Grow Fresh Greens in Winter

Fresh greens are easy to grow in winter without a greenhouse.

Reader Contribution by Renée Benoit
article image
by Unsplash/Rachel Gorjestani

You may already know that I live in the Central Valley of California. It hardly ever gets below freezing here and it has been particularly true this winter. So far it has gotten just to 32 degrees but not below. This is completely the opposite of points farther east and what I’ve experienced visiting my sister who lives outside Denver on the high plains. It’s a blizzard out there and homegrown fresh greens are impossible unless you have a perfect greenhouse set up. Unfortunately, perfect greenhouse set-ups are beyond most people but fresh greens are not because you can grow them on your kitchen counter. My favorite kind is sunflower sprouts.

I first had these easy-to-grow and tasty greens when I visited my daughter in Santa Cruz around Christmas time a couple years ago. We always eat at a vegetarian restaurant in Capitola called Dharma’s. It’s all vegetarian and they give you huge portions. When I go I always have the green salad and Kitcheree soup. On top of the salad you will find a giant pile of sunflower sprouts. You won’t find sunflower sprouts in every supermarket unless you have a specialty store nearby and who needs to buy them anyway? If you grow your own you’re assured that they will be sanitary and there’s no possibility of salmonella.

What you need:

  • 75% coconut coir and 25% earthworm castings or a mix of potting soil and perlite
  • food-grade black oil sunflower seeds (they have to be food grade because garden seed is treated)
  • water
  • leftover cinnamon roll tray with clear lid from the bakery or any container and plastic wrap


Mix equal parts perlite and potting soil or use the coconut coir and earthworm castings.

bags of perlite and potting soil sitting next to a rectangular pan

Spread about 2 inches deep of this mix in your tray.

potting soil in a rectangular metal pan

Spread a single layer of the seeds on the soil.

sunflower seeds on top of soil in a metal pan

Sprinkle another 1/2″ deep of the mix over the seeds. Moisten with water.

Cover with the tray top or plastic wrap and put in a safe place where the kiddies or the cats who haven’t been counter trained can’t reach it.

metal pan filled with soil covered in plastic wrap

Check every day for a week and moisten as necessary. Nature will do her job and in a couple days you’ll start to see sprouts.

In a week you’ll have sprouts to clip off above soil level to put on your salad. If there are any seeds hulls clinging to the sprouts you can wait until they drop off naturally or you can very gingerly pull them off the leaves. Be careful not to break the leaf or pull the sprout out of the ground. If the hull won’t budge leave it be.

The sprouts won’t grow anymore after you clip them off. Just clean the soil off the roots and you can start all over again with the same soil. Just be aware that the roots will be embedded into the soil and will take a bit of shaking to separate them.  The sprouts are sweetest when they are fresh. You don’t even really need to wash them as you know exactly what went on to them as they grew. Nothing!

Food grade sunflower seeds can be found at Sprout People. In case you have a Whole Foods nearby I found a small packet of black oil sunflower seeds in the seeds sprouting section.

Coconut coir can be found at Ace Hardware.

Earthworm castings can be found at Gardens Alive.

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