If you don’t have a garden, or want to continue growing crops throughout winter, then a windowsill can provide you with the perfect growing opportunities. From sprouting seeds to overwintering chilli and orange plants, a bright, sunny windowsill can give your crops everything they need to thrive.
Avoid direct sunlight and water sparingly – especially during winter when most plants are dormant.
More advice on growing edible crops indoors:
Discover five ways to kick-start your windowsill allotment, below.
Sprout some seeds
Seeds and sprouts in jars
Sprouted alfalfa, mung bean, lentil or radish seeds give you a crunchy hit of vitamin-packed flavour within a week – great for impatient gardeners. Buy seeds specifically produced for sprouting, as garden seeds may be treated with chemicals.
Put a layer of seed in a jam jar, cover with water, then soak overnight. Fix muslin over the jar with an elastic band or screw band jar lid, and tip out the water (the muslin acts like a sieve). Pop the jar of dampened seeds onto a bright windowsill and rinse with fresh, tepid water twice daily. Wait until the shoots are 2.5-5cm long before tipping them out to enjoy the plump seeds and shoots as fresh as possible.
Overwinter a chilli
Purple chilli plant
If you have a chilli plant that’s still hanging on in the greenhouse, bring it indoors rather than throwing on the compost heap. Give it your warmest, least droughty windowsill, water only when compost is dry and don’t feed at all. Plants become dormant in winter and drop their leaves naturally.
Check often for aphids, squishing any you find. In spring, water and feed as normal, and move back into the greenhouse after the last frosts. Chillies can be left on the plant over winter, or pick the fruits to hang up and dry – that way they’ll keep for months.
Move mint inside
Lots of herbs including mint, chives and marjoram stay fragrantly leafy for most of winter when you bring a potful indoors. Plants are inexpensive from the garden centre or supermarket, and there are often several varieties to choose from.
Unlike most herbs, mint struggles if it’s too warm, so give it a bright windowsill in an unheated spare room or corridor. Keep compost damp and add liquid seaweed feed to the water once a fortnight.
Sow peas for shoots
Sowing peas for winter shoots
Eat pea seedlings, snipped fresh from the windowsill to enjoy the same sweet, crisp flavour as freshly-picked peas. Sow the peas into shallow wooden boxes, seed trays or plastic takeaway cartons. Half fill with compost, then sprinkle seeds generously on top: don’t worry about spacing. Cover with a thin layer of compost and move to a bright windowsill.
Keep the compost just moist – don’t overwater – and they’ll sprout within a week. Once around 10cm tall, use scissors to snip the stems 5cm above compost level to eat raw in salads. Don’t empty the tray, as the pea seeds often re-sprout for a second harvest.
Kumquats in a vase
Create your own windowsill orangery with tiny, calamondin oranges, loaded with plump little fruits all winter. Buy ready-grown trees and give them a sunny, south-facing spot, but away from radiators. Avoid sudden changes in growing conditions, watering steadily but sparingly with tepid water, and feeding fortnightly with with a specialist winter citrus feed.
Look out for scale insects or mealybugs on the stems and wipe off with insecticidal soap. If possible, move the tree outdoors for summer to enjoy the higher light levels. Pick when just starting to colour up. Calamondin oranges have a sharp flavour that is best when cooked – perfect for delicious marmalade.