Growing Vegetables Indoors

Indoor herb garden with herbs grown in terracotta pots

Try growing food indoors if you’re unable to plant outdoors, whether due to a lack of outdoor growing space or weather challenges. While it’s not as simple as just putting a planter beside a window, indoor growing can be made easier if you select the right plants to grow.

Benefits to Growing Indoors

First, here are some benefits to growing indoors:

  1. Having homegrown food to eat over the winter
  2. Honing your growing skills indoors before moving outdoors in the spring
  3. Incorporating some greenery indoors
  4. Having an earlier start to the growing season by starting seeds indoors and transplanting outdoors when the weather allows

Differences Between Gardening Indoors Versus Outdoors

However, there are challenges to growing plants indoors as it’s not a natural growing environment for plants and there are no natural balances, meaning that everything is dependent on you as the gardener. Briefly, here are a few of the main differences between gardening indoors versus outdoors.

Light Energy Levels

There is substantially lower light energy indoors, even in south-facing windows. This is partially a factor of the time of the season when many people grow vegetables indoors – during the darker winter months – but it’s primarily because most energy from the sun is filtered out by modern windows. These limitations force you to only grow low-light vegetable plants unless you invest in grow-lights.

Water Usage, Humidity, and Evaporation Levels

Water levels are probably the trickiest factor when growing plants indoors. Indoor humidity levels tend to be lower than outdoor levels, particularly during the winter. Given that most plants prefer humidity, this suggests that you need to water plants more often. However, water in potted plants is less able to percolate away from plant roots, meaning that you can’t overwater your plants or they may drown the roots and promote the growth of algae in your soil. Thus, watering is a very fine balance and, as the indoor gardener, you should test the soil regularly with your finger at root level before you water. Over time, you’ll learn to correlate the watering versus plant growth rates, but in the interim, test the soil every couple of days before you water.

Soil Types

Indoor soil is much more sterile since plants are grown in potting mix, which lacks the soil activities (microorganisms, water percolation, etc.) that provide balance for plants growing outdoors. In fact, indoor soil is not soil at all – it’s a mixture of peat moss, coir, bark, perlite, and slow-release fertilizer granules.

With the above variables in mind, try to choose vegetable plants that can withstand less sunlight, damp soil, and very lightweight soil. More practically, avoid anything where you eat the fruits and roots and anything that grows tall. Your best bets are herbs and leafy greens!