There are several reasons you may be interested in growing vegetables indoors. No matter your motivation, you should ensure you select the proper plants and have the proper tools and skills to create a successful, and healthy, garden indoors before you set out on how to actually grow your garden. Each section will outline must know considerations for anyone interested in growing vegetables indoors. We recommend reading the how to guide on growing vegetables indoors after.
Choosing Your Plants
There are some vegetables that are easier to grow indoors than others. For example, leafy greens such as spinach and lettuce are perfect for an indoor environment. They are small and can tolerate the lower temperatures that occur indoors. There are also selections of herbs that are ideal for indoor growth. However, any plant that requires flowering, such as peppers and tomatoes, needs more light and heat in order to grow. This will require an investment to ensure you have the proper equipment to help them grow successfully.
Soil and Container
Each plant may have a slightly different requirement when it comes to their pot size and soil type. Some general specifications include:
- Herbs and Leafy Vegetables: The smaller plants, such as these, can be grown successfully in a 4” pot
- Tomatoes, Peppers or Cucumbers: These plants are larger and will require a one to two gallon pot or container
- Larger plants: Anything larger will require at minimum a five gallon pot, which will provide growing room for the roots.
When gardening indoors you should try to use a potting mix that is soilless. Some examples include Fertilome or Espoma, which provides the necessary drainage and aeration for indoor vegetables.
Starter Plants and Seeds
In most cases, you will begin growing your vegetables from seeds. The one typical exception is herbs, as these can be bought as “starter plants” at most home stores. It is important to carefully read the directions on the seed packet for each vegetable. Most seeds can be started in anything, including egg cartons, paper cups or nursery starter trays. Simply fill the container of choice with your soil-less mix and plant in the recommended depth. You should cover the soil with a plastic in order to prevent it from drying out. The seeds do not require light to germinate so you can place them in a warm window or top of your refrigerator. Once germination has begun you should remove the plastic and place the seeds in a sunny area or beneath heat lights. They are ready to be transplanted once they have two to three sets of leaves.
This can be the most complicated and difficult part of the indoor growing process. While some vegetables will flourish in a sunny window, others need the “big guns” to grow successfully. For example, leafy vegetables and your herbs will require a lower amount of light, while flowering fruits and vegetables need high amounts of light to flower.
When you begin comparing the lights that are available you need to take to factors into consideration: the color of the light and the intensity of the light. Some other guidelines for lighting for your indoor vegetable garden include:
- Leafy vegetables and herbs are fine with low intensity.
- Any plant larger than 12 inches needs more light intensity.
- For fluorescent and LED lights you should keep the light about four inches from the top of the plant.
- Stronger lights should be further away to prevent scorching of the plant.
Some of the most popular types of lights and a brief overview follows.
There are several benefits when you use fluorescent lights. First of all, they are inexpensive and use less energy than the incandescent and other lighting options. Additionally they burn a lot cooler, which does not require the need for any venting, as other light choices do. The types of fluorescent lights to consider include:
- Standard shop lights (T-12): The are the least expensive option, available in cool and warm white options and perfect for starting seeds, leafy veggies, herbs and plants up to 12 inches tall.
- High Output (HO) T-5: These are twice as strong as the T-12 and are many different lengths and configurations. You can grow peppers and tomatoes to the proper size to produce flowers however they may not produce much fruit.
High Intensity Discharge Lighting (HID)
If you want to create a large crop of peppers and tomatoes, these are a smart choice. There are two different options in HID lighting. The white version recreates a “spring” light that will help promote the vegetative growth. They will fry the leaves so caution must be used. The yellow version replicate the “fall and summer” lighting spectrum and will help your flowering plants produce an abundance of fruit. Many of these lights require ventilation and ductwork and the cost starts around $500.
These are becoming more popular for indoor vegetable gardens. They use less energy, last longer and provide the light necessary for all types of plant growth.
Watering and Fertilizing your Vegetable Garden
It is important to keep the plant’s soil moist, but not to saturate the plants. Only add water when the soil feels dry to the touch. It is important to ensure the soil is not allowed to dry out as this can cause blossom end rot. You should fertilize with only organic brands that are high in nitrogen. When the plants come to the flowering stage you need to find a formula with less nitrogen and a higher concentration of potassium.
Pollination and Flowering
With leafy green vegetables this is not a step you have to worry with. However, it is important to be aware of this with any flowering vegetable. You can pollinate with a cotton swab or paint brush and take pollen from one flower to another all over the plant. However, the tomato plant is a little more difficult. You may have to use an electric toothbrush on the branch to release the pollen. Each of the flowers on this plant is self-pollinating.
You need to find what works for you when it comes to lighting. Most of the decision will be based on the type of vegetables you plan to grow. However, without the proper lighting and care your indoor garden will not flourish. These gardens are becoming increasingly popular and can provide fresh, home-grown fruits and vegetables, year round for you and your family.
So whatever methods you choose to follow in this article be sure to realise the benefits of growing your own vegetables at home without any chemicals or other additives and what it can do for your health and well-being. Also, remember to like this post on Facebook if you found it useful!