I’m dreaming of a winter harvest!

Space age hydroponics!
Space age hydroponics! Photo Debora Kuchme.

Now that it’s December, our Leaside gardens are left to rest. The growing season is over and the harvesting has all been done – right?   

Well, maybe for some green thumbs but not for me, because this year, I intend to grow and harvest throughout the winter months ahead…and all of it indoors!    

Truth be told, I’ve been fascinated with hydroponic gardening ever since Cheryl Vanderberg and I wrote a feature article about a local urban farm called We the Roots. And how could I not be? Inside a local industrial unit, with no sun and no soil, We the Roots were growing a wide assortment of ultra-fresh culinary greens for high-end restaurants – all year round!

Amin Jadavji (one of the owners) explained how their produce was non-GMO, pesticide free and even better than organic and how their hydroponic system uses less water and less land compared to traditional farms. But that’s still not all, their produce doesn’t travel thousands of miles in refrigerated trucks. This is local, this is fresh and this is better for the environment. 

That article was in our January issue and just before COVID-19 turned our world upside down.

In November, we entered a second wave and I couldn’t help wondering about essential food availability throughout the winter ahead. So why not try to grow some of my own food indoors? 

I did some research online and decided to purchase a $200 hydroponic kit called AeroGarden from our local Canadian Tire. It’s a compact unit that comes with a water chamber, grow light, pump, plant tray, and includes six seed pods consisting of parsley, thyme, mint and two types of basil, along with a bottle of liquid plant food. There are other seed kits available including cherry tomatoes and strawberries, which I plan to try too.

The setup was easy enough, and in just two days, I saw the basil begin to sprout, and one week later, the dill and thyme were sprouting too. Looks like my first indoor harvest could be just weeks away! 

This speedy activity gave me some concerns. I remembered how We the Roots grew different plants in separate trays, each with their own customized nutrients, and how they were removed (roots and all) to be shipped at their peak.

Would my fast-growing basil start hogging space, nutrients and available light? I wondered how long these plants could remain in this hydroponic state before I ran into trouble. Could I transplant them into soil?

I contacted Amin of We the Roots to get some answers from an expert. I felt better immediately when he said, “The one size fits all approach for light, nutrient water will be just fine for small scale. Yes, mint does tend to take over in the garden, however, if contained to a pod, it shouldn’t go beyond its boundaries. These herbs typically regrow after removing leaves, so they will keep for a long time. Instead of transplanting to soil (which you could do), I would transfer them to a vase or cup of warm water and leave it on the window sill. Then you could start to grow something else.” Now I’m embracing this indoor garden even more.   

If you’re looking for a productive and enjoyable gardening project (what a great Christmas gift) to get you through the winter months, consider growing some fresh and essential food crops in the comfort of your home.

And if this sounds like too much work, We the Roots will be launching a monthly subscription for home delivery of their fresh greens starting soon. The first rollout will just be to the residents of Leaside, Rosedale and Moore Park.

About Debora Kuchme 65 Articles
After a 30-year career as a fashion designer, Debora worked at Horticultural Design for over a decade. Now with her concerns about climate change, she hopes to help local gardeners find positive solutions for a greener and healthier neighbourhood. As a board member of the Bayview Leaside BIA, she created the Bayview Pixies, a volunteer group introducing sustainable gardening practice to Bayview.