Window gardening plants / Winter composting
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Issue: October 27th, 1997


Window gardening plants

Question:

I hate the end of the garden season. It seems things just get started, then winter comes and ends it all. What are some good plants for window gardening here in New Mexico? I just have to keep gardening.

Answer:

What plants do you like? There are many plants which may be grown indoors through the winter.

One of my favorites is a four-year-old chile plant. In the winter I keep it in a brightly lighted, cool room. In the summer the plant and its pot enjoy the shade of an apple tree. It continues to bear chile pods each year, even producing some in the winter.

Amaryllis, orchids, begonias, geraniums, ferns, coleus, spider plants, peperomias, aloes, and many other plants can be grown as indoor ornamentals. However, I like to grow a lot of edible plants which are also ornamental. Oregano, chives, garlic chives, bunching onions, thyme, rosemary, basil, and other herbs are some of my favorites for the winter window garden. I like the fact that I can prune them back to keep them from becoming too large, and then use the trimmings to make a meal more flavorful. Just the process of trimming them is pleasant because I like the aroma of these plants.

Of course you can't forget the Christmas cactus and poinsettia as indoor plants. The challenge of getting them to bloom for the holidays makes growing them a great deal of fun.

For those who are forgetful or just too busy to remember the indoor garden, cacti and succulents are good choices. The challenge in growing them is to avoid over-watering. In the winter, especially if you keep the plants in a cool room, the plants need less water than in the summer. This is true of all the plants discussed here. In a well-heated room, more watering will be needed.

Miniature roses, while tempting to try, need a cool period to maintain their health. They may be brought indoors to complete their fall bloom or left out in a protected but cold location, then brought in to induce early spring bloom. Other plants native to temperate climates will also have a nee cool resting time. Tropical plants, on the other hand, do not like the cold and will grow right through the winter.


Winter composting

Question:

Can I compost during the winter? Doesn't it get too cold for compost to work during the cold weather?

Answer:

It is surprising, but the heat in a properly constructed compost comes from the composting process within the compost, not from the surrounding environment. Cooling of the edges of the winter compost will be more extensive than the summer compost, but the compost will continue to develop if other factors such as the ratio of carbonaceous material to nitrogen containing materials, moisture content, and size of the particles in the compost are correct.

So, yes, you can compost through the winter. You do have to continue to provide moisture, a proper balance of carbon and nitrogen containing materials and, as in the summer, proper grinding of the materials to be composted.