Grow a few vegetables indoors this winter

Limited outdoor growing space or cold winters may have you missing fresh, homegrown vegetables.

Make this the winter you try growing a few vegetables in a sunny window or under artificial lights.

Greens are one of the easiest type to grow indoors. Most leafy vegetables tolerate the lower light indoors, require minimal space, and prefer cool temperatures.

Select a container with drainage holes that will fit near a sunny window or under an artificial light setup. Keep the artificial lights about six inches above the top of plants. Fill the container with a well-drained potting mix and sprinkle seeds of your favorite leafy greens over the soil surface. Lightly cover the seeds and moisten the soil.

Removing overcrowded plants, called thinning, will provide sufficient space for the remaining plants to reach full size. Begin harvesting the outer leaves when plants are four to six inches tall.

Extend time between waterings and increase growing success with these and other vegetables by amending the soil with a moisture-retaining product, like Wild Valley Farms’ wool pellets. This organic and sustainable product holds 20 percent of its weight in water and slowly releases moisture into the soil when needed.

Add some crunch to your salads with quick-mature salad radishes. Plant seeds 1/4 inch deep and then thin growing plants to one to two inches apart. Use scissors to thin the plantings at ground level, and use the greens to add a bit of zip to salads and sandwiches.

Expand your indoor edible garden by growing dwarf sugar snap peas. These and other vegetables that you eat the fruit or flowers of need more light. Supplementing natural sunlight with artificial lights will help increase success.

Select shorter varieties that will be easier to train. Patio Pride grows only 9 to 16 inches tall, while Sugar Ann and Little Marvel grow up to 18 inches tall.

Plant two seeds in each three-inch pot or several seeds two inches apart in a long, rectangular container. Once the seedlings reach two inches tall, thin the plantings. Leave one plant in each individual pot and seedlings spaced four inches apart in larger containers. Cut the extra sprouts at ground level and use them in salads, sandwiches and stir-fries.

Peas are self-fertile, so no bees are needed. Harvest pods when they reach the size you prefer.

Don’t forget tomatoes. These take longer and are a bit more challenging, but that is part of the joy of gardening. Start your plants from seeds if transplants are not available.

Consider growing one of the many small-scale tomato varieties that require less space and increase your chance of success. All-America Selections winners Patio Choice Yellow, Lizzano and Torenzo, as well as Tiny Tim and Micro tomatoes are some varieties you may want to try.

Grow small plants in 1- to 2-gallon pots and larger varieties in 3- to 5-gallon containers. Water thoroughly when the top few inches of soil feel dry. Once flowers form, lightly shake the stem to aid pollination.

Growing vegetables indoors is a fun way to enjoy edible gardening year-round. With every planting, you’ll increase your overall gardening experience and success.

Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including “The Midwest Gardener’s Handbook” and “Small Space Gardening.” She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine. Her website is melindamyers.com.

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