Easy indoor gardening
After enjoying vegetables from your own garden or local farmer’s markets for three seasons, winter can be a bit dreary with a lack of fresh local vegetables. While it may be too cold to garden outdoors, however, you have several options for growing nutritious vegetables inside.
Windowsill Herb Garden
Do you have a window that gets good sunlight for several hours each day? Then you can grow a simple herb garden and enjoy just-picked seasonings for your cooking all winter long! You can buy pre-made herb garden kits at many departments stores and garden centers, or make your own by planting several small terracotta pots with potting soil. You can start your herbs from seed or root cuttings from your outdoor garden before the first frost.
Herbs do very well in small to medium sized pots. Water when the soil feels dry to the touch, and make sure to seal off any drafts coming in the windows.
Sunroom Vegetable Garden
If you have a south- or southwest-facing room on your house, especially a sunroom or other room with lots of windows, you can grow more than just a few herbs — you have a conservatory in the making!
You have several options here, from using large planters set on the floor, to hanging baskets, to setting up shelves in front of a window to grow several levels of plants. Plants that grow very well in this setting include lettuces, spinach, and kale. You can even find seeds that are specially selected to do well in indoor gardens. Harvest greens regularly and they will continue to grow and replace their leaves.
Beans, tomatoes, and cucumbers can also be grown successfully in a sunny room. Make sure you have a good support set up for the vines. One option is to string twine across the window and place the bean plants just in front of it so that the bean vines naturally climb the twine. This also produces a window full of lovely greenery to liven up your room as well.
The best tomato varieties to grow in indoor containers tend to be the small cherry or grape varieties. If you have an upside-down tomato planter, either store-bought or homemade, you will be able to do without tomato cages and other support systems, and the plant can concentrate on growing tomatoes rather than thicker stems to hold itself upright.
Hydroponic gardens are grown without soil; the plants grow instead in a nutrient compound. Hydroponic gardening can expand the range of plants to grow indoors, but can also take up more space than simple window planters. You can set up a small hydroponics garden for under $100, but the attention they require makes this a technique that is mainly for truly hardcore gardeners.
Winter Gardening Tips
A few tips to keep in mind as you undertake indoor vegetable gardening:
- Since you won’t have bees and butterflies to pollinate your garden, many plants need to be pollinated by hand. Some plants, like tomatoes, are self-pollinating but others, such as cucumbers and peppers, will need you to transfer pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers using a swab, small paintbrush, or by rubbing the stamen of the male flower onto the female flower. It isn’t difficult to do, and there are good online tutorials and videos to walk you through the process.
- Indoor plants do not draw as many nutrients from the environment and may need to be fertilized more often than outdoor plants.
- Your indoor plants may not consume water the same way as they do outdoors so watch out for watering your plants too much or too little. Heated homes can be drier and cause the soil to dry out quickly; if you have a sunroom gardening area you may want to keep a small humidifier nearby.
- If your windows get some sun but not quite enough, you can supplement the sunlight using grow lights or shop lights. It may be helpful to get timers for them so you won’t forget to turn them on and off each day.
- Remember to keep your plants out of drafts; check the weather stripping and caulking around windows where you want to have your indoor garden.
Growing vegetables indoors is not that difficult, and with some attention and practice, you can easily enjoy fresh, home-grown veggies all through the cold months!