Lack of yard space doesn’t mean you can’t start a fresh vegetable garden. Artificial lights allow anyone to grow vegetables indoors, even those without a yard. All you have to do is learn how to build an indoor vegetable garden with containers and grow lights, which isn’t as hard as you might assume!
Learn Which Vegetables Can Grow Well Indoors
Most vegetable plants require at least six to eight hours of full sun each day. This amount of sunlight is necessary for plants to grow, flower and set fruit. You can look through your house to find the sunniest spot to set up your indoor garden. Natural sunlight will reduce how much time you need to run the artificial lights.
But if your space doesn’t have any sunlight, no worries. Your plants can still enjoy full growth provided with sufficient grow lights.
We all know that plants require moisture! Dry soil and growing plants don’t go well together. Since it hopefully doesn’t rain in your house, you need to water on a regular basis. Indoor conditions are drier than outdoors, so you will want to check daily.
Plants also love some humidity. Humidity is natural outside, but you have to recreate it inside. One method is to set your pots on a tray with stones and water. Doing so maintains a level of humidity around your plants.
Vegetables that Grow Well Indoors
All plants can grow inside, but some do much better than others. Here are some of the top choices.
- Broccoli: Many people have trouble growing broccoli. It has a reputation for being complicated. You can also try any other cruciferous veggie such as cauliflower and cabbage.
- Herbs: Herbs don’t qualify as a vegetable, but they add to your culinary dishes. Almost all herbs do well indoors. Some don’t even require grow lights!
- Beans: You want to plant bush beans rather than the pole beans. Bush beans won’t require any stakes or vertical space.
- Salad Greens: If you want fresh salad greens all year round, growing indoors or in a hot box outside are your only choices.
- Garlic Scapes: Garlic scapes are easier to grow indoors than typical garlic. You can try garlic, but you will probably have better luck with scapes!
- Carrots: Root veggies do well indoors, so long as you use rich soil that is fluffy. Rocky soil disrupts the growth of root veggies. Make sure you select a deep pot.
- Mushrooms: Do you have a cool basement, closet or storage room? If so, you can grow mushrooms! While you can plant mushrooms from spores, a growing kit makes the process easier.
- Radishes: Radishes are fast growing. Some varieties are ready in less than three weeks. Radishes don’t require as much root space as carrots, and they are a great addition to those salad greens.
Leafy vegetables, such as spinach and lettuce, grow well indoors, along with smaller plants. Plants that tolerate lower temperatures are also an excellent choice.
Plants that need to flower to produce fruit, such as tomatoes and peppers, may have a harder time inside. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try them! It will be trial and error. Flowering requires more light and heat, so it tends to be most costly. If you create the right setup, cucumbers will even grow inside under artificial lights!
What About Fruits?
You can grow fruit indoors as well! Strawberry plants do fine in containers. You can even grow dwarf, fruit trees indoors. Lemon and orange trees require two, so they can cross-pollinate. Make sure to transfer pollen from the flowers on one tree to the other tree.
What You Need to Grow Vegetables Indoors
- Vegetable seeds or starter plants
- Grow lights
- Potting Mix
Step-by-step instructions for growing vegetables indoors
1. Select the Vegetables:
As we mentioned above, not all plants grow well indoors. Make sure that you group them according to their light and moisture, along with their future sizes. This guide gives a handy look at home vegetables with respective light requirements.
2. Find the Best Containers:
You could use traditional planters and pots, but plastic storage tubs, boxes, crates and other items work just as well! Whatever container you select, there should be drainage holes. Make sure you pay attention to what you plant needs. Some plants require large containers than others.
For example, leafy vegetables and herbs do great in 4-inch pots. Smaller tomato varieties might need one to two-gallon containers. Larger plants, such as Brandywine tomatoes, would require a five-gallon container.
3. Pick the Right Grow Lights:
Not all lights are the same. Plants respond to different color lights. Typically, grow lights sold on the market are either red (yellow) or blue (white).
- Blue lights encourage compact, bushy growth.
- Red lights help the plants create blooms. Orange and red lights tend to generate more heat.
There are also several different types of grow lights aside from their colors. The lights vary in price and how well they perform. Most grow lights need hung from your ceiling or attached to your wall. Decide the setup you want to create, which will make picking the lights easier.
a. Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFL)
These are the most available choice that works well for any indoor garden, but CFLs are not efficient compared to other lights. The biggest selling points of CFLs are their inexpensive price, low-heat, small design, which can fit any space, You can use CFLs to grow all green veggies, seedlings but when it comes to growing fruit plants, CFL bulbs are underpowered.
b. Fluorescent Tubes:
Fluorescent lights are easy to install and energy efficient, running on the blue end of the light spectrum. When you are starting either seeds or leafy greens, fluorescent lights are a good choice. You don’t have to worry about them generating too much heat, so place them just above your plants. There are the T5s, T8s, and T12s fluorescent tubes on the market. But among them, the T5s are the most popular used and most efficient as well. So if you look for a fluorescent lamp, always opt for the T5 grow lights.
c. High-Intensity Discharge Lights
High-Intensity Discharge (HID) bulbs are a type of light that contain gases inside their tubes to generate lights. These light types are very popular in commercial greenhouses because of their high light output per wattage consumption. There are two types of HID lights – HPS (High-Pressure Sodium), and MH (Metal Halide). HPS bulbs are very strong at red wavelengths, so are great for growing either vegetables or fruits. However, they produce extreme heat, which prevents lots of indoor hobbyists from using them. MH bulbs are used for growing vegetables as they produce mainly blueish light colors.
d. LED Grow Lights
Full-spectrum Led Grow Lights are light-efficient, low in heat, durable but they are not cheap
Nowadays, lots of gardeners love to use LED lights to grow plants. LED lamps are low in heat, easy to hang where you need, and best of all they have the highest light efficiency compared to other grow light technologies. Most modern LED grow lights sold are full-spectrum, meaning that they produce both blue and red spectrum wavelengths which help balance your plants’ growth. However, they are not a small investment in the first place. Consider this if budget is your top criteria.
e. Quick Tips
If you just get started, pick some CFL bulbs, or T5 lights. These are inexpensive, easy to start and produce little heat. If you can spend, full-spectrum LED grow lights are your best option, which can generate stable light output and last your indoor garden for several years.
4. Arrange Your Plants
If you are starting seeds, put them into their appropriate containers and cover with soil. For those using starter plants, you get to skip that step! Make sure you carefully transplant the starter plant into its new containers (which should be cleaned before). Surround the plant with soil and make sure to mark what it is!
5. Fix the Grow Light Setup
Your plants need to be under or around your grow light. Add a timer to your setup, which ensures you can come and go as you want while your plants get the appropriate amount of light. Your lights do need to turn off to encourage your plant’s correct growth!
The lights should be on adjustable chains because you will need to move your plants higher as the plants grow. In the beginning, the lights should be close to the soil. By the time you harvest, you need to move the lights up a few feet, depending on the plants. Your lights should stay on 24 hours a day until the seeds germinate.
6. Water and Maintain
All plants need to be maintained! Check your plants each day to determine which ones need more water. You will also want to add fertilizer as needed. Make sure you read the directions, so you don’t over fertilize the plants. Too much fertilizer can burn your plants.
Since your plants are inside, you have to worry about pollination. This step doesn’t matter for leafy vegetables, but it does matter for tomatoes and peppers. The process is easy, but cannot be forgotten. Take a cotton swab and dab around each flower. Take pollen from one to another plant. In nature, birds, bees, and the wind do this for you.
Keep track of when you planted your vegetables. Soon, you will be able to harvest your veggies once they are ripe. Make sure that you harvest once it is ripe because it encourages your plant to produce more and larger fruit!
Apartment dwellers or urban homesteaders, dreaming of a small garden, may want to try growing vegetable plants indoors. Doing so gives you the chance to have homegrown produce or have fresh produce during the winter. Figuring out how to grow vegetables indoors under artificial lights is easy! Once you have the plants and correct lights, everything else is a breeze. Remember to water regularly and fertilize as necessary.
Max writes about Hydroponics and indoor gardening. He believes anyone can grow their own food regardless of the spaces & seasons and aspires to help people to do so. You can visit his blog at Green and Vibrant to learn more about him.