With farmer's markets winding down and outdoor gardens dying away, the idea of fresh, wholesome produce may seem unattainable during winter months. Maybe you'll browse the produce aisles at your local grocery store, looking for something organic and edible, but chances are the quality won't be up to par, and you can never know exactly what you are buying.
"When you buy organic, it doesn't mean your food isn't sprayed with pesticides," says Pieter Roets, co-owner of Hefty Harvest gardening warehouse in Lacey. "It might be organic pesticide, but it's still pesticide. The only way to know what you are eating is if you grow the food yourself."
Walking into the store, I'm greeted by a chocolate lab, Duke, and well-organized, well-stocked shelves of growing needs - everything from lighting and aeration supplies to plant propagation books.
As Roets takes me on a tour, we continue to discuss indoor growing. He recommends growing your herbs and vegetables indoors for the winter, producing nutrient-dense tomatoes, ever-bearing lettuce or trays of fragrant herbs, all fresh for the eating.
There are many ways to grow indoors, depending on costs, grower experience, preference, etc. Hydroponics is an ideal way because the grower has complete control over nutrients, but rocks, soil and about a dozen other mediums can be used, including coconut fiber.
But for starters - and especially for small spaces - a 10-inch by 20-inch grow tray is the perfect setup. This size fits nicely on counter tops and windowsills and is ideal for growing herbs and starts.
Bags of pre-portioned soil plugs designed for growing trays are available for purchase and makes setup super easy. Just pop in the plugs, plant seeds, add water, nutrients and fluorescent lighting and voila!
A beginner's setup, such as the one mentioned above, is relatively inexpensive, costing around $100. This investment can not only supplement through winter months, it is a great way to get a jump start on the outdoor growing season, when starts can begin in January or February and brought outdoors in the spring for a big and plentiful plant.
For the more experienced (or ambitious) grower, Hefty Harvest has an 8,000 square foot warehouse filled with supplies for every growing need, and Roets, together with co-owners Alex Wentz and Nik Grobins, are a powerhouse trio of knowledge with a combined experience of more than 35 years.
So if you are thinking of growing your own, the guys welcome you to visit the store or call for more tips and ideas for a happy, healthy and hefty harvest.
[Hefty Harvest, 2825 Marvin Road NE, Lacey, 360.628.8964, heftyharvest.com]