We all know that fruits and vegetables are vital sources of vitamins and minerals, but there’s more to them than that. Recent research suggests that phenolics contained in fresh, whole vegetables can protect us from a host of degenerative diseases, too. These include diabetes, arthritis, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer.
Trouble is, it’s sometimes difficult and expensive to get our hands on all the vegetables and fruits we enjoy, especially out of season. Fortunately, you can grow your supplies from scratch, and you don’t need 100 acres of pristine farmland to do it.
So, if you want to ensure you get your recommended daily allowance of essentials, get rid of those supplements and keep reading to learn about growing indoor vegetables.
The pros and cons of growing vegetables indoors
It’s always best to consider all the negatives and positives before you commence with a long-term commitment. Indoor gardening is no exception.
The major benefit of growing vegetables at home indoors is that you get to control the plants’ environment. You can protect your produce from the weather, weeds and pests and also manipulate them into producing food all year round.
You can ensure your crops get all the light, warmth, and nutrition they need precious easily and conveniently without having to step outdoors.
It isn’t always easy to deliver this plant nirvana, though. You may struggle to optimize lighting and air circulation for your indoor garden.
By eliminating the elements from their environment, you prevent pollinators like insects and wind from working their magic on your plants, too.
Gardening is a learning curve, so don’t balk at the first obstacle. Rather, keep trying new things until you learn how to optimize conditions for your vegetable garden.
The extra effort is well worth it when you consider all the benefits associated with healthier eating.
Where to put your indoor vegetable garden
The placement of your indoor garden is vital for several reasons.
You need a location that’s convenient for you and ideal for your plants. A nearby source of water comes in handy to avoid lugging a heavy watering can through your home, spilling on the carpet all the way.
Plants need pots with adequate drainage, too, so avoid placing your veggie garden where an overflow may damage your flooring.
Many plants require at least six hours of direct sunlight a day, although many vegetables prefer cooler conditions. Fortunately, with a container garden, it’s easy to move your plants around according to their preferences.
An outdoor patio or veranda is perfect for vegetables, provided they aren’t left baking against the reflective heat of a wall for hours every day.
Vegetables thrive in the same temperatures that we feel comfortable with, so they’re most at home at temperatures between 70 and 72 °F. Leafy greens can tolerate much cooler temperatures.
Space isn’t an issue when you’re getting started with only a few specimens. A sunny windowsill will do just fine for a few herbs and other small container plants.
Shopping list to start an indoor garden
You’ll need a few things to start a vegetable garden inside your home. For starters, your shopping list should include:
- A growing medium like an organic potting mix for vegetables
- Containers with drainage holes and drip trays
- Appropriate fertilizer
- Seedlings or seeds
- A mister for months of low humidity
Grow lights are something to consider if you want to optimize your crops all year round, especially from November to February, when light levels decline in North Carolina.
If you feel there isn’t enough air circulation in your home, or your plants start to develop fungus, an ordinary fan will keep the air moving.
Start with seedlings to see quick garden success
While you’re gathering your equipment, you need to pick up a few seedlings to get your garden started. It’s much easier to start with healthy seedlings than to wait for weeks wondering if seeds intend to germinate or not.
Choose simple vegetables for an easy-to-grow salad
Some of the yummiest vegetables are also the easiest to grow, particularly those with edible stems and leaves. Fruiting plants require a little more time and care.
Leafy and healthy salad greens, like kale, arugula, lettuce and spinach are easy to grow and ready quickly. They enjoy cool temperatures and usually do very well indoors.
Radishes are a delightful little vegetable to grow both indoors and out and are a great addition to any salad. They grow quickly and demand very little except a little water now and again.
Microgreens are incredibly easy to grow, too, and they’re ready to eat as soon as they’ve developed just two leaves.
When you focus on growing this type of produce that never seems to last long enough in the refrigerator, you can whip up a fresh salad with every meal.
You can also harvest a few of the leaves at a time, and they’ll grow right back again. So, these plants work well if you live alone and don’t cook big meals often.
Expanding your garden
When you’ve managed to keep your leafy greens alive satisfactorily, you may be suitably motivated to try something more advanced.
With a little TLC, it’s easy to enjoy a year-round vegetable garden in the comfort of your home. You can protect your summer-loving plants from cold temperatures, and many traditional cold-loving winter crops grow very well indoors all year round, too.
The following plants usually do very well for indoor vegetable gardening:
It’s very easy to grow carrots indoors, but you need to start from seeds. Again, this is easy enough by placing peat moss over the seeds and keeping it damp.
Your carrots should sprout above the ground within three weeks.
Container gardening is a fantastic way to produce lovely straight carrots since you needn’t worry about them detouring around rocks and roots from other plants.
All pepper plants detest frost and do much better indoors than outside. You can plant them from seed or seedlings, but you must ensure they get at least 10 hours of light a day.
Plant each pepper in a container that’s at least eight inches tall, and let the potting medium dry out before you water them again.
Ordinary onions won’t grow indoors, but growing scallions is a breeze, and you can plant them from leftovers or as they are.
So, if you have some scallions in your fridge that are about to reach their expiry date, plop them in a container with about one inch of water, and watch them grow until they’re ready to transfer to a container.
In many cases, you can re-grow scallions from the root end this way, too, if you’ve cut off the tops.
These tropical perennials die off at the end of their growing season and bounce right back next year. They’re quite finicky to grow indoors, but it’s well worth the effort if you get it right.
Plant your seedlings in a spot that receives at least 10 hours of light a day, or it won’t bear fruit. A dash of water-soluble organic fertilizer can also help give it a boost right after planting.
As soon as the plants develop flowers, give them a shake now and again. This causes the pollen to fall from flower to flower.
Without this manual pollination, your indoor tomatoes won’t bear any fruit. As the tomatoes get larger, they’ll get top-heavy, so you must stake them or support them with a tomato cage.
Herbs are another top choice for indoor gardens. They’re hardy plants and easy to grow in small or large containers.
Some of the most useful herbs to grow on your kitchen windowsill include:
Nothing beats flavoring your food with fresh herbs instead of salty, preservative-rich spice sprinkles or salt.
Growing fruits indoors
Fruit trees needn’t be meters tall to produce tasty nibbles for cooking and snacking, after all, tomatoes are fruits, too. Most fruits thrive indoors, especially if you can recreate their tropical habitat with a mister and grow lights.
Some of the best small-specimen fruit trees you can grow indoors include:
You don’t need to be Oprah to grow yummy, healthy avocados at home, either. Miniature avocados do produce fruit indoors, but they take years to get around to it and require quite a bit of space.
If you’re considering expanding your options to include a greenhouse, go ahead and plant an avocado tree.
Modern compact strawberry varietals work very well indoors in containers, too.
Reaping what you sow
Growing vegetables indoors is a fun, fruitful hobby with healthy rewards. So, start small with a few easy crops and grow from there.
Before long, you’ll find yourself trying new recipes and saving money at the grocery store checkout, too. So, the sooner you get started, the better.