6 Essential Tips For Growing Your Own Food Inside
Extend the gardening season and grow your own culinary container gardens indoors
It's getting cold so check out our hot tips to have a successful indoor garden of fresh herbs and vegetables! You can grow your own ingredients inside through the winter, or at any time of year in the comfort of your own home.
You probably have a 5-gallon bucket kicking around in the garage, but most containers will do as long as there are holes in the bottom for excess water to drain through. Your vessel should also be food-safe (avoid paint or chemical containers). Find a plastic or metal saucer to catch excess water (and avoid damaging your surface).
We recommend organic potting mix because after all, you are what you eat! Fox Farm is great, available on Amazon. Potting mix is preferred over garden soil from outside because the mix is made to drain and breathe effectively in pots. Additionally, with fresh soil you know you have the ideal nutrients in your container garden.
First, fill your container with a couple inches of stones or clay pebbles for drainage. Next, fill up with soil as close to the brim as possible & water until damp. If soil settles, add ½"-1” more on the top. If seeds sprout too low in the container they won't have enough light. Gently pat down so the top is smooth and even.
Plant your Container Seedsheet, seed-side-down directly on top of the smooth soil surface and gently press down before securing the stakes in pre-perforated holes. Water with a watering can over the film pouches and watch as they begin to dissolve. Water again, watching the film shrivel up and disintegrate. Continue watering until the soil contained inside of the pouches is visibly saturated. Remember, seeds need moisture to sprout! Water daily until each plant sprouts.
LIGHT + TEMPERATURE
Most herbs and vegetables will do well with a comfortable indoor temperature (65F-75F). Avoid a 3-season room because herbs (such as basil) wont survive cold night temperatures. If you’re growing in winter months with shorter days, plants will need a spot with a full-sun, south-facing window to get the most direct light possible (6+ hours, the more the better). Do you have a sunroom? Put that “greenhouse” space to work growing fresh ingredients all year round!
Without a sunny windowsill or year-round sunroom/greenhouse, you still have options! We use this LED plant light to grow indoors. LED bulbs use very little energy, don’t get hot like fluorescent bulbs, and last longer than other lights. These can be used to grow anything from salad greens to tomatoes. Add a timer to make the lights turn on and off automatically.
When using a grow light, start with the light hanging low, ~4 inches away from the sprouted seedlings. As the plants grow taller, move the light up so the plants don't come into contact with the bulb. If plants look tall, thin and spindly, the light may be too far away. In this case, you can also drape the area with reflective material (such as space paper) to contain the light given off by the bulb.
Herbs and veggies need daily watering, especially if the space is warm and dry. Use a watering can to evenly disperse water. Be careful not to dislodge soil or seeds especially at first when seeds are sprouting.
Always check the surface of the soil first first. If dry, water! If your indoor garden isn't drying out quickly, then switch to watering every other day. Once seedlings are a few inches tall, they will be taking up more water and need a greater amount each time.
Container gardens love fertilizer! It is beneficial to give your plants a boost, especially when their nutrients are limited by the contents of the growing container (another reason to start with a good potting-soil). Fertilize seedlings either on a weekly basis (organic liquid fertilizer diluted in a watering can or spray bottle) or every 2-3 weeks with organic granular fertilizer. Remember; you are what you eat, keep it organic.
We use both liquid and granular fertilizer. The pros with liquid fertilizer, is that it is easy to apply at a diluted concentration through a spray bottle. The nutrients in a liquid form can be absorbed by the plants' leaves, not just through the roots. However, organic liquid fertilizer (the fish emulsion linked above) can give off an unpleasant odor until it dissipates (re: fishmarket).
With a solid/granular fertilizer, the smell is negligible, and it is a slow-release substance. You simply place the granules at the base of each plant and every time the garden is watered, nutrients will seep into the soil.
Make sure to ALWAYS read the instructions on fertilizer packaging to know exactly how much to apply. There is such thing as too much, which will burn the plants.
Insect pests are mostly a nuisance in outdoor gardens, but can sometimes make an appearance indoors as well. The first preventative measure here is to use a good quality, fresh, organic potting soil as referenced above. Outdoor soil or reusing soil can be contaminated with larvae.
If you find yourself with some insect pests around, make an all-natural insecticide spray by combining a few drops of dish soap in a spray bottle and spray the plants to coat the leaves. Adding powdered cayenne pepper to this soapy treatment is also effective.
Mold is another common issue with indoor growing. Fungal growth is more likely to develop with excess moisture and lack of airflow. Make sure you have good air circulation around your garden. If using an LED light, these usually have fans built in which help move air around. Always remove affected parts of the plants to contain the spread and you'll be good to grow!