“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” – Audrey Hepburn
If you are limited on space or time, an indoor vegetable garden or herb garden may be just the thing for you. You may be surprised to learn that you can grow a variety of herbs and vegetables in your home. All you need is a bright window.
First, make sure you have what you need to start growing. If you are going to grow leafy vegetables or herbs, you’ll need a window that gets at least 4 hours of bright light each day. If you plan to grow a plant that produces an actual vegetable, you’ll need a sunny window that gets at least 5 to 6 hours or more. You can also get a grow light to provide even more light for your plants if you wish, with 9 to10 hours being ideal for most plants.
You’ll also need an organic potting soil for your plants to grow in. This is preferred over bringing in soil from outside that may carry pests and diseases, plus pots need a lighter soil than what you find in your garden. Mix organic compost into your potting soil to provide both beneficial biology and extra nutrients for your plants.
Containers will also be needed to plant your garden in. Sizes will vary depending on each plant. Make sure the pots have adequate drainage as well as a saucer to catch draining water. For improved aeration and drainage, some small pebbles are a good addition to the bottoms of the pots. You should also consider some stakes or trellises for plants you may grow that need additional support.
QUICK TIP: Many pottery saucers are permeable so consider a non-permeable plastic tray between your floor and the saucer or pot so as not to damage your carpets or floors with moisture.
Selecting Your Plants
Now that you have your supply list, it is time for the fun part: choosing the plants. These are quite a few to choose from you narrow you list by deciding which ones you will enjoy the most and how many you will actually have time to care for. Start small. You can always add more later.
- Root crops
Most root crops are too big to be grown indoors, but round varieties of carrots and radishes are just perfect for indoor vegetable gardens. Grow from seed in grow boxes and troughs, following package directions, and you should be harvesting fresh vegetables in a few short weeks.
- Dwarf green beans and peas
Dwarf varieties of green beans and peas can also be sown from seed in the winter for a spring crop. Mulch them well and fertilize them monthly. They will do best with at least 8 hours of sun each day and may need a support to grow on.
You can enjoy fresh salad any time of the year when you grow your own lettuce. It does best in a south facing window, but if you have a grow light, you can grow it anywhere you like. Try arugula or any other type of leafy green you choose. Or try Swiss chard or spinach for a green you can also enjoy cooked.
- Tomatoes and peppers
Both tomatoes and peppers will need a larger container, so give them at least a 3 to 5 gallon pot. They will need as much light as you can give them as well as a warm location, so try to keep them out of any draft rooms. These plants will do best if you can grow them from organic starts, not seeds.
Banana peppers, cherry peppers and chili peppers all do well indoors. Cherry tomatoes, as well as varieties such as Patio, Pixie, and Tiny Tim do well indoors. Keep in mind that tomatoes grown indoors will not get as big as those grown outside, but they will still be far more delicious than any that you buy in the grocery store.
You may need to assist with pollination a bit by brushing flowers with a cotton swab. This takes the place of the bees moving from flower to flower and helps the plants set fruit. Turn the plats regularly so each side gets plenty of light or your plants will start to grow lopsided as it reaches toward the sun.
- Garlic and green onions
Fresh garlic and green onions are wonderful to have in your indoor garden and both are so easy to grow. Plant a nice head of garlic in an 8-inch pot of well drained soil. Water it every day and you can trim off the green shoots to enjoy in your cooking or in salads.
Green onions are even easier. Buy a bunch of organic green onions at the grocery store in keep them in a glass of water, changing the water daily. Trim and use the green part of the onion as you normally would. Once they get down to the last few inches, plant them in a trough of organic potting mix and keep them moist. They will continue to grow.
Herbs are another easy to grow plant for your indoor vegetable garden. Start with organic plants that you can often find in your grocery store’s produce department. Pot them up in well drained organic potting mix and put them in an area that gets at least 4 hours of sunlight each day. Keep them moist but allow they to dry between watering. Poke your finger into the soil to see if they need to be watered of not.
Nearly any herb can be grown indoors, but a few to try include the many varieties of basil, the many varieties of mint, chives, rosemary, sage, cilantro, oregano, parsley and many more. With so many herbs, you could have a complete herb garden in your home and grow nothing else.
Bay laurel, known as bay leaves in the kitchen, make a lovely house plant that is useful as well. Bay laurel likes bright light without drafts and needs a rich, organic soil with plenty of organic matter to hold moisture. Consider a mulch to keep the soil moist, but don’t mulch right against the base of the evergreen shrub. Because a bay laurel can grow to 6 feet tall indoors, make sure you will have enough room for it. After a couple of years, you can start to harvest and dry the leaves to use in your cooking.
Have something smaller in mind? How about basil? There are many varieties and you can try several without taking up much space on your windowsill. Just keep the soil moist and give it at least 4 hours of sun each day. You can cut it as you want to use it and it will continue to grow. No need to wait 2 years to enjoy it.
Think about what you enjoy in your cooking. Do you enjoy fresh chives on your baked potato or oregano for your famous spaghetti sauce? You can grow your own, even if that’s all you can grow for now, and get tremendous satisfaction from doing it yourself. As you gain confidence in your abilities, you can gradually find ways to branch out and grow even more.
So, whether you want an herb garden, an indoor vegetable garden or a combination of both, you can do it easily with a little planning.