I learned to grow vegetables indoors in my home years ago without any fancy equipment. With a few household items, you can grow salad greens, peas, cuilinary herbs, and even some cherry tomatoes. I will show you my setup, what I have been able to grow, and everything you need to know to get started.
This is part of series of tips on indoor vegetable gardening. It’s a wonderful way to grow plants in your house and I hope you will give it a try.
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Grow Vegetables Indoors
I became an indoor food grower completely by accident.
We had one of those years where it felt like winter would never end, and it was far too cold for my usual early spring seed sowing outdoors.
Determined to start gardening somehow, I decided to be a rebel and sow my pea seeds indoors instead. This is never advised because peas do not like being transplanted (disturbed) but I went ahead and sowed a bunch in containers under our workshop fluorescent lights.
And holy cow! They not only grew tall vines, but I had to add make-shift trellis to support them. And, best of all, they not only flowered but produced pea pods as well. Delicious, juicy peas, shoots, and pods!
This was a revelation. I had no idea it was even possible.
From there I started experimenting with a whole range of veggies and herbs indoors with a number of unexpected successes.
My main motive is happiness: there’s something about raising plants that just lifts the spirits. The experimenting is fun and intriguing, and what a bonus to get bowls of delicious fresh salad greens too.
What Are the Best Vegetables to Grow Indoors?
This will depend on the growing environment in your house. We’re in Canada, have a drafty old house, and keep the indoor temperature around 19C or 66F during the winter. The humidity level averages about 50%. A warmer home with good humidity levels (and lots of light) would provide other growing opportunities.
Keep in mind though that all those articles and annoying Pinterest pins showing giant tomatoes, melons, and cucumbers the length of your arm growing indoors are completely misleading.
I’ve had great success with leafy greens, some herbs, a few other cool-tolerant veggies, and a surprise cherry tomato plant. But, anything with fruit is very long, slow process in average household conditions, so just try those for fun (if you’re patient), and stick to the greens for reliable, fresh food. The volumes will depend entirely on how much space you devote to this.
Veggies You Can Grow In Your Home
I’ve written a separate article on How to Grow Herbs Indoors here.
If you want step-by-step instructions, these will help.
Easy Grow Lights & Supplies
This gives an overview of the supplies I use more. Best Low-Cost Seed Starting Supplies shows everything in more detail.
- Vegetable seeds (organically grown) – see my favourite seed companies here.
- Shelving unit: you don’t have to buy a special one, but you will need about 18-inches of space (height) between shelves.
- Fluorescent lights I use T8 bulbs; you can also use T5 or whatever is available.
The light units also need to be adjustable. Mine hang with small chains and S hooks. You want the lights just above the tops of the plants.
- Drip trays: whatever shelves you choose, make sure you have good drip trays so you don’t wreck your floors.
- Electric timer (optional)
- Watering can with a nice, long, narrow neck.
- Organic container soil made for vegetable growing (this can be hard to find during the winter so stock up in the summer).
- Flower pots with drainage holes (I like them to be about 6″ deep).
How Much Work is Involved?
- Starting seeds in 100 little pots takes me a couple of hours total including preparation, tagging the pots, and planting the seeds. I like to use 4″ plastic pots so I can move the individual plants around as needed.
- Daily Maintenance: My plant shelf with the fluorescent lights is in a dark part of the kitchen so I use the automatic timer to turn them on in the afternoon each day. This also provides us with light in the evenings. The food crops need the same amount of light they would get growing outside, as well as time to rest each day.
- Check moisture and humidity: In our house, the plants need watering every day or two after the seedlings are established.
When Can I Eat?
- Any plant with edible stems and leaves can be eaten any time after the seedling stage.
- Sprouts and microgreens are the fastest (a week or so).
- Salad greens are usually a good size after four weeks, plus they are ‘cut and come again’ meaning they will regrow a few times after harvesting the leaves (and leaving the base and roots).
- The slowest growers are things like the cherry tomatoes which will take a few months at minimum. I find this really varies each time, but in general, it’s several months.
I hope you can tell from what I’ve said that growing food indoors is really fun to try. It’s a great mood lifter in duller seasons, the plants are simply beautiful, and how cool to grow a fresh dinner salad in your own home.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛
- Vegetable Growing Tips for Beginners
- How to Get Started with Straw Bale Gardening
- How to Grow Microgreen Indoors
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