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Luv and Angel Ortega, owners of Bamby’s Flowers on State Street in Carlsbad, offer a greenhouse full of indoor plants to brighten your home. Photo by Jano Nightingale
ColumnsJano's Garden

Bring the outdoors in with herbs and flowers

If the gray gloom of January has you gazing out the window at your flooded yard, be certain that there is a cure for the winter blues.

The color and scent of a windowsill full of basil, cilantro and parsley and a tray of microgreens will lift your spirit.

HAVE FUN WITH MICROGREENS

“Microgreens” are really not a variety of seed, but a combination of seeds that are harvested early. You can plant any variety of microgreens in small pots or shallow seed trays.

Be certain that all of your pots and trays have drainage holes.

You can also use any recycled clamshell plastic box in which lettuce and berries are sold.

Choose a light, fluffy mix such as seed starting mix that will not become waterlogged. Moisten the mix outside of the container in a large bowl, so as not to have it become waterlogged. When damp, sprinkle into the pot or seed tray to a depth of 2 inches.

Place your seed mix in a used spice bottle with holes, so you can shake the seeds into the tray.

Remember to seed densely, since they will be cut as a group, not individually.

A mixture, available from Johnny’s Selected Seeds (johnnyseeds.com) or numerous sources on the internet, will last for the better part of a year.

Look for a combination of kale, radish, mizuna, beet and basil, which will sprout within a week. The alternative to buying the pre-mixed package is to purchase individual packets and mix them yourself.

According to Elizabeth Millard, in her “Indoor Kitchen Gardening”:

“Those fond of strong, spicy flavors should gravitate toward mustards, arugula, radishes and other zesty greens. If a milder taste is preferred, stick with options such as chard, basil, cabbage or carrot.”

After your seeds are planted, cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap and do not uncover until seeds emerge. Once the first sign of growth (the cotyledon) emerges, take off the covering and place it under a grow-light or near a window with partial sun.

Once the second set of leaves appear and a successful height of 4-6 inches is reached, it’s time to harvest.

Use small scissors and cut away! Since a second set of greens usually does not emerge, it is best to pull the roots and start over.

Cut greens can be stored in a clean Mason jar for up to a week, but are best eaten with salad or in vegetable dishes right away.

HERBS ON THE WINDOWSILL

Woody Stem Plants

Rosemary, sage and lavender are perennial shrubs that grow to great heights in the outdoor garden.

When purchased as small, 4-inch starter plants and re-potted, they will fill your kitchen or a sunny room with fragrance and culinary possibilities.

Transplant in the springtime to an outdoor location.

Mini Window Box Garden

Take a visit to your local garden center or nursery and purchase small, 4-inch pots of your favorite green herbs such as parley, basil, cilantro and oregano.

Place the grouping in a small window box on a sunny window and the greenery will liven up your kitchen.

Be sure to water frequently, since sunny windows will dry up the soil. Snip as needed and enjoy in your winter recipes.

VISIT YOUR LOCAL FLORIST OR GARDEN CENTER

On a visit to my local florist in Carlsbad, I was pleased to receive a tour of Bamby’s, this small but well-stocked family-owned flower shop.

Not only do they specialize in cut flowers for all occasions, but they also operate a full-fledged nursery.

Husband and wife, Luv and Angel Ortega, have created a miniature wonderland of succulents, potted plants and small shrubs, many of which they grow themselves from cuttings.

To cure the winter blues, Luv Ortega suggested these indoor plants:

“Try Anthurium, which has bright red flowers and shiny leaves. Also the red and white cyclamen can stay inside during winter and then be transferred outdoors to replant in the springtime. And we still have lots of Christmas cactus blooming, which will last for years.”

Daughter Adriana Ortega also reminded all of us who celebrate Valentine’s Day that they will have a full selection of cut flowers and plants ready for the special day, with free local delivery.

Call Bamby’s at (760) 828-3554 or visit the shop at 2763 State Street in Carlsbad, with hours Monday – Saturday from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Enjoy your winter gardening experiences and share with us any gardening tips you may have at [email protected]

Jano Nightingale is a Master Gardener and Horticulturist and teaches vegetable gardening classes at the Carlsbad Senior Center. For further information regarding her classes, contact [email protected].

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