The holidays are here again. This year of Covid has been a hard year for…
This is a difficult time in the world. Our health and food security are being tested like never before. Whole communities are on lockdown. The supermarkets that are open have shortages and long lines. It is a perfect time to start an indoor garden for food security.
Indoor gardening will also give the housebound family fun activity with great long term benefits.
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So how do you start an indoor garden, an overview
- The first thing to decide is what you want to grow. The best way to determine this is to think about what you traditionally purchase at the market. There is no sense growing broccoli if your family never eats broccoli.
- Second, you should give consideration to space. Most vegetables can be grown in very little space. An 8″ pot will be fine for many things like greens, beets, onions, peppers, herbs, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts.
- Lighting needs to be considered. If you have a nice south-facing window you can grow lots of things without using grow lighting. If you want to use a space with little or no natural light then you will need to use one of the many grow light options available.
- Soil or potting mix is an important choice. There are many options available many of which are premixed and ready to use. These can be the easiest to use when you are getting started.
- The last thing to think about is time to harvest. It is a great idea to include quick-growing vegetables in your garden. These are things like radishes, lettuces, spinach, and other greens, also carrots and green onions.
Let take a deeper look
What to grow in your indoor garden
You can grow just about anything indoors even if you have only a small space. So start by making a list of the things you typically purchase are the grocery store or market.
- Lettuce and other greens for salads and sandwiches
- Tomatoes for salads and sandwiches
- Green beans
After you make your list prioritize your most used or favorites. This will help because most of us have limited space.
Space can be an issue indoors
Most of us have seen beautiful farms with lust fields of vegetables. With that picture in mind, it might be difficult to envision being about to grow food indoors.
Here is celery growing at a farm.
Here are two celery plants growing in my kitchen. They help to add a pretty touch and give me all the celery I could need.
When you break it down most vegetables don’t take up that much room. Part of the space breaks down is about the number of plants you need.
Let us take tomatoes
I love tomatoes. They are about the biggest vegetable that I or most grow indoors. When I plant tomatoes outside or in my greenhouse I plant many plants because I am using them for sauces, not just daily use.
When I plant tomatoes indoors I plant one heirloom tomato and one cherry. On average one tomato plant will yield you 8 large tomatoes per week. One cherry tomato plant will yield about 2 pounds of fruit per week. That’s plenty for my use!
Tomato plants grow pretty big. However, they grow tall not very wide. I grow tomatoes in a 5-gallon bucket. So this does not take up very much floor space. They do grow tall. Typically my plant will grow right to the ceiling. When they get that tall I encourage them to grow along the top of the window. Keep in mind that tomatoes are vines so this makes sense.
When you take a look at them you will find that tomatoes take very little floor space and yield you lots of fresh food.
Lettuces and greens
I have an eight-foot window that I look to use for greens. I can easily grow 30 plants in front of that window. The indoor window box garden is 8′ long and 1′ wide. That hardly takes up any room.
Think the size of one plant with anything you want to grow and you will find that you have much more space to grow your own food than you thought.
Lighting for your indoor garden
Lighting can be confusing. Please visit my other articles for lots of specific details.
We will just hit the basics.
Most of your vegetables will need about 8 hours of light. A good south-facing window can be great for smaller vegetables. Some of the bigger fruiting plants will need more intense lighting. Luckily grow lights are easy to find at most retail stores and online. There are lots of sizes and shapes to fit almost any space. My favorite is the one foot LED light bars. They are very versatile and usually cost under $12.
It is important to know the bright lights are not always grow lights. Putting your plants under a really bright light will not help them grow if the light it produces is not in the right spectrum. Please read more about grow lights here.
Now you know what you want to grow, where you will grow and how to light your indoor garden.
So what kind of soil do you plant your indoor garden in?
I would recommend that if you are new at indoor gardening to start with one of the many premixed potting mixes that are available online or in retail stores.
Don’t get to overwhelmed by all the different types. I have never seen the need to purchase special seed starters. It just complicates things with no great benefits. Get a general potting mixture. These are good for most of your indoor garden needs.
Don’t use outdoor mixes or soil from your yard. These are too heavy and will not drain well in containers.
As your plants grow I add a thin layer of compost on the top. This will add nutrients as you water. You can use your own very well seasoned compost or purchase organic compost. I find this the best way to naturally fertilize your vegetables without much effort.
Check out more about potting mixture here
Get ready to harvest!
Some vegetables have time to harvest of as little as 30 days. Most can be harvested within 60 days. That may seem like a long time given the current food security crisis however if you start now you will be in a great position in a couple of months.
If you have never gardened before you will be happily surprised how with just a little effort you can grow lots of fresh vegetables.
The ability to grow fresh vegetables will help guarantee you and your family will have food security regardless of what is happening in the world.
The USDA has much more information about the food security.
Have fun with your indoor garden and be safe and secure!