Good news: The onset of winter doesn't have to mean the end of growing and harvesting vegetables. With the right tools and methods, you can harvest some of your favorite varietals indoors for months before the weather turns favorable again.
While growing vegetables in containers indoors does have its challenges—they'll take more care and may not yield as much—it is possible to find great success. Start off on the right foot by choosing one of these easy-to-grow indoor varieties, and you'll be harvesting vegetables in no time.
Turn Carrot Scraps Into A Beautiful Houseplant In Three Steps!
The Pros and Cons of Indoor Gardening
When gardening indoors, you ultimately control all aspects of the plant's growth and environment. You maintain its water, soil quality, and fertilization. A big plus is that your plants are not at the mercy of the weather or outside critters, and you'll hopefully have vegetables year-round.
However, gardening indoors does have its challenges, including a lack of adequate light, pollinating insects, and wind. Plus, proper air circulation is vital for flooding the plant with carbon dioxide as well as pollinating any flowers. Also, you might have some houseplant pests to contend with.
There are a few tips to keep in mind if you're considering growing vegetables indoors.
- Choose containers that have ample holes to allow for adequate drainage and are sized correctly for the particular plant you're growing. Shallow and rooted greens may only need about a 2-inch depth, but deep-rooted tomatoes will need at least 12 inches of soil.
- Use a good quality potting mix, not garden soil. Mixes dedicated to potting usually have vermiculite or perlite, which allows for better drainage.
- Consider some type of supplemental lighting if your home doesn't offer enough natural light.
Here are the seven of the best vegetables for indoor gardening.
01 of 07
Carrots are accommodating vegetables. Growing them in containers is not just a great option for indoor growing. It also solves the problem of trying to grow them in heavy, rocky soil should your outdoor conditions be unfavorable.
Smaller carrot varieties are the easiest to grow inside; they need less space and mature more quickly. A long container, such as a window box, is ideal. Lightly cover the seeds with damp peat moss, so the seeds don’t dry out. Keep the soil moist, and your seeds should germinate within two weeks, though the number of days to maturity will depend on the variety you are growing.
02 of 07
If you've ever left a garlic bulb alone for a few weeks (or you've put garlic in the fridge), you may have noticed the clove sprouting a little green foot from one of its ends. Instead of tossing it, you can plant that sprouting garlic clove about an inch deep in a small container and water it. Within weeks, you'll have garlic greens.
Start harvesting when they grow to 8 to 10 inches long by cutting off just what you need and leaving the rest (you generally only get one flush of growth from each clove). They may sprout again, but the quality declines each time. So start new cloves when you begin harvesting the current crop.
Don't anticipate yielding a bulb of garlic. You need a particular temperature to start forming bulbs, and that won't happen indoors. However, garlic greens are an excellent substitute. They boast a milder taste, similar to a cross between garlic and scallions.
03 of 07
Pepper plants are tropical perennials. They shrivel at just the hint of frost, but indoors they can thrive. Plant some sweet or hot peppers from seed, or pot some plants from your garden in late summer to bring inside. You might not get a huge harvest, but they will fruit.
Use a container that is at least 8 inches tall, and ensure that your peppers get at least 10 hours of light each day. Additionally, allow the container to dry out between waterings, so you don't risk drowning the plant. Peppers are self-pollinating, but you may need to help them along. You can do so by either jostling the plants to shake the pollen from one flower to another or using a cotton swab to dust each flower with pollen.
04 of 07
Lettuce (and other salad greens) is quick-growing and shallow-rooted, so it will not need a deep container. Choose a planter that is 2 to 4 inches deep, and fill it with moist, well-draining soil. Sow your seeds by gently pressing them into the surface of the soil, and then mist to keep them moist. You should see germination within about one week.
Allow the plants to grow at least 4 to 6 inches before you start harvesting. Cut or pull the outer leaves and allow the center of the plant to continue growing.Continue to 5 of 7 below.
05 of 07
Microgreens are tiny fresh sprouts that are among the most effortless foods to grow indoors, especially considering they don’t take up much space or time. Typically, they're a mix of seeds from various greens and herbs, such as beets, radishes, kale, Swiss chard, and basil.
Because these greens will be harvested as seedlings, you don’t need much soil; a shallow tray about 2 inches deep typically works well. Fill it with moist soil, and scatter your seeds, barely covering them with a top layer of soil (just press gently so that the seeds make good contact with the damp soil and won’t dry out). Spray to keep the soil moist, and you should see germination within a few days. Start harvesting when seedlings have developed two sets of true leaves. Use scissors to snip them off at the soil level, and you may get another spurt of growth.
06 of 07
While you can’t grow traditional bulb onions indoors, scallions do just fine. And you actually don’t even need seeds to get them started. You can plop a bunch of scallions in about an inch of water in a container. Some gardeners have even had success replanting the root end of scallions after using the tops.
When the roots have reached a couple inches long, move them to a shallow container of potting mix to continue growing. Harvest the green tops, leaving about an inch of the stem to regrow.
07 of 07
Tomatoes are tropical perennials that die off at the end of their season, returning again the following year. If you have a large tomato plant already established in your garden, your best bet is to leave it there. However, if you want to grow tomatoes year-round indoors, you can start a new plant from seed at the end of summer.
Once the seedlings are 4 inches tall, move them to a permanent pot, and make sure they have at least 10 hours of light per day. The lighting quota might sound excessive, but if you want fruits that is what this plant needs all year. You can also boost your luck by feeding your tomato plant with a water-soluble organic fertilizer after repotting.
Once the plants start setting flowers, shake them periodically to allow the pollen to fall from flower to flower. You need to perform this manual pollination; without it, no fruits will form. You can expect the plants to become top-heavy, so staking or using a tomato cage is a must.
For your first try at indoor vegetable gardening, lettuces, microgreens, and herbs will most likely offer the best chance of success. Due to the high light and humidity requirements of vegetables like tomatoes and peppers, growing these plants to harvest indoors can be time-consuming and will probably involve the cost of special equipment, such as extra lighting and, in the case of tomatoes, large pots. Moreover, there are a number of ornamental peppers on the market grown as houseplants, and many of these peppers are also edible.