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Growing Vegetables Indoors

As the winter months descend upon us all, it can be a bit depressing thinking about the layers of snow blanketing our growing spaces. While some vegetables will certainly do just fine in the colder months, there are certain plants that simply won’t survive between the first and last frosts. A great alternative, if you have the space to devote to it, is growing some of your favorite vegetables indoors during the winter months. Even if you don’t have a greenhouse, you can still grow your vegetables on a shelf in your kitchen, in a garden shed, or even in your basement if you have the right tools and equipment.

There are several gadgets that, through the hydroponics process, will allow you to grow cherry tomatoes on your kitchen, in your living room, or even in your office at work. However, while these gadgets certainly do have their novelty appeal, they can be very costly and also limit you in what you can actually grow. There are other options, however, so read on!

Indoor Growing Requirements

Naturally there will be different requirements for the various plants that you are growing, but the majority of them will require at least six hours of sunlight a day. There are five essential factors to growing your vegetables indoors, and they are as follows:

  1. Levels of light
  2. Growing medium
  3. Levels of humidity
  4. Air circulation
  5. Temperature

If you have a room in your home that receives a constant amount of light during the day, then this could be your best choice. Another alternative is to do some good research into growing lamps. Grow bulbs are available at most home improvement stores and can fit into any lighting fixture; however, they may not provide your plants with all of the light that they need. These grow bulbs are typically best suited for keeping your orchards and African violets thriving indoors. The amount of light and the intensity of the light will determine how long your plants remain active and will ensure that photosynthesis is taking place at an acceptable rate. Light intensity has a marked effect on how the plant grows, flowers, and fruits; the intensity of the light is dependent on how close the plant is to the source of light.

Vegetables that produce fruit, like cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes, will have much higher light requirements than salad greens, herbs, and root vegetables like carrots and beets. Compact fluorescent lights can serve you very well if you are growing greens, sprouts, and herbs, so long as the source of light is no higher than four inches above the plants.

Your growing medium is just as important for your indoor plants as it is for your vegetables grown outdoors. If the soil is not providing the plants with adequate nutrition then you will have just as many problems indoors as those you face outdoors when your soil pH levels and nutritional values are off. Before you plant your seeds, do a thorough test of the soil that you plan to use, and you can effectively avoid problems that would hamper your growing progress.

Levels of humidity are important to keep an eye on, otherwise you face concerns with overly dried out plants or plants that are developing fungal infections and rot. During the winter months, we tend to heat our homes using forced-air heating systems that are incredibly effective at drying out everything in our homes. To maintain a good humidity level, you may need to consider investing in a simple cool mist humidifier that can counteract the forced air dryness.

Air circulation is also an important consideration because a nice breezy atmosphere can help to prevent the growth of molds and fungus and also help to ensure that the moisture in the air is getting evenly distributed throughout your indoor garden space. Numerous options are available for providing adequate air circulation, but a nice quality fan that rotates slowly will do the job really well.

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Temperature is something that you also need to closely monitor, especially if your indoor garden space is in a shed, garage, or other space that is not insulated. If temperatures dip too low during the overnight hours, then you run the risk of your plants succumbing to the freezing temperatures. On the other hand, you also run the risk of your tomatoes not setting blossoms if their overnight temperatures do not go below 85 degrees F.

Once you have addressed the five major requirements of growing vegetables indoors, you can move onto the actual seeding and growing process.

Best Vegetables To Grow Indoors

There are some vegetables that are simply not going to be a good choice to grow indoors, mostly due to the space and light requirements that they have. Corn, squash, peas, beans, and melons like cucumbers or watermelon may not thrive indoors, but that doesn’t mean you can’t necessarily attempt to grow them. If conditions are right and you can afford the space, then you may be able to have good luck with them.

Here are some of the best choices for growing vegetables indoors during the winter months:

  • Carrots
  • Beets
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Herbs
  • Tomatoes (cherry and mini varieties)
  • Lettuces
  • Spinach
  • Broccoli
  • Cauliflower
  • Potatoes

Several intrepid gardeners have taken the steps to create a trellis in their indoor growing space so that they can grow peas year-round. Peas prefer cooler temperatures, so they might be a better choice to attempt versus heat-loving beans that tend to thrive during the summer months.

Limited space need not keep you from growing things like potatoes, especially since you can grow them vertically. Potato towers and bags are exceptionally popular with gardeners who have space limits. Not only can you grow several pounds of potatoes in less than a few square feet of space, but you can also make harvesting them a lot easier than needing to go dig through several hundred feet of growing space outdoors.

Your potato tower or bags can be reused outdoors during the summer months to ensure a year-round harvest of this very versatile and nutritious vegetable that also stores beautifully.

Growing carrots indoors is something that often comes as a surprise to even the most seasoned gardener. While carrots do well growing outdoors, many gardeners have discovered that they tend to thrive in large containers or buckets as well. Whether planting the mini varieties or the full-sized carrots, you’ll find that with nice loose soil that is rich in organic material, along with the right light requirements, you can grow amazing carrots even in the dead of winter.

Some types of fruits also grow really well indoors, assuming you can meet their growing requirements. Lemons and strawberries, for example, can thrive in your greenhouse, shed, or basement garden if you just give them the light and warmth that they need.

Knowing where to start can sometimes be the most baffling aspect of growing vegetables indoors, so consider starting small. Get a few compact florescent bulbs and grow a few varieties of lettuce. Once your lettuce is thriving, you can branch out towards spinach and even those juicy red cherry tomatoes you’ve been dreaming of.

It might take a bit of time and a bit of a financial investment, but with the right gear and the right setup, you won’t hesitate getting your vegetables growing indoors when everyone else is staring at barren winter fields.

©2012 Off the Grid News

© 2008-2014 Off The Grid News

3 comments

  1. Thanks for a great article! I’ve been growing lettuce, chard, tatsoi and kale in a built-on greenhouse for several years now. I find that it really helps to shut the greenhouse up tight and let it heat way up during the summer, to kill off any fungus spores or insect eggs (I’ve had trouble with whiteflies and powdery mildew). Obviously this doesn’t work if you’re growing right in your windowsills….I’m still working on timing plantings of lettuce so as to have a continuous supply; too often I forget how much more slowly things grow in the darkest time of year (even with CFLs).

  2. CFLs? All it takes is one accidental breakage of these mercury-delivery packages and everything becomes instantly poisoned. I’ve read enough about these trojan horses to believe that the energy they emit is not healthful at all. How about we stop promoting these fake “green” packages of crap?

  3. Can you use potting soil? Or does it have to be garden soil?

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