If you’re looking for a way to save money on groceries, or just want to have some fresh produce year-round, an indoor vegetable garden might be the perfect solution for you. It’s easy to get started, and you can grow a wide variety of vegetables and herbs indoors. In this blog post, we’ll look at some tips for starting your own indoor vegetable garden.
Decide which herbs and vegetables you want—and are able—to grow
You should carefully think through your indoor garden before you fill a pot with dirt, seeds, and water and declare it finished.
Consider the following questions: “How much space do you have for an indoor garden? Will artificial lighting be used to broaden planting choices?”
These questions will help you determine which herbs and veggies—and how many of each—you can keep in your growing setup. If you don’t want to cultivate peppers in your somewhat shady apartment, for example, you probably shouldn’t.
And if you only have one tiny sunny area of your living area, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to grow hundreds of plants.
The Best Vegetables for an Indoor Garden
Choose plants that can tolerate a little shade, such as leaf lettuce, spinach, arugula, and kale. These greens require approximately 45 days to mature—enough time to grow a fresh salad every month and a half.
When it comes to non-green veggies, many suggest radishes, beets, and carrots as potential candidates for indoor gardens. If patience isn’t one of your virtues, microgreens are the way to go—these tiny but nutritious greens can be harvested 10 days after planting the seeds.
Tomatoes, eggplants, and peppers
If you want to grow homegrown cherry tomatoes, eggplant, or peppers, you’ll have to work a little harder. These plants require the most light and produce delectable blooms that must be pollinated for fruit to develop.
These plants, unlike leafy greens, root crops, and tubers, which self-pollinate, require bumble bees and wind to transport pollen from the male to the female reproductive tracts. If you don’t want to use pesticides, you’ll have to transfer pollen from one flower to another using something like a children’s watercolor brush.
It’s a good idea to plant it outdoors in the fall or winter, but if you like to grow things yourself and don’t want to buy from seed companies, start indoors at 500 millimeters of soil depth (about 2 inches). The bean will take between 65 and 110 days to sprout.
Pumpkin, watermelon, and squash (bad idea!)
Pumpkins, watermelon, and squash—and not just because of their large size—are among the veggies you should avoid growing in an indoor garden. These plants tend to climb, spread out, and consume a lot of room. Beans and peas aren’t the most forgiving plants when it comes to growing indoors. They grow on spreading vines, making them difficult to manage.
The Best Herbs for an Indoor Garden
Choose basil, chives, mint, oregano, parsley, sage, and thyme—flavor boosters that often thrive indoors and under most gardeners’ care—for indoor herb gardens. It’s essential to keep rosemary and bay leaves under control, while cilantro prefers cooler temperatures and requires many plantings to produce a sufficient supply of the herb for culinary usage.
Using Food Scraps for an Indoor Garden
While you’ve most certainly seen those Facebook videos of someone loading up a pepper with soil, then a time-lapse of a stem growing straight out of the veggie sprouting from any food scraps you have lying around the kitchen isn’t exactly simple.
It’s not always the most successful approach to producing veggies, but it can be done. Potatoes, sweet potatoes, celery, and onions are generally good candidates for this technique.
Transplanting peppers and tomatoes from seeds harvested from the previous night’s supper takes a significant amount of time, and you may wind up with something that tastes and appears nothing like the vegetable you started with.
Hybrid veggies, as the name implies, are plants that have been created by crossing two distinct “pure lines,” or lineages of inbred plants. Because it combines genes from two separate family lines, its descendants will have a random combination of genes from the original pure lines, resulting in both desired and undesirable.
Choose between a soil-based or hydroponic indoor garden
Pots filled with soil are the most popular technique to cultivate herbs and veggies indoors, although it is not the only option. In indoor gardens, potting soil serves as a reservoir for water and nutrients, provides air space for oxygen to reach the roots, and helps anchor the plants.
However, hydroponic systems, in which plants are cultivated in water without soil, are becoming increasingly more popular. In this system, freshwater aids in the delivery of oxygen to the roots, and liquid fertilizer is added to the water to supply plants with the nutrients they require. Hydroponic growing entails knowing the proper combination of nutrients to put in the water, which might be a little more difficult than planting in soil. However, there are hydroponic growing systems like Aero garden that make it simple to cultivate.
Whether you go with a hydroponic system like an Aerogarden or pots with soil comes down to your budget and growing space; hydroponic gardens are typically more expensive than traditional plants, but they frequently include artificial lighting allowing you to cultivate virtually any place.
Figure out your indoor garden location
In general, the ideal location for an indoor garden is an area with excellent light. Window placement is fine as long as your plants are facing the right way.
Plants may sit directly on the sill if you have northern-facing windows because the light isn’t so harsh and scorching that it will harm them.
Western-facing windows, on the other hand, might be too hot for plants; they should be planted two to three feet away from the windows.
The environment in which you live also has a significant impact: In the winter, gardeners in the North may need to protect their plants from cold glass. In addition, you should avoid putting your indoor garden where it might receive drafts of hot air (think: heating vents) or cold air (such as from an air conditioner), which can harm plants.
If your only suitable area for an indoor garden is in the dark, you’ll need artificial lighting. Full spectrum light is similar to natural sunshine and comes in a variety of bulbs that you may install into existing light fixtures in your home.
Make sure the grow lights are placed directly over the planters for optimum effects. Consider placing containers on a reflecting or white surface and bouncing light back into the plants from below to give your indoor garden an extra burst of sunshine, she suggests.
Choose containers to grow your produce in
If you’re planning an indoor garden that’s made of soil, make sure the containers are suitable for your plants. Small tomatoes and peppers require at least a one- to a two-gallon container, while larger varieties require a three- to five-gallon container.
Greens can grow in most sizes of containers. Use separate containers for each big vegetable plant to ensure that the roots have sufficient room to develop (essential for providing the plant with enough energy to grow vegetables). However, multiple plantings of tiny greens and root crops may be cultivated in the same container if there’s adequate space for them to reach their full size.
The characteristics of the container, in conjunction with the container’s size, can have a big influence on the success of your indoor garden. Choose lightweight containers made of plastic, which keep moisture longer and drain properly, and those with drainage holes to prevent the soil from becoming overly wet.
If you’re more of a “set it and forget it” individual, consider purchasing a self-watering container—a sort of pot with a water storage tank built into the base. When soil is parched, it absorbs any liquid it comes into touch with.
When the reservoir runs low, parched soil will pull water from it. Instead of estimated water usage based on your instincts, which entails the danger of overwatering or underwatering—you only need to fill the water reservoir when it’s empty. This extends the time between watering, which is beneficial for those who tend to neglect their plants or don’t know when to water.
Load it with soil
If you live in a city, don’t go digging up dirt from your backyard or from your neighbor’s outside garden and pour it into your container. Instead, use good potting soil.
Potting soil is made from a combination of peat, compost, and coir (the fuzzy fibers of a coconut shell) to keep moisture in while also allowing for drainage. Vermiculite, perlite, or rice hulls are added to assist with drainage. An outdoor garden’s soil, on the other hand, may not hold enough water (or hold too much), be deficient in necessary minerals, or be too heavy and dense, making aeration difficult.
When it comes to potting soil, choose one that’s light and fluffy. If you’re growing organic veggies, look for a mix that has been certified and labeled by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI). Aside from fertilizer, potting mixes may also include a nutrient component.
Check the bag to see how often you should fertilize; pesticides and insecticides can be present in the mix as well. Some fertilizers include a “startup charge” that is used up after two or three waterings, while others, such as controlled-release, time-release, or slow-release fertilizer, provide nutrients in small amounts over a long period.
If you can’t get the right amount of fertilizer in your potting soil straight away, consider using one that has the correct quantity of nitrogen for vegetable plants (which require less than leafy ones) and a slow-release mechanism to deliver nutrients at a constant rate.
Watering frequency can be reduced by applying moisture-retaining materials around the plant roots to keep water near them and cut down on watering. This feature makes it all the more crucial not to overwater your indoor garden, as plants in soil that are too wet will not receive enough oxygen and will die, grow slowly, and become yellow.
Plant those seeds, transplants, or scraps
It’s time to choose your seeds once you’ve gathered your containers and soil for an indoor garden. The most likely location for you to find the best seed is with an online seed vendor, however, your local garden shop will almost certainly have them in the spring.
Pick up seeds with a high germination rate (most of the seeds sprout) and a date for this season. While some seeds may survive for years if properly stored and maintained in a cool, dark location, the germination rate generally decreases with time.
Your best chance: Sow the fresh seeds rather than the outdated ones that were packaged two years ago. The label should also be consulted for the expected size of the plant when fully grown.
Plant the seeds at the depth recommended on the package. Keep the potting mixture slightly damp (think: a wet sponge) until the seeds sprout and seedlings develop.
In the summer, you may be able to obtain transplants from garden stores, which take less time to ready for harvest than seeds. Plant the transplants at the same depth as they were when growing in their original container.
When the plants have successfully established roots and begun to grow new leaves, you can pluck a leaf or two as needed. This continual harvesting encourages the plants to continue growing.
Planting Food Scraps
When carrots, turnips, and other root vegetables are submerged in water, they only re-grow their top leafy greens. When onions, garlic, scallions, and leeks are left in a shallow dish of water, their stems or bulbs develop shoots; whereas sweet potatoes begin to sprout at the tip when stored for too long.
To produce potatoes from these trimmings, remove the sprout a few inches below the growing tip and plant it in potting mix. Cut the potato into chunks so that each piece has a few sprouts or more. Plant in a container of potting mix and water as needed for normal potatoes, which sprout all over the vegetable.
From spare parts, you may cultivate herbs. Use cuttings to grow herbs from scraps. Stick a firm stem with leaves in a moist potting mix and make a three- to four-inch cutting out of it.
After two weeks, when roots have developed, reduce watering frequency once again. Keep the potted cutting in a well-lit place away from direct sunlight, and move it to a more sunny one once established.
Water your indoor garden
The frequency and amount of water you give your indoor garden plants are determined by a variety of factors, including the growing conditions and the age of your plants.
When growing seeds that have sprouted and begun to grow, gradually extend the interval between waterings and give them a thorough watering when the top few inches of soil are dry, allowing any extra water to drain away. Keep the top few inches of soil wet for the first few weeks with freshly planted transplants, then gradually decrease your watering frequency as the plants get more established.
A good rule of thumb is that if the soil feels dry when you put your finger into it or a moisture meter, it’s time to water. Tap water is typically fine to use for your indoor garden, but if your plants’ leaves are getting brown leaf tips and seem to be influenced by the minerals in your tap water, consider switching to filtered water.
Fertilize your indoor garden
If the fertilizer in your potting mix or the slow-release fertilizer you applied at planting has run out (the packaging will inform you how long it lasts), you’ll almost certainly want to keep feeding it for a few weeks, if not longer, since your plants are showing symptoms of nutrient shortages, such as pale leaves and stunted growth.
You may either use slow-release fertilizer as recommended on the label or liquid fertilizers, which are directly added to the water.
Choose a fertilizer that is designed for blooming plants or a balanced fertilizer, which contains the same amounts of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium—the three most essential elements in plant nutrition.
These fertilizers are delivered every two weeks or month (again, check the label), but start with a diluted solution because fertilizer recommendations are typically made to reach the maximum amount of development and may be more than your plants require.
Overfertilizing may result in rapid, massive development, but the roots may not be robust and big enough to deliver the plant with adequate water and nutrients, possibly reducing the number of veggies it can produce.
If you’re using a granular fertilizer, make two-inch deep holes, one to three inches apart in the soil with a tool that’s smaller than the diameter of a pencil. Fill each hole with fertilizer and earth before watering to prevent clumps from forming.