How to Grow an Indoor Vegetable Garden
Prime vegetable growing season over? That doesn't mean you can't grow bounty in your own kitchen. Learn how to easily grow an indoor vegetable garden.
No backyard? No problem! You can still raise healthy, tasty vegetables in your very own indoor vegetable garden. Yes, it’s possible. While it can be difficult to grow vegetables indoors without some help from technology, with a little bit of creativity—and most likely, a set of grow lights—you’ll soon be harvesting crops from your indoor vegetable garden, or even an indoor herb garden.
How to Garden Indoors
Your indoor vegetable garden might be as small as one pot of lettuce or as large as several shelves for growing microgreens, an indoor herb garden, or vegetables such as beets, chives, and even tomatoes. One of the beauties of indoor gardening is that you are in complete control of the temperature, humidity, and light—assuming you are using grow lights—making seed starting quite easy. That means you can save money by purchasing seeds instead of transplants.
For any indoor container garden, you’ll want to use organic potting soil, which contains no synthetic fertilizers or ingredients that might leach into your crops. Most indoor gardeners prefer lightweight pots that are easy to move and not too bulky on shelves, so plastic containers are the best choice. You can even plant a hanging vegetable garden to make the most of limited space, but be sure it’s easy to reach your hanging containers when it’s time to water.
Most indoor vegetable gardens need at least eight hours of direct sunlight each day, and many vegetables prefer considerably more. If you have a large window with a southern exposure, you might get enough natural light through the spring and summer to produce a crop of vegetables or herbs, but if not, grow lights let you control exactly how much light your plants receive. Most beginning gardeners prefer to use compact fluorescent grow lights, which are reasonably priced and work well for a small indoor herb garden or vegetable garden.
Related: Easy Houseplants to Grow
Generally, if the indoor temperature is comfortable for you, it will be comfortable for your plants, but watch out for drafts from air conditioners, heat from ovens or appliances, and temperature swings near windows. If your indoor air is very dry, a small humidifier near your vegetable garden will be much appreciated, as these plants generally do best with humidity levels of 40 to 50 percent.
Check the soil daily. Most vegetables like to be moist, but not soggy. When the surface of the soil feels dry to the touch, give your plants a drink. You’ll also want to fertilize your crops through the growing season with a diluted liquid plant food or organic fertilizer specifically formulated for vegetables.
What Vegetables Grow Well Indoors?
Very large or vining plants, such as corn, beans, peas, and zucchini, aren’t good choices for the indoor vegetable garden, but you still have many popular vegetables to choose from. Some especially good choices include:
- Lettuce of all types
- Tomatoes—you’ll want small, bush varieties specifically hybridized for container gardening
- Hot peppers
As for your indoor herb garden, most popular herbs do well indoors. A few to try:
You can prolong your harvest by staggering planting; sow a few seeds every two weeks for the first month or two, and you’ll still be picking fresh veggies through the fall.
Related: Tips on Drying Herbs
Grow an Indoor Hydroponic Garden
If you want to take your container vegetable garden to the next level, consider trying an indoor hydroponic garden. In hydroponics, a nutrient-filled water bath takes the place of a regular growing medium. There are many hydroponics kits that provide everything you need to grow herbs, microgreens, tomatoes, lettuce, and other popular crops without soil.
You can also make a very simple DIY hydroponic vegetable garden by planting microgreens or herbs in containers filled with a soilless mixture of perlite, sand, or coconut coir, setting the containers on a shelf over a reservoir filled with filtered water amended with hydroponic nutrients, and connecting the two with a wick. Use grow lights to provide your crops with at least ten hours of “sun” each day, and you’ll enjoy harvesting fresh herbs within a month or two.
While growing vegetables indoors is admittedly more of a challenge than growing them outside, there are benefits. You won’t struggle as much with pests, you can control the growing conditions rather than being at the mercy of the weather, you can grow crops even during the winter or the height of summer, and best of all, you can enjoy gardening even if you don’t have any outdoor space at all.