Let’s Grow! Would you like to see how I grow a variety of vegetables indoors all year round in my little kitchen garden?
Also see Seed Starting 101 for how to plant seeds and
How to Grow Vegetables in the Winter if you would like to grow veggies outdoors during the colder months.
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Indoor Veggie Garden
Can you really grow food indoors?
I am an accidental indoor food grower. Years ago I started growing veggies outdoors from spring to fall. Next, I learned you can grow many types of vegetables outdoors during the winter months (learn how here) as well.
One year, I started a large number of seeds indoors (free instructions here) for the winter garden and was not able to get everything planted on time. I kept everything going under the grow lights and, much to my surprise, I eventually had salad greens, peas, and even some cherry tomatoes ready to eat!
Since then I have continued experimenting with indoor food growing to see what works best.
If you would like a reference book, I like Indoor Kitchen Gardening: Turn Your Home Into a Year-Round Vegetable Garden by Elizabeth Millard. It’s clearly written, has lovely images, and her experience matches mine, so I trust it.
Books for Getting Started
My Indoor Kitchen Garden
I was very excited recently to free up space in our dining room (open to the kitchen) for one of my grow shelves. This unit is my favourite because it has wheels and is very easy to move around. If you can find one like this, or add wheels to an existing one, I highly recommend it. It’s very handy for accessing every pot for watering. I took this next photo just after getting everything set up. Within a month, all of the salad greens will be tall and ready for eating.
What can I grow?
I’ve had the best success with:
- Leafy greens (not head lettuces) including spinach and arugula (and many more)
- Sprouts and microgreens – see How to Grow Microgreens
- Cherry tomatoes
- Swiss chard
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- 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″ between shelves.
- Fluorescent lights (I use T8 bulbs; you can also use T5)
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 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.
- I turn the grow lights on late in the afternoon and keep them on until the morning. This way we can make use of the lights in the kitchen as well.
- The plants need watering every day or two after the seedlings are established.
When Can I Eat?
- Some of these plants like the shoots of the peas, salad greens, kale, and Swiss chard can be eaten any time. Sprouts and microgreens are the fastest (a week or so); salad greens (2 weeks to 2 months). Salad greens are ‘cut and come again’, so you can always harvest some and leave others to mature more or regrow.
- 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.
Here’s what I’m growing right now
Mesclun mix is a variety of edible salad greens. They look simply beautiful and taste delicious.
Tomatoes – always choose a cherry tomato variety. The smaller the fruit, the more likely they’ll do well indoors.
Peas. I experiment with different varieties each time. The shoots are my favourite (sweet and delicious). They will need support after they reach about 6 inches tall.
More leafy greens: you cannot grow head lettuce but any leaf lettuces are perfect for indoor growing.
Spinach – this is another one that you can pick just about any time. I clip some and leave the rest to mature.
I’ve also got Swiss chard and more. I like to start some new seeds every six weeks so there’s always something new coming along.
I hope you’ll give indoor food growing a try. The plants are simply beautiful and a fresh dinner salad is always available.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛
Update: If you’d like to see an update on these plants (which seeds performed best), here you go.