Whether you are craving fresh harvests during the winter or live in an area without gardening space, you can grow edibles in your own indoor garden.
Winter always seems to sneak up on me. It’s not until the first snowfall that I consider the growing season over. Up until then, I am still clipping hearty herbs and fall greens. Once the snow falls, I am reminded that soon the ground will be frozen, and the garden covered with a heavy winter blanket.
I start to miss freshly harvested greens quickly. Most years, I have a good supply of fall greens such as lettuce, spinach, chard, kale, pak choi, and other leafy greens to fill the refrigerator before the hard freeze. Some years, I lose my fall greens to the hungry deer as they prepare for winter too.
Since I can’t garden outside during winter, I began experimenting with growing food indoors. I started with herbs, and then progressed to salad greens and more.
What Can You Grow in an Indoor Garden?
Over the years, I have tried growing edibles indoors in winter using these DIY Grow Light Shelves. It is amazing what you can grow with just a little effort. Harvesting fresh vegetables and herbs adds lots of flavor to winter comfort foods.
For the best results, choose plants that will grow under artificial light, mature quickly, and stay compact enough to grow in containers without outgrowing their space.
13 Easy Vegetables to Grow Indoors
Most leafy greens, herbs, and some root vegetables will grow very well inside under lights. Here are some of the things I have grown successfully inside during the winter months in a cool basement:
Choose plants that will grow under artificial light, mature quickly, and stay compact enough to grow in containers without outgrowing their space. Most leafy greens, herbs, and a few root vegetables will grow very well inside under lights. Here are some of the things I have grown successfully inside during the winter months in a cool basement:
Growing beets indoors will provide you with delicious beet greens and delicate baby beets. Beet roots will need deep pots, at least 6-inches high. Harvest: Ready to harvest as baby beet greens in about 6-weeks. Harvest whole plant by cutting at the soil surface, or clip a few greens from outer edge of each plant and allow the plant to continue growing. Harvest young baby beets in about 30 days depending on the variety. Varieties to Consider: Detroit Dark Red Beets, Golden Boy Beets, Chioggia Beets, or this Gourmet Beet Blend for variety.
Bok Choy and Pac Choi
These Asian cabbage greens grow quickly and need lots of water, so they will benefit from a larger container with more soil to hold moisture. Bok Choy or Pac Choi is a delicious addition to soups, stir-fries, and salads. Harvest: Ready to harvest whole in 4-weeks at baby stage. They tend to bolt quickly, so go ahead and harvest them small and sow more seeds, or snip the outer leaves and let the plants continue growing. Varieties to Consider: Bok Choy Tatsoi Rosette, and Bok Choy Toy Choy.
- Try adding to this Homemade Turkey Noodle Soup Recipe
Short and round carrot varieties grow very well in 6-inch deep pots. Choose a deeper pot for longer varieties. Harvest: Baby carrots are ready to harvest in 6-8 weeks. Pull gently from the soil as needed for baby carrots, or allow them to develop further. Varieties to Consider: Parisian, Little Finger, and Thumbelina.
If you can grow houseplants, you can grow herbs inside on a sunny windowsill. Adding artificial lighting increases the selection of herbs you can grow inside. Harvest: Keep plants compact by trimming and harvesting frequently. Varieties to Consider: Cilantro, Genovese Basil, Italian Parsley, Oregano, Chives, Thyme, and Sage.
Young kale has a milder and sweeter flavor than mature kale. Harvest: Ready to harvest at baby stage in about 4-weeks. Snip outer leaves allowing the plants to continue to produce. Varieties to Consider: Red Winter Kale, Dwarf Blue Curled Kale, and Italian Nero Toscana Kale.
Leaf lettuce varieties mature quickly for salads and sandwich toppings. There are so many varieties with various colors, leaf shapes, and flavors. Harvest: Snip outer leaves allowing the center of the plants to continue to produce. Varieties to Consider: Black Seeded Simpson, Tom Thumb, and Mesclun Mix.
- This Homemade Italian Salad Dressing is perfect for winter salads.
Young edible vegetables and herbs harvested within weeks of sprouting. The tender sprouts are very flavorful and nutrient dense. Harvest: Ready to harvest when the first true leaves unfurl in 7-14 days. Snip the right above the soil line. Varieties to Consider: Pea Shoots, Cress, Kale, and any Mesclun Mix or Microgreen Mix.
Mushroom kits have made it so easy to grow mushrooms indoors. They come in a complete package with full instructions. Enjoy your homegrown mushrooms in soups, sauces, and sauté with other veggies and meats. Harvest: Ready to harvest in just 2-weeks. Kit Varieties to Consider: Brown Oyster Mushrooms, Pink Oyster Mushrooms, or Shiitake Mushrooms.
Young mustard greens are mild-flavored and add a peppery dijon-ish flavor to salads. Older leaves taste better steamed, boiled or braised. They add a tasty mustard flavor to soups and stir-fries. Harvest: Ready to harvest as baby greens in about 4 weeks once the leaves are 3-4-inches tall. Snip the outer leaves and let the plant continue to produce new growth. Varieties to Consider: Florida Broadleaf Mustard, Tendergreen Mustard Spinach, or a mix of varieties in this Must Have Mustards Baby Greens Seeds collection.
Very fast-growing and their peppery flavor adds a kick to soups and salads. Harvest: Ready for harvest in about 4-weeks or when the radish is approximately 1-inch diameter. The greens are edible too. Varieties to Consider: Cherry Belle, French Breakfast, and Easter Egg Blend.
Scallions or green onions are grown mostly for their greens, which have a mild onion flavor. Enjoy snipped greens in stir-frys, salads, in sandwiches, or in any recipe that you would use normally use onions. Harvest: Ready to harvest greens in about 30 days depending on the variety. Begin trimming foliage when the scallions reach 4-inches tall as needed for meals. Greens will continue to grow and scallions will get larger over time. Varieties to Consider: Evergreen Bunching Onion, Italian Red Bunching Onions, and Tokyo Long White Bunching Onions.
- Check out How to Grow Onions from Seed for more detailed information.
Enjoy scallions in these recipes:
- Ginger Garlic Pork Fried Rice Recipe
- Cheddar Bacon Potato Skins Recipe
- Orange Pineapple Sweet and Sour Meatballs
A shortcut to harvesting scallion greens quicker is to regrow from supermarket scallions. Use the greens for cooking and plant the bulb. Leave about 2-inches with roots attached. Plant about 1-inch deep in potting soil. Green shoots will emerge from the tops of the bulbs in only a few days.
The vitamin-rich and tasty dark-green leaves are excellent for salads and winter soups. Harvest: Ready to harvest in a little over a month as baby spinach. Snip outer leaves allowing the plants to continue to produce. Varieties to Consider: Lavewa, Bloomsdale, Space, and Tyee.
Swiss chard leaves are tender and taste similar to beet greens and spinach. The crunchy stems are slightly sweet and have a similar taste and texture with celery and can be used in soups and stews. Swiss Chards grow upright foliage. Transplant chard seedlings to larger containers to prevent the plant from becoming top heavy. Harvest: Ready to harvest in about 4 weeks as baby greens. Cut outer leaves at the base of the plant. New leaves grow from the center of the plant. Varieties to Consider: Bright Lights Chard, Fordhook Chard, or a colorful mix of baby green in this Apple Blossom Swiss Chard Blend.
How to Grow Edibles in an Indoor Garden
- Grow Lights: See how to Build a Grow Light System here.
- Growing Containers: Gather up pots or containers to grow your indoor garden. Pots or containers that are 4-inches deep work well for most greens while carrots need at least 6 inches. Consider using window boxes, or recycled bakery or produce containers. Use plastic trays beneath containers to prevent water from dripping.
- Soil: Select an organic, all-purpose potting mix for your indoor garden. Fertilize plants with a weak solution of Fish Emulsion when leaves show signs of stress.
- Seeds or Purchased Seedlings: Buy seeds or purchase plants. Herbs mature slowly, so grow from established purchased plants for a fast harvest.
- Build or assemble your grow light system and locate in a cool area such as a basement or spare room. Try to keep it away from wood stoves and other heat sources because warm temperatures will cause the plants to bolt, or go to seed prematurely instead of producing a continuous harvest.
- If growing from seed, follow sowing instructions on the back of the seed package and keep soil evenly moist until the seeds germinate. Also see 10 steps to starting seedlings indoors. Purchased herb seedlings may need repotting if roots are showing through the drain holes.
- Keep the lights about 2-inches above the plants. Adjust the lights as the plants grow. Plants grown under artificial light need at least 12-16 hours of light each day. I set my Power Strip Timer for 16 hours on, then 8 hours off.
- Water twice a week or when the soil surface feels dry.
- Harvest and enjoy fresh, nutritious edibles throughout the cold, winter months.
Whether you are craving freshly grown harvests during the winter or live in an area without gardening space, I hope this gives you some encouragement to start growing edibles in your own indoor garden.
This article was originally published on November 22, 2014. It has been updated with additional information, photos, and video.
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