The Cultivation, Issue 24
November 11, 2020
Inspired Ideas for Tending Your Home and Garden
Coming off of a weekend of big celebrations (including my son, Colt's, 1st birthday) this week seems to be about taking a big, head-clearing breath and resetting our focus for the weeks and months ahead. This is true not only for what's going on politically and pandemic-ly, but also in your home and garden. I'm taking a cue from the rhythm of nature and will be slowing down The Cultivation to twice a month for the remainder of fall and once a month in the winter as I focus my energy on my new website (look for it January 2021!) and ramping things up on Instagram (follow along @staghorn_living). For this week's issue, I've got tips for keeping indoor plants happy during winter and suggestions for veggies to plant now if you're not ready to put the shovel down. Plus, I'm sharing recommendations for the best composter, whether you've got a tiny apartment or a huge amount of land.
Here's to digging in and staying healthy!
Indoor Plants in Winter
It's a lament I hear almost every winter. A friend or client has been caring for their indoor plant with perfect consistency only to have it suddenly start to show signs of decline. It turns out, despite how controlled our indoor climates are, plants still recognize the change of the season with the top two factors being reduced daylight and reduced humidity. With that in mind, here are some tips for keeping your house plants cozy and content as we move toward winter.
Into the Mist
Many of our indoor plants are tropical species, so humidity is vital to their health and happiness. With heaters and radiators running in the winter, indoor moisture is at an all-time low. I recommend investing in a humidifier (if you have the space) or hand mister to help combat the dryness. Note that misting needs to be done daily to truly have an impact, and don't worry, you can't overdo it in winter. Of course, this protocol doesn't apply to arid-climate plants, such as cacti, succulents, or euphorbia, which prefer to stay dry.
Let There Be Light
Shorter days definitely have an impact on an indoor plant's ability to photosynthesize and grow, and those lower light spots in your home might not cut it during the winter months. If you notice your plant starting to go yellow, or drop leaves, try moving it to a sunnier spot to make up for the lost daylight hours.
Beware of Extremes
Big swings in temperature are bad news for indoor plants. Keep them away from vents, drafty windows and doors, and radiators, all of which can kill off indoor plants.
Slow it Down
Since your indoor plants won't be doing much growing, there's no need to try to encourage them with plant food or pruning. Let the fertilizer take a back seat until spring and hold off on taking cuttings and clipping, too. Think of this as your indoor plants "off season."
What to Plant Now: Winter Veggies
Between the uptick in home-grown everything and the fact that many folks have been quarantining, 2020 has truly been the year of the vegetable garden. If you loved growing your own summer crops like peppers and tomatoes, try for a winter crop or two. Read on for my list of favorites.
Salad-lovers, rejoice! Fall is a great time to sow seeds of cold-tolerant lettuces such as Arctic King, North Pole, and Buttercrunch.
Did you know that broad beans or favas are one of the oldest plants in cultivation? I suggest the Windsor variety. It's one of the best-rated for ease-of-growth and flavor.
Garlic is the ultimate staple in almost all cuisines, so why not grow your own? You can plant cloves purchased at your local grocery store, or get a little adventurous with a new variety from a grower like Keene Organics.
Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Johnny's Selected Seeds, and Seed Savers Exchange are all highly-regarded sources for purchasing organic, non-GMO seeds and have wonderful varieties to boot.
Top 3 Composters
I have a confession: I've never had a composter. I'm a bit ashamed to admit it, given the work that I do. But, now that we're settling into our new home, I'm ready to get on the bandwagon and start a home composting program so that we can reduce our food waste and support our new garden. To get the ball rolling, I asked our friends on Instagram to chime in on which composters they like best. I got some great answers and also did some research of my own. Here are the three I'm suggesting for house- and apartment-dwellers alike.
1. Juwel AeroQuick Composter
The Austrian-made AeroQuick line of composters are known and loved for being extremely durable, long-lasting, and rodent-proof—all qualities that feature prominently on my list of musts. There are several models to match your space and capacity needs. What these bins may lack in style, they make up for in ease-of-use with no turning required and multiple access points. I'm leaning towards getting this one in the 187 gallon size given the amount of leaf and plant litter we have, but they also come in smaller, 110- and 77-gallon options.
2. Hungry Bin Continuous Flow Worm Composter
Hungry Bin is another great continuous flow—meaning no-turning required—composter with a space-savvy design. Unlike composters that rely on heat breaking down the organic matter (i.e., the Juwel, above), this one uses vermicomposting, or worms, to break down food and plant waste and leave behind a nutrient-rich matter known as castings. It's A-plus plant food. You'll need to purchase your own worms for this one and can do so from online sources such as Uncle Jim's Worm Farm.
3. Vitamix FoodCycler FC-50
We are a gadget-loving family and this countertop composter from Vitamix has us completely wowed. Its compact size means it sits easily next to the sink or can be stowed in a cabinet when not in use. The best part is that it turns kitchen scraps into usable compost in 4 to 8 hours (depending on quantity and contents). Reviews say it delivers what it promises: odorless, quiet composting in a fraction of the time a conventional composter takes. If we still lived in an apartment, I would buy this in a heartbeat.
We hope you enjoyed issue 24 of The Cultivation. If there is a gardening or plant question you'd like us to answer, let us know by emailing us here. Want to catch up on previous issues? Click here to read through all of our prior editions. And remember to follow us on Instagram @staghorn_living!