you can find it more easily during winter. Kale is very hardy, but you do have to be able to find it in the snow drifts in order to eat it.

Once you finish up with the transplanting, you might want to consider actually planting a few things indoors. You can start growing lettuces and little seedlings on your windowsill. Of course you can sprout all winter, for crunchy greens, but please don’t stop at alfalfa: lentil sprouts are also delicious. Sprouted garbanzo beans (chickpeas) make a great, crunchy snack raw, and will leave you feeling much better than you will after gobbling up a handful of chips. If you don’t need a chip replacement, you can use them in soups, stews and stir fries.

You can also go halfway between sprouting and soil gardening with things like pea sprouts. They are a wonderful indoor winter gardening option. Place a layer of seed peas in a shallow tray of potting soil and let them sprout. When they reach six or seven inches in height, cut them off and eat them in a stir fry. They are delicious. Unfortunately, they will not grow again. That would be a lot to ask. Just plant more.

So gardening is not just for summer, and not just in the yard. Once you start to produce your own food, you will figure out all kinds of ways to have fresh things all year round.



Market gardener, farmer, workshop leader, seed-saver, political candidate and mother, Michelle Smith has spent over 30 years coping with the challenges of our bioregion and in the process has built a store of practical and technical knowledge. The Inverness resident has served on the board of Seeds of Diversity Canada and represented Alternative Producers with the Federation of Agriculture but can do nothing about her hair. She is pictured with a head of Club Wheat, a seed that shares her approach to hairdressing.




Backyard food gardener Madeline Yakimchuk caught the food-security bug in the early ’90s through Cuba’s Urban Agriculture Department, taking her first permaculture course and planting her first garden. She can often be found discussing food security, nurturing a plant-based lifestyle or trying to give away vegetables. Professionally, she is GRYPHON media productions but sometimes uses la bruja in her volunteer work, most notably in managing the garden column, which begins life as a telephone interview.