You may not have even a tiny piece of earth to garden, but you’ll never realize how much space you have until you try gardening indoors. The amazing thing is, you can grow vegetables indoors too, so you can have your own vegetable supply even without a farm. Yes, you will not enjoy huge yields, but you will not have worries about the pesticides used or whether it’s genetically modified or not. Also, you would have fresh produce to consume during the cold winter months.
Types of Vegetables You Can Grow Indoors
It may not be possible to grow all types of vegetables indoors, but you have a lot of veggie choices to plant. Here are just some of them:
Tomatoes are very easy to grow – you don’t need a green thumb to produce them. As long as you have a sunny windowsill and 6-inch pots, tomatoes can produce fruit in a few weeks.
Since carrot is a root crop, it needs more depth. Plant carrots in a pot or window box at least 1 ½ foot deep and wide, with drainage holes on the bottom. Seeds will start to sprout after two weeks, and when the plant has grown for about ¾ inch from the soil, then they are ready for harvest.
An easy-to-grow crop, radishes are quick to grow and harvest. If other root crops need greater depth, radishes do not root as deeply as others. They can grow well in boxes, pans, pots, and troughs. Radishes can make a first timer proud of himself, as it can produce fruits in just a short time.
Potatoes need a lot of room to grow, root and produce. Plant them in large buckets, big baskets or even in plastic sacks. Leave space at the top so you can easily add compost as the potatoes start to grow.
- Salad greens
Salad greens like lettuce, spinach, romaine, iceberg, arugula, and red leaf can yield from seed to harvest in just a month. Just let them grow in a sunny window or in a place with lights focused on them so they can get enough light they need to produce healthy crops.
- Garlic greens
Growing actual garlic bulbs can be challenging to do indoors, buy garlic greens are relatively easy to grow. These are sprouting green shoots that need a four-inch pot with drainage and a sunny window. Expect harvest 10 weeks after planting, and it will continue to give green shoots indefinitely.
Mushrooms make an ideal indoor plant for any time of the year. They thrive in dark and moist environments like in an attic or a cupboard. After 4-5 weeks from planting, you can already start harvesting.
Herbs like chives, basil, parsley, cilantro, and rosemary typically thrive in the kitchen, because they need its humidity. Use properly drained soil with pebbles and sand to prevent root restriction. They also need bright lights to grow healthy, so artificial and natural light is crucial.
- Green beans
Green beans need a little support. Keep them planted in moist soil with little sticks to keep the plant stable and place them near a sunny window.
Indoor Vegetable Gardening Tips
Before you start your own vegetable garden, you have to consider some factors. Here are some tips that will be useful no matter what type of vegetables you want to grow.
- Choose a convenient spot for gardening.
If you are going to plant seeds, heat would be more important than light because they need warmth to grow. You can place them in a basement corner or in front of a large window that lets in warmth from the sun. And then, when seedlings break through the soil, you can move them to a brighter location where they can both receive natural and artificial light.
- Prepare the soil.
Use a good quality, sterile potting mix – not garden soil – for growing vegetables and other food plants indoors. A potting mix for vegetables is usually made peat moss, sand, perlite and vermiculite. It does not only make soil lighter and easier to move around, but it also reduces the risk of pathogens and pests. You may buy these mix at a garden center, or make it on your own. Pre-mixes can include a timed-release fertilizer and moisture-moisture holding crystals, but these may cost you a lot especially if you want to plant more.
- Choose your plants.
Choose whether you want to start with seeds, small plants or transplant rooted cuttings. Seeds are less expensive than plants, so it will cost you less. A seed package may also contain more seeds than you need at the moment, so you can save some for next year. Seed packages also indicate what time of the year or season it is best to plant them based on your region. If you are not sure, ask a local gardener.
Meanwhile, plant cuttings from other outdoor and indoor plants must be rooted first in water. Let them develop roots before planting into your potting mix. Remember that roots formed in water are finer and more fragile, so take good care. And then, after transplanting them into the potting mix, keep them moistened to avoid shocking the plants and to let new roots grow.
Gather information about the best time to plant, how to grow and how to harvest a plant before buying seeds of it. Also, be aware of the right climate your plant needs, and make sure that you can create them for your plant.
- Pick the right containers.
Any solidly constructed container can be used for growing plants – you can either buy, make or reuse them. Before you reuse a container, make sure they are clean so that no bacteria or disease would harm the seedling or seed you are going to plant.
It’s better to choose containers that are as small as possible to save space. However, you should take into consideration every crop you want to be planted. Shallow-rooted plants can be grown in containers that are only a few inches deep, while other fruit-bearing and climbing types of plants need more support for roots – thus, more depth of soil to grow into. Salad greens need only two to three inches of soil depth; herbs need a container at least four inches deep, and tomatoes need at least 12 inches.
Since indoor plants need well-draining soil, you should use containers with drainage holes at the bottom or you may put stones before the soil. If you would use pots with holes at the bottom, put it in a shallow drainage container so that water won’t flow through the floor, walls, shelf or windowsill.
- Expose them to proper amounts of light.
Sunny windows are usually the best areas to place indoor plants, as it provides natural light for the seedlings. Most vegetables and herbs need six to eight hours of exposure to sunlight every day for growth and maturity, but you can’t get this on a windowsill alone. While plants can really benefit from windows, you’ll still need supplemental lighting. You may get either full spectrum fluorescent bulbs or a plant light. But don’t overdo lighting. Avoid placing your plants too close to the window that receives much sunlight, and be sure not to place them too near a heat and light source since this can dry them out.
- Water properly.
Watering indoor plants is tricky. As plants don’t receive rainfall and they hold only a finite amount of soil, their containers can quickly dry out. However, if you overwater them, you may wash the seed and damage the plant. Overwatering can cause rotting of roots that lead to stunted growth, the formation of molds on the soil surface, leaf drop and eventual death of the plant. You must really watch how much you water. The soil must have the consistency of a pressed sponge.
When watering newly planted seeds, it’s best to use a mist bottle so that you can water them carefully.
To grow a healthy plant, you need fertilizer, especially if you use a potting mix with no soil because it contains no nutrients. You may either use chemical fertilizer or an organic one, such as water soluble fish emulsion or seaweed fertilizer. You can also use slow-release, palletized fertilizers that are designed to be mixed into the soil before planting. As with water, don’t over-fertilize, because it can burn delicate roots.
Indoor Gardening Ideas
An indoor vegetable garden can be set up in many different ways, but here are some basic and simple ideas to start with:
- Vertical gardening
To save space and create a decoration out of your plants, go vertical. There are a lot of different ways to garden vertically. Vegetable vines and climbers are best planted along a trellis. You can also make use of carts to place pots, you can attach the mesh to the wall to hang containers, or you can hang planters from a rack placed near a window.
- Windowsill gardening
If you’re really tight on space, perhaps the only place left to create a garden is on the windowsills. Put together a basic planter and plant those sunlight-needing plants here. Transplanted cuttings also thrive in windowsill gardens.
- Countertop gardening
For plants that need humidity like herbs and other garden greens, let them grow in your countertops. Countertop gardens need artificial lighting focused on them to help the plant thrive.
- Container gardening
Indoor gardening can be done in crates, planter boxes, pots, barrels, baskets, buckets, plastic bags or anything that can hold soil and support the growth of a plant. Sometimes, you can only focus on planting them on one container, or perhaps two or more containers placed in a designated area in your home because of space restrictions and/or plant needs.