Plant vegetables and enjoy eating fresh from your own indoor garden

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Learning to plant vegetables and enjoy the benefits of eating them fresh from your own indoor garden has many benefits.

Imagine picking fresh lettuce or tomato from your kitchen right before cooking. In the evening, for supper, you can pick tomatoes and eat them without cooking. This is truly possible in a hassle-free manner with growing vegetables indoors.

Besides being a great activity to do as a family and an excellent alternative to buying expensive vegetables in the supermarket, there are many benefits of growing vegetables indoors. Growing vegetables indoors can be a fun and cost efficient activity for people who lack space outside their homes, in the form of a backyard or garden.

Furthermore, growing vegetables indoors ensures that your vegetable plants do not contain harmful pesticides and chemicals. By controlling the environment of the vegetable plants, you can be sure that the vegetables grown are organic and offer tremendous health benefits.

Supplement your meals with home-grown vegetables and edible plants even if you don't have outdoor garden space. Include herbs in your indoor growing area to add a quick, fresh burst of flavor to meals during any season. Select miniature vegetables, cool climate and early-season plants. Set the plants up near a large window, south-facing if possible, and install a grow light. Use a combination of colorful containers and hanging pots to create an attractive indoor vegetable garden.

There are many methods of growing vegetable plants indoors. With the emphasis on being environmentally-friendly nowadays, you can recycle a container as a pot by punching holes in the bottom and using a tray for water catchment. This would be considered container gardening. For more advanced indoor gardening, you may try hydroponic gardening. While this is normally used for larger number of produce, you can take a look at some hydroponics home kits that we recommend.

To ensure strong, healthy plants, choose a container with good drainage. Line the bottom with stones or marbles before filling it with a commercially available mixture of peat moss, perlite and vermiculite, not potting soil or garden dirt. You can place the pot inside a more stylish container or set it on a drainage tray. Choose a spot with between 10 and 18 hours of sunlight each day, depending on the plant’s needs. A south-facing window works well in the southern and western portions of the country, but should you later move to other locations, you probably will need some artificial light.

There are several gadgets that, through the hydroponics process, will allow you to grow cherry tomatoes on your kitchen, in your living room, or even in your office at work. However, while these gadgets certainly do have their novelty appeal, they can be very costly and also limit you in what you can grow. There are other options!

Indoor Growing Requirements

Naturally there will be different requirements for the various plants that you are growing, but the majority of them will require at least six hours of sunlight a day. There are five essential factors to growing your vegetables indoors, and they are as follows:

Levels of light
Growing medium
Levels of humidity
Air circulation
Temperature

If you have a room in your home that receives a constant amount of light during the day, then this could be your best choice. Another alternative is growing lamps. Grow bulbs are available at most home improvement stores and can fit into any lighting fixture; however, they may not provide your plants with all of the light that they need. The amount of light and the intensity of the light will determine how long your plants remain active and will ensure that photosynthesis is taking place at an acceptable rate. Light intensity has a marked effect on how the plant grows, flowers, and fruits; the intensity of the light is dependent on how close the plant is to the source of light.

Vegetables that produce fruit, like cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes, will have much higher light requirements than salad greens, herbs, and root vegetables like carrots and beets. Compact fluorescent lights can serve you very well if you are growing greens, sprouts, and herbs, so long as the source of light is no higher than four inches above the plants.

The growing medium is just as important for your indoor plants as it is for vegetables grown outdoors. Buy a quality grade of potting soil for indoor containers.

Levels of humidity are important to keep an eye on, otherwise you face concerns with overly dried out plants or plants that are developing fungal infections and rot. During the winter months, we tend to heat our homes using forced-air heating systems that are incredibly effective at drying out everything in our homes. To maintain a good humidity level, you may need to consider investing in a simple cool mist humidifier that can counteract the forced air dryness.

Air circulation is also an important consideration because a nice breezy atmosphere can help to prevent the growth of molds and fungus and also help to ensure that the moisture in the air is getting evenly distributed throughout your indoor garden space. Numerous options are available for providing adequate air circulation, but a nice quality fan that rotates slowly will do the job well.

Temperature is something that you also need to closely monitor, especially if your indoor garden space is in a shed, garage, or other space that is not insulated. If temperatures dip too low during the overnight hours, then you run the risk of your plants succumbing to the freezing temperatures. You also run the risk of your tomatoes not setting blossoms if their overnight temperatures do not go below 85 degrees F.

Best Vegetables To Grow Indoors

While some vegetables will certainly do fine in the colder months, there are certain plants that simply won’t survive between the first and last frosts. A great alternative is growing some of your favorite vegetables indoors during the winter months. You can grow your vegetables on a shelf in your kitchen, in a garden shed, or even in your basement if you have the right tools and equipment.

There are some vegetables that are simply not going to be a good choice to grow indoors, mostly due to the space and light requirements that they have. Corn, squash, peas, beans, and melons like cucumbers or watermelon may not thrive indoors, but that doesn’t mean you can’t necessarily attempt to grow them. If conditions are right and you can afford the space, then you may be able to have good luck with them.

Select small, compact varieties of vegetables, including lettuce, radishes, carrots, peppers and tomatoes. Plants grown indoors require less feeding with fertilizer than an outdoor garden, but they will grow more slowly; peppers and tomatoes likely will need extra light to encourage fruiting. Toss in some herbs, which grow well in indoor containers, including chives, parsley and cilantro, to provide convenient and fresh flavoring for your cooking.

Here are some of the best choices for growing vegetables indoors:

Carrots
Radishes
Beets
Onions
Garlic
Tomatoes (cherry and mini varieties)
Lettuces
Spinach
Broccoli
Cauliflower
Peas
Potatoes

Peas

With a trellis, you can grow peas indoors. Peas prefer cooler temperatures, so they might be a better choice to attempt versus heat-loving beans that tend to thrive during the summer months.

Potatoes

Limited space need not keep you from growing things like potatoes, especially since you can grow them vertically. Potato towers and bags are exceptionally popular with gardeners who have space limits. Not only can you grow several pounds of potatoes in less than a few square feet of space, but you can also make harvesting them a lot easier than needing to go dig through several hundred feet of growing space outdoors. Potato towers or bags can be reused outdoors during the summer months to ensure a year-round harvest of this very versatile and nutritious vegetable that also stores beautifully.

Seed tubers used for outdoor plantings are easily grown in large pots, buckets or even plastic sacks, and produce worthwhile yields of tasty new potatoes. When planting the tubers, leave space at the top of the container for adding more compost to earth up the plants as they develop. The top of the sack can be rolled down to start with, then rolled up, as required.

Carrots

Growing carrots indoors is something that often comes as a surprise to even the most seasoned gardener. While carrots do well growing outdoors, many gardeners have discovered that they tend to thrive in large containers or buckets as well. Whether planting the mini varieties or the full-sized carrots, you’ll find that with nice loose soil that is rich in organic material, along with the right light requirements, you can grow amazing carrots even in the dead of winter.

Container: 5-gallon window box at least 12 inches deep
Varieties: 'Danvers Half Long', 'Short 'n Sweet', 'Tiny Sweet'

Leafy Greens

Crisp lettuce leaves and shiny spinach packed with vitamins and minerals make a fine addition to a salad, pasta dish or packed into a sandwich. Leaf lettuce varieties and miniature Tom Thumb head lettuce are fast growing for indoor gardens. Use an Italian or spicy blend of leaf lettuce seeds for the bright flavor profile. Plant the Bloomsdale variety of spinach in two- to three-week intervals for an ongoing supply of the dark green vegetable.

Container: 5-gallon window box
Varieties: 'Ruby', 'Salad Bowl'

Tomatoes

Small-fruited tomatoes ripen in the warmth and light of a bright window, while the larger fruited plants may not reach maturity. Choose the cherry-type tomatoes: Tiny Tim, Small Fry, Sweet 100 Patio and Pixie. Gain more space for your indoor garden area by growing tomatoes in an upside-down planter suspended from the ceiling. The plants grow downward out of a hole in the bottom of the planter, leaving flat surface areas near the window free to grow more edible plants.

Container: Bushel basket
Varieties: 'Early Girl', 'Patio', 'Small Fry', 'Sweet 100', 'Tiny Tim'

Root Vegetables

Early varieties of radishes, miniature carrots and beets grow outdoors in cooler weather conditions, making them vegetables that adapt well indoors. Cherry Belle and Icicle radishes reward you with crispy globes within four to six weeks. Danvers Half Long, Tiny Sweet and the fingerling varieties of carrots take longer to mature, but provide fresh, sweet flavor when they reach 3 to 4 inches in length. Grow Little Egypt and Early Red Ball beets for both their leafy green tops and the deep red globes that may be oven roasted or sauteed.

Peppers

Thin-walled peppers grow better indoors than the thick-walled bell pepper varieties. Include both spicy and mild peppers in your indoor garden. The Long Red Cayenne and tiny Thai peppers are visually attractive as they grow and yield fruit that can be used fresh or dried. Sweet Banana and Yolo Wonder peppers bring mild, sweet pepper flavors to classic dishes.

Container: 1 plant/2-gallon pot, 5 plants/15-gallon tub
Varieties: 'Cayenne', 'Long Red', 'Sweet Banana', 'Wonder', 'Yolo'

Radishes

Most root crops need greater depth than you can provide indoors, but radishes, especially round or globe varieties that do not root very deeply, grow well in boxes, troughs and pans. Seeds can be sown from late winter until mid-autumn, often producing usable roots 21 to 25 days later. Round carrot varieties are also successful in pots and boxes.

Container: 5-gallon window box
Varieties: 'Cherry Belle', 'Icicle'

Beans

Dwarf french beans can be sown in pots from late winter onwards for early pods. Dwarf broad beans and dwarf runner beans crop well indoors, too. Tall runner beans grown on cane wigwams or on string up the side of a sunny conservatory are decorative as well as productive, and both dwarf and tall mangetout peas will do well as houseplants. Pick the pods while they are young, tender and juicy.

Container: 5-gallon window box
Varieties: Bush 'Blue Lake', Bush 'Romano', 'Tender Crop'

Brocolli
Container: 1 plant/5 gallon pot, 3 plants/15-gallon tub
Varieties: 'DeCicco', 'Green Comet'

Cucumbers
Container: 1 plant/1-gallon pot
Varieties: 'Patio Pik', 'Pot Luck', 'Spacemaster'

Eggplant
Container: 5-gallon pot
Varieties: 'Black Beauty', 'Ichiban', 'Slim Jim'

Onions
Container: 5-gallon window box
Varieties: 'White Sweet Spanish', 'Yellow Sweet Spanish'

Fruits

Some types of fruits also grow really well indoors, assuming you can meet their growing requirements. Lemons and strawberries, for example, can thrive in your greenhouse, shed, or basement garden if you just give them the light and warmth that they need.

Many small, potted fruit trees or shrubs grow well and produce fruit in a sunny, indoor spot, such as a sunroom or enclosed porch. If you have some outdoor space, put the trees outdoors for the summer, but they can thrive indoors, too. Provide a pot at least 1 foot in diameter and 1 foot deep for small fruit trees and bushes. Some types to try include peaches, apricots, mulberries and figs. Strawberries also do well indoors, and even grapes will work if they have a trellis to climb on. Also consider citrus trees, such as dwarf varieties of orange, lemon and lime, although you should consider a soil test before planting because citrus has strict pH requirements.

Proper Care

Gardening of any type requires proper lighting, feeding, watering and maintenance, and indoor container gardening is no exception. Prevent the indoor air from becoming too dry by setting containers in a tray filled with stones and a couple of inches of water. Many plants, especially in small containers, will need watering once or twice a day. Check occasionally for insects, although indoor gardening poses far fewer pest problems than outdoor planting.

For supplies, you only need a good container, the right soil mix, and appropriate seed (or transplant) varieties. In addition to providing 5 hours or more of full sun, watering is critical. You may need to water daily or twice daily; in hot weather the soil can dry out quickly. The good news: less weeding! Containers are generally low-maintenance.

Containers

Clay pots are usually more attractive than plastic ones, but plastic pots retain moisture better. Avoid small containers. They often can't store enough water to get through hot days. Add about 1 inch of course gravel in the bottom of the container to improve drainage. Feed container plants at least twice a month with liquid fertilizer. An occasional application of fish emulsion or compost will add trace elements to container soil.

Grow Lights

Look for lights that will provide all the colors found in natural sunlight. Photosynthesis requires red and blue light to regulate vegetative growth.

Set up your grow lights the same way you would set up a lamp. Position the lights on a solid, even surface above the plants you want to grow. Make sure the intensity of the light is strong. Vegetable plants do best outdoors in direct sunlight, so create a similar environment with your grow lights. Keep your vegetable plants no more than 10 to 12 inches (25.4 to 30.5 cm) away from the grow lights.

Give your vegetable plants at least 14 to 18 hours of direct light every day. Turn the lights off for 6 to 10 hours every day. Vegetable plants do need a period of darkness to mature and trigger production.

Choose the right bulbs for your vegetable plants. Consider full-spectrum fluorescent bulbs. These bulbs will provide warm and cool (red and blue) light which mimics natural solar light. These lights are great to get seedlings started and will provide intense, direct light for your vegetable plants.

Use high intensity discharge lamps for energy efficiency and extra intensity. These grow lights are used by commercial growers and emit twice the amount of light for the same amount of energy. They are also more expensive.

Rotate your vegetable plants under the grow lights every week. The light is more intense in the center of the bulb, so it will help your plants grow evenly.

Inspect the bulbs in your grow lights every 4 to 6 weeks. Wipe off any dust or dirt that accumulates. Dirty bulbs do not give off as much light as they should. Replace fluorescent bulbs that begin to darken on the ends. This means the bulb is aging and not producing as much light as it should.

In conclusion, knowing where to start can sometimes be the most baffling aspect of growing vegetables indoors, so consider starting small. Get a few compact florescent bulbs and grow a few varieties of lettuce. Once your lettuce is thriving, you can branch out towards spinach and even those juicy red cherry tomatoes you’ve been dreaming of.

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