The end of your outdoor growing season doesn’t have to mark the end of harvesting fresh vegetables from your garden! No matter where you reside, you could try your hand at growing food inside during the off months with any of the EarthBox® gardening systems. Yes, it is possible to grow some fruits and vegetables indoors, but you should not expect the large yields you normally get from growing outside. If you have the space and the ambition to grow inside, go for it! Read on to see our tips, challenges, and recommendations for indoor container gardening.
Indoor Growing Tips
By using the EarthBox® gardening system to grow indoors, you are able to maintain control of the environment in which your plants grow.
Follow these tips to make the most of your indoor garden:
- Start with a clean gardening system. Thoroughly clean one of your existing systems or set up a new one. If you are growing in an indoor utility space like a garage, enclosed porch, or mudroom, you may opt to replant an established gardening system, since potential pests may not be a nuisance in these areas.
- Use brand new, sterile growing media. Using old growing media could bring hidden pests or larvae indoors that may emerge unexpectedly.
- Sunny windows do not make a good light source for anything more than houseplants. If fruit and veggies are what you’re after, these plants need long hours of consistent light for energy. Windows are often protected with UV treatments or blinds, and probably don’t receive more than just a couple hours of direct sunlight.
- Use grow lights and be mindful of the artificial lighting you supply for your plants. Full-spectrum grow lights mimic natural sunlight but may not provide an even spectral distribution to your growing vegetables. It’s better to use the correct grow light based on the type of plant you are growing.
- Red or violet colored lights enhance flowering, budding, and fruiting; and are excellent for tomatoes and other fruit plants.
- Blue colored lights enhance vegetative growth and are ideal for leafy crops. Fluorescent lighting is an inexpensive option that provides blue light.
- Connect grow lights to a timer. This will ensure the plant consistently receives enough light according to its instructions, and you won’t have to remember to turn the light on and off. Use our growing guides to find the light requirements for your plants.
- Using casters will allow you to easily rotate and move your plants if necessary.
- Elevating the system on a bench or with the garden stand will help keep curious pets from bothering plants.
- Be mindful of placement. Keep plants away from a drafty door or window where they are subjected to cold air. Likewise, placing them too close to a heater or vent can dry them out.
- Give plants some breathing room to prevent mold and mildew. Prune regularly to remove dead and diseased foliage. Keep the air in the growing area well circulated by keeping vents open and unobstructed. Humidity should be maintained around 40-50%.
- Maintain temperatures in your growing area according to plants’ needs.
- Keep your growing area clean and free of debris. Pick up fallen leaves, wipe any spills, and clean up any growing media that didn’t makes its way into the container when planting.
Challenges Growing Indoors
The two main challenges with growing inside are:
- Lack of pollination
Without exposure to the outdoors, your plants will be lacking in beneficial insects and wind. Beneficial insects, such as bees, help by moving pollen between flowers; and breezes move and shake plants, which also helps to distribute pollen.
- Limited lighting
Light is crucial for plants to grow and develop properly. Through photosynthesis, plants transform light into energy, and without it they cannot grow. Fruit plants, like tomatoes and peppers, need a lot of energy to produce flowers.
As with any plant grown outside, you also run the risk of your indoor plants becoming infested with problematic insects like aphids, fungus gnats, and mites; or infected with diseases such as powdery mildew and various molds.
You can overcome these difficulties if you pollinate flowers by hand, provide supplemental lighting, allow for air circulation, and keep your indoor growing area clean and uncluttered. Keep a close eye on your plants and monitor them daily by inspecting leaves and stems for early signs of pests and disease.
Best Crops to Grow Indoors
Many of us would like to harvest tomatoes year-round; and while they are challenging to grow indoors, it is possible with some patience and proper planning.
Choose a determinate variety for containers, usually labeled as a patio tomato or dwarf type. Invest in a quality grow light and connect it to a timer so the plant receives 8-10 hours of consistent light. You will also need a staking system to support the plants (the staking system is also a great way to hang the grow light, too).
Spinach & Salad Greens
Leafy greens will produce continually and abundantly indoors, providing you with fresh veggies for quite some time. Cutting back greens regularly will yield new growth, so you can enjoy harvesting for quite some time.
Fresh herbs are expensive to buy at the grocery store but are easy to grow at home. The EarthBox® Junior is small enough for your kitchen counter, and is perfect for growing three or four of your favorite herbs.
To create an indoor herb garden, keep plants with similar needs and growth grouped together. Herbs tend to fall into three category types: delicate (chives, parsley, dill), woody (rosemary, thyme, oregano), and bushy (basil, lemon balm, sage). Regular trimming for use in cooking will keep herb plants manageable.
Better Off Outside
It might be tempting to push the limits and see what you can grow indoors, but you should remember that some plants need a lot of space to grow and can become overgrown and messy. These are the plants that you should try to reserve for outdoor growing:
- Indeterminate tomato varieties
- Pumpkins and gourds
- Squash (both winter and summer varieties)
By choosing the right type of plants, having the right tools, and with proper care you should be able to grow a successful indoor garden and enjoy harvesting year-round.
Tell Us in the Comments: What type of fruit or vegetable plants have you tried growing inside?