Winter Gardening, City-Style

A picture of my winter garden!
My fledgling winter kitchen garden
One of the reasons that people who know me found our move to Helsinki so shocking is, I think, because we were moving from a very rural setting (town of ~2,000, huge yard, close to open space) to a totally urban setting. The shock increased when I told everyone that we intended to live in an apartment in city center, especially since the generous housing allowance would have allowed us to have a detached house with a good-sized yard out in the ‘burbs. “But what about your gardening?” is a question I heard more than once.

And it’s a good one. Gardening is more than a hobby to me. The challenge of figuring out how to grow a new plant (from orchids to celeriac), doing battle against the changeable Colorado weather, growing something unusual, especially tasty, or heirloom, and then cooking something fabulous with it, growing something so local that no gas is required to grow it, harvest it, or bring it home, and doing so organically, is nearly religion for me. But now I have a new challenge–how to get my gardening fix in a city, and a city as far north as Helsinki at that.

My efforts started on week one. In a typical winter in Colorado, I have carrots in the ground, parsley, spinach, and more carrots in the cold-frame, and a cellar full of root vegetables to last the winter-long. I always have herbs growing indoors in a south-facing window, and by January, my seed starting kicks into high gear. I don’t have that here. It’s so dark in the winter that I doubt a pot of herbs would survive, let alone produce, during the dark months. And even though I found an awesome source of local organic veggies called Makumaku (or “taste”) that I’m dying to try, I am not going to have room for anything resembling a root cellar in our flat (although there is the requisite bomb shelter in the building…I wonder if they’d mind a small crate of veggies down there…hmmm…).

Yesterday’s visit to the grocery store yielded my first clue. Many of the herbs come with roots attached in tiny little pots. Lettuces also seem to come this way. And they make a nifty little contraption that holds the pots and provides a built-in fluorescent light to keep them growing. For now, the kitchen of our temporary apartment has an under-cabinet fluorescent light that should keep the rosemary, basil, pea shoots, chives & lettuces I bought yesterday alive.

Our relocation consultant has also promised to look into a community garden plot for me, and my infamous Hobbit-shovel, a weed digger, a hand trowel, and my gardening gloves were optimistically packed in the shipment of goods that is now making its way by boat from NYC to Helsinki. So rest assured there will be more garden blogging, but this year (and for the next several years) it will be live from Helsinki!

2 thoughts on “Winter Gardening, City-Style

  1. Hooray for gardening chutzpah! I’m sure you’ll do fine. I wonder if veggies bred to grow in Alaska would work for you there? Really fast growing/short season veggies?

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