How To Triumph Over Mother Nature And Grow Vegetables Indoors

You don’t need an outdoor garden to give plants these four simple things: air, light, water, and nutrients. In fact, you can grow organic food in a sunroom or even in just a sunny room. Heck, you can even do it in the basement with the right equipment.

Here’s how to transform part of your home into a sunny indoor garden so you can eat fresh veggies year-round.

25 Plants That Can Be Grown Indoors

Most plants can be grown indoors and some even on a windowsill.

Here are some good choices for an indoor garden:

Vegetables

  • Peppers
  • Lettuce & other greens
  • Chard
  • Kale
  • Garlic
  • Tomatoes
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Onions

Herbs

  • Basil
  • Cilantro
  • Chives
  • Lavender
  • Oregano
  • Parsley
  • Rosemary

Fruits

  • Apples
  • Blueberries
  • Citrus
  • Strawberries

Flowers

  • Alyssum
  • Begonia
  • Candytuft
  • Geranium
  • Pansy
  • Petunia
  • Roses
  • Shasta Daisy

Get The Healthiest Plants With A Southern Exposure

Yellow cherry tomatoes growing in a terra cotta pot on a windowsill.

Cherry tomatoes can easily be grown in a pot indoors. This one will be in desperate need of a transplant soon.

Regardless of whether you’re growing in a sunroom, greenhouse, or a living room, the best growing area is a space with these traits:

  • 10 to 14 hours of sunlight every day
  • good air circulation
  • temperature between 60-75 F
  • little to no draft

It’s best if you can find these things near a south facing window. But you can get away with a southwest or southeast facing exposure as well.

Experienced gardeners with disposable income might choose to build a conservatory or sunroom as an extension of their home. This way they’ll have plenty of windows to allow the sun in and it can serve as dedicated gardening spaces.

But if you’re new to gardening, don’t have the budget, don’t want an addition, or simply don’t want to go outside, you can grow plants in the space you have.

Maximize Vegetable Yield With Artificial Lighting

To get the biggest harvest possible consider buying artificial lights that mimic the suns rays. It’s the only way to maximize photosynthesis, and they are a necessity if your room receives less than 10 hours of sunlight per day.

There are many varieties of grow lights for indoor winter gardens. Here are a few ranked from best to worst:

High Intensity Discharge (HID) ($$$)

These bulbs are the brightest you can buy. One 1,000 watt bulb can produce the same amount of light as 50 fluorescent lights.

A single HID bulb supplying light for dozens of plants.

Powerful bulbs like the HID above can be bought at Home Depot, and with a simple rig like this it can supply dozens of plants with light.

There Are 2 Types Of Suitable HID’s

  • Metal Halide - Encourages green leafy growth but not flowers.
  • High Pressure Sodium - Encourages flowering and lasts twice as long as metal halide.

It’s a popular tactic to use metal halide to grow thick healthy foliage and then to switch to high pressure sodium to get them to start producing.

Compact Fluorescent Systems ($$)

These systems are better than traditional fluorescent lighting and are fine to use on most plants. In some cases, they’re even better than more expensive high intensity discharge lights. They’re also good because they produce less heat.

Fluorescent Lights ($)

These lights are great for herbs and greens that don’t rely on direct sunlight, but they don’t work for budding or flowering plants because they don’t create enough light.

Incandescent Lights ($)

These are fine for houseplants, but they’re not going to provide the light required for a vegetable garden.

Flowering is controlled by a hormone called florigen. Some greenery thrives with 14 hours of sunlight a day, they’re called ‘long day’ plants. Others thrive with 10 hours a day, they’re called ‘short day’. If they get too much sun it can kill the florigen, so be sure to put any lamps you buy on a timer and place them as close to the leaves as you can without burning them.

Get Lush Green Foliage With Proper Humidity

The dry winter air is a challenge for growing an indoor garden. It becomes an even greater challenge if you rely heavily on your heating system, which tends to suck the moisture out of the air.

A lack of humidity can ruin your hard work quickly. You’ll know if there’s a lack of humidity if your leaves are brown, falling off, or the plant starts to wither.

Buying a humidifier isn’t always a solution because different fruits and veggies enjoy different levels of humidity. Instead, research the humidity levels enjoyed by your individual plants and create solutions based on that.

How To Increase Humidity

  • Place a tray of water in the room and add lava rocks to the tray to promote evaporation.
  • Put plants that love humidity close together.
  • Mist them every day (or more).
  • Run a humidifier.
  • Invest in an environmental controller to easily adjust the overall humidity in the room as required.

Grow More Vegetables Faster With Hydroponics

Lettuce being grown in a hydroponic grow system.

Hydroponic systems like these are fairly easy to implement. There are plenty of DIY's to follow online.

What Is Hydroponics?

Plants typically get their nutrients from soil using their roots. Hydroponics delivers the nutrients directly to the roots without soil. The benefits of hydroponics systems include:

  • Using smaller containers because the roots grow through media instead of becoming bound to dirt
  • Plants grow faster because they have direct access to nutrients
  • Plant illnesses don’t travel as fast
  • Plants in hydroponic systems droop a bit before they wilt, so you know when to water them before damage sets in

Hydroponics vs Soil

The development of hydroponics has presented an alternative to growing gardens indoors with soil.

If you do choose to use soil, don’t use the dirt you’ve gathered from your outdoor garden. It’s often too heavy to use indoors and may include pests and seeds of other plants. Before you head to your local gardening center to find soil designed for indoor plants, read this soil guide from Epic Gardening. It covers soils and fertilizers that will help your fruits and vegetables reach their full potential.

If you’re going the soil free route, consider investing in a hydroponics system.

Carrots growing in plastic pots on a sunny shelf.

Root vegetables like carrots, potatoes, and garlic do incredibly well in containers.

Tips for Maintaining Your Indoor Garden

  1. The key to helping plants grow is to group those that enjoy similar humidity, light, and watering needs together.

  2. Growing plants indoors requires paying special attention to watering schedules and nutrients.

  3. Plants potted in containers dry out faster than those in beds. You’ll need to be extra vigilant with your watering schedule to avoid allowing them to dry out. Look up what each plant needs, and plant it in a group with others that have similar watering requirements. Use a moisture meter to make sure you’re more accurate.

  4. Your indoor plants will also need extra nutrients because they are able to absorb them faster in hydroponic systems. Your fertilizer schedule depends on the type of fertilizer you purchase, so be sure to follow the directions.

There’s no need to give up gardening or fresh vegetables and blooms for the winter. With a sunroom, a sunny room, or a cellar with compact fluorescent bulbs, you can enjoy some of your favorite produce year-round.

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