Growing food indoors opens up the world of home growing to those who lack outdoor space or prefer indoor growing.
If you have an apartment without a garden or balcony, you might think you can’t join the grow-your-own revolution. But learning how to grow vegetables indoors is possible – even in the most unpromising of situations.
So, whether you are gardening exclusively indoors, or looking to grow indoors and out, read on to learn more about which vegetables to grow indoors.
Where Should Beginners Start?
Take a good look at the space you have available for home growing.
A sunny windowsill or a spot against a sunny wall inside your home are the best options.
A south-facing window (in the northern hemisphere) can create an ideal environment for growing a wide range of vegetables,. letting in enough light for vegetable production, at least during the summer months.
Sometimes, a west or east-facing windowsill can also work, where there is enough sunlight coming through it each day, though some plants may not get enough light in such a situation.
In many climates, the indoor light levels are sufficient for vegetable cultivation in the summer months. In winter, however, a lack of light is the main barrier to successful vegetable cultivation.
If you want to grow vegetables indoors all year round then you will sometimes need to use grow lights. Simple LED grow lights are inexpensive and make it easier to overcome low light levels.
What Do You Need to Grow Vegetables Indoors?
To grow vegetables, you need light, either from the sun or from an artificial source. You also need a place in which the vegetables can grow.
Usually, this involves pots or other containers filled with a growing medium, often potting mix or potting soil. Though some vegetables can be grown in water too.
Consider vertical gardening solutions such as hanging containers, shelving, and wall-mounted vertical garden structures with planting pockets, as these can help you to grow more in a smaller amount of space.
You will also need water for your plants. Rainwater is ideal, and can often be harvested, but you can use mains water where this is the only option. Consider setting up a rainwater harvesting system if you don’t have one already.
You can use homemade compost to maintain fertility in your indoor vegetable garden. There are many options for composting in small spaces indoors – a small hot composting bin or vermicomposting with worms are just two examples to consider. So it should be easy for you to make this ingredient that will help to sustain your growing efforts long-term.
Beyond these basic things, you don’t need much to get started except for seeds for the vegetables you choose to grow.
Which Vegetables to Grow Indoors
You can grow almost any vegetable indoors. But some are easier to grow than others.
The 21 vegetables listed below are great options for those getting started:
Leafy Greens for Indoor Vegetable Gardening
The easiest vegetables to grow indoors are those that produce leafy greens. You can grow these leafy greens on any sunny windowsill.
I typically have some leafy greens on my windowsill throughout the winter months, and in the shoulder seasons of spring and fall. So I always have the ingredients for a fresh green salad on hand. Some I grow only for a very short time, as micro-greens. Some I grow to a greater level of maturity.
Some of the easiest leafy greens to grow are:
- Lettuce (especially loose leaf cut-and-come-again types.)
- Spinach (true spinach and perpetual spinach)
- Chard (and/or beets grown for their leaves)
- Mustards, Mizuna & Mibuna (leaf mustards)
- Bok choi/ Pak choi (and other closely related vegetables)
- Kale & other common Brassicas
- & Mache (corn salad)
Though there is of course a range of other, more unusual, leafy green vegetables that you might grow.
Other Relatively Easy Vegetables to Grow Indoors in Small Spaces
As long as you choose a light, bright location within your home, choose the right containers and growing medium, and provide water and the right care, these are also vegetables to grow indoors that you might try:
- Pea shoots (and potentially peas as well if plants are allowed to continue to grow).
- Spring onions/ scallions/ bunching onions
- Baby Carrots
- Baby beets
- Baby leeks
Pea seeds are very easy for beginners (or kids) to handle and they add a touch of sweetness to a salad, even when you do not have the space to grow them to maturity.
Spring onions/ scallions or bunching onions are also simple to grow indoors or outside. As are radishes, which, if allowed to grow on, will produce an abundance of green pods to eat as well as their fiery roots.
Vegetables (That Are Really Fruit) to Grow Indoors
These crops, which typically like heat and sunlight, can be more challenging to grow indoors than the above. But they can be grown inside in a bright location, or with the use of grow lights.
In some cooler climates, you may have more success growing these heat-loving crops indoors than you do growing them outside where you live.
Indoors, if you want to challenge yourself, you might consider growing:
- Sweet Peppers
- Chilli Peppers
- Ground cherry/ Cape Gooseberry
Of course, you might grow a range of other fruits too – you can try some strawberries or other soft fruits. And you can even try fruit trees like citrus trees or figs if you have a light and bright enough location inside your home.
Creating the Right Conditions for an Indoors Veg Garden
Remember, a successful gardener matches the needs of specific plants to the conditions provided, and selects the right plants for the right places.
Creating the right conditions for an indoor vegetable garden means considering:
- Light levels – most veg needs at least 6-8 hrs of sunlight per day, some need a lot more.
- Temperatures – most of the vegetables listed above will like temperatures between 15 and 21 degrees Celsius – some in the final category will love more heat.
- Humidity – household humidity levels can be a little low in winter. But if you can keep humidity between 40 and 50%, this should be fine for most edible plants grown indoors.
- Growing medium/ potting mix – for my vegetables, I use a homemade mix of 1/3 homemade compost, 1/3 loam, and 1/3 leaf mold. But any good quality, peat-free, multi-purpose potting mix will do just fine.
- Moisture levels/ Irrigation or watering – think about irrigation or watering when planning your garden and use rainwater to water your indoor garden whenever possible. Most veg likes moist but free draining conditions.
Maintaining an Indoor Vegetable Garden
Once you have established your area for growing vegetables indoors, you will need to think about how you maintain it over time.
We will need to:
- Water your vegetable crops growing indoors.
- Feed plants with organic, liquid plant feed to give them a boost and improve yields.
- Look out for indoor pests – sap-suckers like whitefly and aphids, mealybugs, vine weevils, etc…
- Monitor your vegetables for signs of environmental problems or diseases.
- Harvest your veg after all your efforts.
In some cases, you can begin harvesting the first of your home-grown produce in just 4-6 weeks, perhaps even more quickly with micro-greens or sprouted seeds.