In many locations, the winter months mean a halt to growing your own vegetables, herbs, and leafy green foods. However, the same attributes that make growing many of these plants easy in the first place (small size, fast growing, edible foliage) also make them great for growing indoors. That means when winter strikes, you can simply move your edible plant operation inside.
With a little preparation and the right plant choices, you can grow much of your own food year-round. Read these 5 growing tips for year-round edible plants to find out how.
1. Light is the Key
Many people have tried to grow plants indoors and some of them have met with less than stellar results. In most cases, the failure of indoor plants to thrive comes down to inadequate light. While a typical home may seem bright enough to our eyes, plants require varying degrees of direct or filtered light in order to grow properly. If you have tried to grow edible plants in your brightest rooms or sunniest windows and watched your plants wither or simply pause indefinitely, then adding light may solve the problem.
Gone are the days when indoor growing lights created soaring temperatures and shocking electric bills. Modern LED grow lights use far less electricity than traditional bulbs, and they make such little heat, you can usually touch them after a full day of operation. Don’t try that with your grandma’s 500 watt halogen grow bulb. Give your indoor edible garden supplemental LED growing lights and watch them shine.
2. Water Like You are Outside
Watering indoor plants can be a tricky business. Since the pots are inside, we naturally hold back water because we don’t need a flood on our kitchen window sill. If we put a saucer to catch the water, we can cause a plant’s soil to remain saturated, as it wicks up the moisture left behind. Both of these situations, under watering and over watering, are recipes for edible plant disaster.
Your best bet is to water your plants in the same way you would if the pots were growing outside on a patio or deck. That means giving them a good long watering and allowing that water to drain fully through the pot’s drainage holes. To do this, place your plants in a sink, shower, or bathtub and water them well, then allow the pots to drain for an hour or so. You may have some cleaning up to do after this job is done, but your plants will love you for it. Wait until the soil is dry down to two inches or so from the surface before the next watering, and repeat the process.
3. Grow Herbs Inside Over Winter
Herbs are great edible plants to grow inside when the weather turns cold. They don’t need a large container, require little to no maintenance, and unlike veggies or fruit, you can use them right away. Most herbs like parsley, basil, thyme, and oregano do fine inside if you place them in a sunny window. Prune them and they will grow even better.
4. Select Vegetables that do well Indoors
Some vegetables do better inside than others. Radishes, Tomatoes, and Peppers are all well-suited to growing inside as long as they get enough light and periodic water. Fertilize with liquid fertilizer and pick the resulting peppers or tomatoes at smaller sizes than you might if the same plants were growing outside in the summer months. You can also grow onions, carrots, lettuce, and small potatoes indoors. In the end, the plants you choose should be ones that you can use when the leaves or edible parts are smaller, so you can take advantage of their nutrition without growing champions of size.
5. Go Micro
Microgreens are just younger vegetables that you grow from seed and harvest for their tender, young, highly nutritious plant material, rather than their fully grown fruits, flowers, or veggies. Broccoli, Kale, Beets, Radishes, Beans, and even Herbs can be used to grow and harvest microgreens. Try planting a long window box with several types of edible plants all grown in bunches. When they are 3 or 4 inches tall, cut them down with shears and eat away. Then add fresh soil and do it all again. Growing microgreens is fun because there is no long wait for veggies to bloom and mature. Shorter growing times also means less chance of calamity such as a harmful fungus, insect invasion, or other plant disease. Go micro, get in and out quickly, and harvest nutritious living food indoors all year long.