If you’re like me, you’re probably starting to get frustrated. Grocery shopping shouldn’t be so difficult, and it definitely shouldn’t be so expensive. Maybe you’ve noticed in the last year that it’s getting harder to buy good produce. Why not take your health into your own hands, and grow your own food this winter?
Whether you are a beginning gardener or a seasoned green thumb, you can easily grow the following 10 vegetables indoors: lettuce, radishes, carrots, herbs, green onions, potatoes, garlic, peppers, tomatoes, and microgreens. With several large container pots and a few well-placed grow lights, you can bring your garden indoors this winter.
Read on to learn about how to turn your home into a working farm year-round!
Advantages Of Growing Vegetables Indoors
If you’re intimidated by the thought of growing vegetables indoors, don’t be! Growing vegetables indoors is about as simple as caring for houseplants.
With an indoor grow setup, you decide what potting soil to grow your plants in, how much water they will receive, and what temperatures and humidity your plants will be exposed to. You can control how much light your plants receive and when.
For the gardener that wants to dial down their processes to perfection, indoor gardening is the way to go!
Fewer Diseases & Less Pressure From Pests
Most gardeners have accepted the fact that we’re all fighting a losing battle with pests and disease in the garden.
No matter how many precautions we take, no matter how much money we invest in fighting pests, there will always be a cabbage moth or aphid infestation. Growing indoors eliminates this problem – as your plants will be in a sterile environment.
Disadvantages Of Growing Vegetables Indoors
As with anything, there are always cons to balance out the pros. There are a few potential problems with growing vegetables indoors.
Many heat-loving annuals require a lot of light to mature before the end of the season. Depending on where your home is located (and which direction your windows face) your indoor vegetables may struggle to receive the lighting they need to produce food.
If natural lighting is a problem, invest in a grow light or choose vegetables that don’t require abundant sunlight (we have a few listed for you below – more on that later).
Pollination is an essential part of fruit production. As you likely don’t have a lot of bees or flies in your home, the lack of pollination would be a problem for vegetables like cucumbers or eggplant.
For your indoor vegetable garden, opt for leafy greens, root vegetables, or other self-pollinating plants.
10 Easy-To-Grow Vegetables That Thrive Indoors
While there are plenty of vegetables that can be grown indoors, I’ve rounded up the 10 vegetables that are easiest to grow in any hardiness zone.
1. Lettuce (& Other Salad Greens)
Lettuce may be the easiest vegetable to grow indoors. A cool-weather crop, lettuce prefers temperatures in the 60s Fahrenheit.
Your house probably isn’t that cold, but lettuce will do well sitting in a windowsill or even in a garage. Just remember to bring your lettuce plants inside if the temperature dips below 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
Don’t limit yourself to lettuce alone – spinach, kale, mustard, and arugula all grow in similar conditions. Buy seeds of your favorite varieties, and mix the seeds together to create a personalized salad greens mix!
To plant salad greens indoors, find a shallow container that is at least four inches deep. Fill almost full with pre-moistened potting soil (check out this article for instructions on how to make your own potting soil).
Make straight furrows a couple of inches apart. Sprinkle your seed mixture in the furrows and cover with a light layer of potting soil. Seeds will sprout in about a week.
For more information, check out my article on 12 fast-growing lettuce varieties (ready in 6 weeks or less!)
Microgreens are the original indoor crop! These fast-growing, nutritious vegetables are a fun project! Kids especially seem to love the process.
Growing microgreens is so easy, there’s no excuse not to try. Simply fill a seed tray most of the way with moist potting soil, and thickly sow whatever seed you’re using (radish, broccoli, sunflower, etc).
Cover the seeds with soil, and seedlings will appear in about a week! Harvest microgreens when the seedlings have two sets of true leaves.
Take a pair of clean scissors and cut the stems right above the soil. Enjoy your microgreens in a fresh salad, on a sandwich or wrap, or even as soup garnish!
Radishes are another excellent indoor crop, as they take up so little space. Fill a shallow container with several inches of soil, and multi-sow seeds in lines a couple of inches apart.
Sow radish seeds as thickly as you want (they germinate in 3 to 6 days). When you go to thin the radishes at a 1 inch spacing, save the discarded sprouts and enjoy them like microgreens!
You might be surprised to learn that carrots are a superb crop to grow inside! Carrot tops take up hardly any space, but you will want to choose a planting container that is at least a foot deep.
Carrots planted in potting soil often do better than carrots planted outside, since the roots have room to reach down and grow straight, long taproots. Carrots like sandy, smooth soil without rocks or debris – you can learn more in my article here.
Sow carrot seeds much like radishes – multi-sow the seeds in a few straight lines. When you go back to thin carrot seedlings, save the tops for salads!
5. Culinary Herbs
Foodies and chefs tend to keep their herbs close at hand. Potted perennial herbs like rosemary or sage can be grown outside during the warmer months and brought inside during winter.
Even annuals like oregano and basil can be grown outside in the summer, then potted up and brought inside before the first frost of the year.
6. Green Onions
Green onions, also known as scallions, can be grown indoors in a couple of different ways – via cuttings or seeds. The next time you cook with green onions, save your kitchen scraps.
The University of Nevada encourages this method for propagating vegetables like head lettuce, cabbage, bok choy, celery – and of course, green onion.
Cut off any leaves or stalks to about 1 inch. Place the base in a shallow bowl with just enough water to cover the base, about a half-inch.
It may be helpful to push a few toothpicks into the bottom to provide stability. Replace the water every few days and keep it indoors with full sun.¹
Alternatively, grow scallions from seed. Fill a well-draining container almost to the top with potting soil. Make a few furrows and sow seeds. Cover with a half-inch of soil and expect to harvest green onions in about six weeks.
If you have sprouted onions in the cupboard, you can try growing those – you can learn more in my article here.
We’ve all left a potato in the pantry for too long. Eventually, you find it, and there’s a bleached-out stem growing where there wasn’t anything before.
Potato plants grow from “eyes,” which are tiny growth nodes on the potato. Since you already have a pre-spouted potato, why not plant it? Check out this article on planting sprouted potatoes.
Potato plants grow from pieces of potatoes, but multiply several times in the ground. To grow potatoes indoors, be sure to choose the largest container you have available.
Fill with potting soil and add your potato pieces about six inches apart. Cover with soil.
You may need to add soil as the plant grows–potato roots that are exposed to light and air turn green and aren’t as tasty as potatoes that never see the light of day.
8. Garlic Greens
Maybe you’ve left a garlic clove a little too long, only to find that it started sprouting in your pantry. While you can’t grow full garlic bulbs indoors, you can grow garlic greens, which are harvested like green onions and taste similar.
If you have a clove that hasn’t sprouted yet, simply put the clove in a container of water until it sends up a green shoot. Transfer that clove to a container with potting soil, and you’ll have ready-to-grow garlic greens in about a week!
Keep sprouting and planting new cloves for multiple harvests of garlic greens.
9. Hot Peppers
You may not be aware, but hot peppers actually thrive indoors! Pot up your field peppers and bring them inside for the winter to prolong your pepper harvest.
Alternatively, start pepper seeds in seed trays and transplant them into a three-gallon pot. Peppers need temperatures of at least 70 degrees Fahrenheit to keep producing fruit, so keep the house as warm as you’d like!
Pepper plants are self-pollinating, so you pollination won’t be an issue with bring them indoors. You can, however, give your peppers a little extra help by shaking the plants or running a fan.
The airflow will help move pollen around, ensuring that beautiful fruits will develop.
Like peppers, tomatoes are self-pollinating warm-season plants that thrive indoors. Bring your field tomatoes inside come winter – unless your tomatoes have already contracted blight, a fungal disease that affects tomato and potato foliage.
If your tomato plants have discolored or rotten leaves, you’re better off just starting new tomatoes from seed. Start tomato seeds normally, and then transplant the seedlings in pairs into a three-gallon pot.
Use potting soil, and make sure the container drains well–tomatoes don’t like to sit in water. Once your tomato plants are about six inches tall you’ll want to stake them with a lattice or a wire tomato cage.
Put your tomato plants in an area of your home that gets at least 12 hours of sunlight, or use a grow light. If tomatoes don’t get at least 70-degree temperatures and adequate light, the plants will not fruit.
How To Grow Vegetables Indoors
Now that you know what vegetables you can grow indoors, let’s walk through how to grow vegetables inside.
For those of us that live in temperate climates and colder, it’s difficult to grow heat-loving annuals indoors in the winter due to a lack of natural light. If a west or south-facing window isn’t an option, Utah State University recommends:
Another option is to use inexpensive fluorescent lights placed approximately 6 inches from the plants. Incandescent bulbs should not be used since the wavelengths of the light they produce are not readily used by plants.²
You can mitigate this by investing in a grow light. Grow lights can be as cheap or expensive as your budget allows – but know that you get what you pay for.
Some grow lights look like floor lamps, and others are panels that hang from the ceiling. Just make sure to position the grow light at least a foot away from your plants, or you run the risk of scorching them.
Avoid keeping your grow lights on all the time – some plants are sensitive to day length, and they will not produce flowers without some darkness.
Heat mats are an excellent tool for germination. Usually resembling a rubber mat that works in conjunction with a thermostat, heat mats raise the soil temperature to an ideal range for seed germination.
Heat mats are especially useful for growing microgreens and succession plantings, where seed sowing requires a quick turnaround.
Maximize your indoor crops by taking advantage of the microclimates in your home. You likely have warm zones and cold zones, drafty places, and humid areas. Make your indoor crop plan with these factors in mind!
Lettuces and brassicas do well in cooler areas like window sills or mudrooms. Cool-season crops will do well in a garage or cellar too! Just be sure to use a grow light in areas that don’t have a window. You can easily program a grow light to run for x hours a day, making indoor drop cultivation that much easier.
Be sure to put your heat-lovers in the warmest areas of your home–in the kitchen, or near a fireplace or furnace. If natural lighting isn’t a reliable option, use artificial light–most heat lovers need at least 12 hours of light to produce fruit.
Why be at the mercy of a supermarket when you can grow your own gorgeous, delicious vegetables right at home? Now that you have the tools and knowledge you need to grow your own food, feel empowered to start growing!
Grow bags are one way to get started with growing indoors – to learn more, check out my article on the pros and cons.
If you have limited space to grow, you might also find it helpful to read my article on how to start a garden with no yard.
I hope you found this article helpful. If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.
¹Fisher, J. “Bring vegetable growing indoors this winter,” Reno Gazette Journal, 2018, https://extension.unr.edu/publication.aspx?PubID=2143.
²Beddes, Taun. “Ask an Expert: Five Tips for Indoor Gardening” Utah State University, Jan 29, 2016. https://extension.usu.edu/news_sections/gardening/indoor-gardening.
About the author:
When not writing content or growing flowers in her native Virginia, you can find Sarah hiking a long-distance trail deep in the woods. Follow along with Sarah’s adventures at http://sarahcolliecreative.com.