How To Winter Garden

Don’t Stop Gardening Because Of Winter!

Gardening doesn’t have to stop because the weather changes. If you want to continue to grow delicious healthy produce when the cold winters return, it is still possible by growing an indoor garden. You can take your gardening skills to new heights by growing plants above ground and inside. There are a number of ways you can create an ideal environment for vegetable growing using indoor containers such as pots, boxes, baskets, or essentially any container. Pick a sunny location and get creative, plus indoor gardening can minimize the risk of the inhibiting problem of infested soil, pest infestations, and plant diseases. With a little planning you can enjoy fresh greens, and other tasty vegetables fresh from your indoor garden.


How To Start An Indoor Vegetable Garden

Before you start an indoor vegetable garden, you must plan and take some things into consideration. You will have to ensure the proper growing conditions for every type of vegetables and herbs you want to grow in order to have a successful garden. Indoor vegetable plants do not yield as much fruit as when you plant outdoors, but you will no doubt grow enough to satisfy the fresh produce cravings that you miss when summer ends. Pick a convenient and bright spot in your house for your garden, choose the type of plants you want to grow, consider temperature needs, air flow, and humidity, and think about how you want your garden to look. Whether you want just a few plants or want to dedicate a whole room to gardening, with a little knowledge on how to start an indoor garden you can grow your own tasty vegetables or make your own fabulous garden room a paradise reality. No matter how big or small you decide to make your garden, there are fundamental things that need to be taken into consideration.


Vegetable Garden Tips

Space

We are all familiar with the idea of growing common house plants or herbs indoors, but they are not the only plants that can be grown inside. If you miss the delicious fresh greens that your summer garden produces, consider growing a vegetable garden inside and provide your family with a wealth of healthy foods all year round. Vegetable gardens do not have to take up much space if you are limited, window sills, counter tops, or tables would work fine. All kinds of plants including tomatoes can be grown on a windowsill or on a counter or table top. If you want to grow a bigger garden, you can set up tables or benches that are designed specifically for gardening. You can also dedicate a whole room to your garden area and plant a variety of vegetables, fruits, and use variegated plants and flowers as accents. If you like this idea, you can design a whole room using lots of luxurious textures and colors to evoke a theme you desire while it meets your every need. You can set up an indoor garden using windowsills in your kitchen, in a spare bedroom, an attic, or a basement. You can start small with just a few herbs and enjoy them all year round, you can get a head start on your outdoor garden and grow vegetable seedlings, or you can go the whole nine yards and grow fruits and vegetable to enjoy all year round, it just depends on what your motivations are.


Preparation

Set up your area; ideally, creating your indoor garden should be done in a room that is not carpeted or that does not have wood floors. The best flooring for an indoor garden area should be ceramic, slate or linoleum, but if that is not possible you can place a tarp or plastic floor mats down to catch any water that may seep through your containers and potentially damage your floors. I personally use plastic mats in my garden area because excess water cleans up is easy. Consider how big your plants are going to get and how much room you will need. Set up your tables, raised or elevated garden bed tables, garden trolleys, benches, and/or shelves and wall shelves. Decide on the type of pots and containers you want to use, whether you are going to use a vertical garden design, whether you are going to use hydroponic methods (growing plants without soil), or whether you are going to blend methods. Choose an area in your house where no pets or other visiting animals can disturb your garden.

Light

Indoor gardening is the best solution to yield crops of delicious vegetables and fruits through the fall and winter months. Most vegetables and other plants do best with 14-16 hours of sunlight because plants need light to photosynthesize and need to photosynthesize to survive. Plants grown near windows in the winter months will probably not get enough light to thrive and without adequate light, plants do not become hardy and do not produce flowers or fruit. In order to ensure that your plants get enough light, you will want to invest in grow lights. It is important to do some research and select the right type of grow lights for your indoor garden. For herbs and plants that do not require a lot of light, fluorescent lights work best. Compact Fluorescent Systems are smaller, produce less heat, and are more efficient than older forms of fluorescent lighting so they can be used for all plants. High Intensity Discharge (HID) Bulbs are the brightest and the most efficient lights available but they are not light on the pocket book. High Pressure Sodium (HPS) Bulbs are economical. They produce a red-orange light that benefits flowering, but you will need to use more than one and it does not produce light in the blue spectrum needed for leafy growth. The Metal Halide (MH) Bulbs are good to start plants out because they produce a blue-white color that is conducive to encouraging leafy growth but when it comes time to flower, you will need to switch to a High Pressure Sodium bulb. You will have to determine what size grow lights you will need, whether you want to mount them, and how far above your plants they need to be.


Temperature

Most plants thrive in temperatures between 65-82°F. You do not want your plants to be too hot, this will cause them to be small and weak. If your plants are too cold, there leaves may become yellow and fall off.  Cold winter conditions have become more of an issue both day and night with temperature fluctuations, the most common scenario being temperatures crashing overnight where your rooms become colder and inflicting mild cold injuries on sensitive plants. Symptoms include slight wilting, leaf curling, discoloration or a water-soaked appearance with spots of damaged and discolored tissues. Extreme high temperatures pose a different set of problems. Plants that are too hot lose water and damage roots, and leaves and plants become stagnate (stop growing). You can design your indoor garden by keeping your local climate in mind, ensuring your room is properly insulated to minimize temperature increases or decreases, and by using heat mats, they are perfect to heat flats, maintaining even temperature conditions, are water proof, and are eco-friendly. You can also use premium LED grow lights, they are energy efficient, have exceptional heat dissipation capabilities, will keep your growing area safe and temperature controlled, and will boost growth of all your plants.


Humidity

Winter is a time where the air becomes very dry. You will want to add a humidifier on a timer to add some additional humidity to your indoor garden room. With most homes having central heating and air conditioning, humidity levels are typically hovering around 10 to 20 percent where the ideal humidity level should average 50 percent or higher. Maintaining a sufficient level of moisture in the air prevents leaf drop and brown tips on your plants. You can keep an eye on your humidity levels by using a hygrometer. *If you are using a warm mist humidifying, keep it out of reach of children and away from pets.


Growing Medium

You should not use outside dirt in your indoor gardens. It is often too heavy and may contain weed seeds and insect pests. You will need to use a good medium that is specific for indoor plants and remains loose and drain well, yet contain enough organic matter to hold nutrients and moisture. You can find commercial organic mixes that will work well or create your own mixture. Self-made indoor garden soil mix will feed your plants for years to come, allowing you to have access to vegetables and herbs all year round. Try mixing organic potting soil with you own compost mixture. Mix equal parts of commercial potting soil, compost, and sand. Mix them completely before putting them in your indoor potting containers so you do not get layered soil.


 Watering

Indoor plants do not go through as much water as outdoor plants. You should always check your indoor plants regularly at least once a week and only water the plants that need water at that time. By raising your humidity levels, plants will need less water also. Each species of plant has its own specific watering requirements, and giving plants too much water can spell disaster. Make sure all your plants have water catch trays underneath them to catch the excess water and this will also protect your floor from water damage and to ensure proper drainage. Make sure all your containers have drainage holes at the bottom, this will help to eliminate excessive watering, diseases, and root rot caused from over watering. The roots of plants that are waterlogged or over-watered cannot absorb oxygen properly and root fibers will die. Signs of over-watering include dry, brown discoloration appearing between the leaf veins and along the edges. These leaves will eventually die and fall off. Your plants will also be susceptible to pests, bacterial diseases and fungal infections. The stems and roots will be soft, break easily, and tips will turn brown. The foliage will begins to dull and turn yellow. Both over-watered plant and under-watered plants develop wilted, discolored leaves that can fall from the plant, but under-watering causes dry brittle leaves where over-watering causes plants to look limp in appearance. Try using a plant automatic drip watering system, it is the perfect solution for maintaining even watering conditions.


Best Vegetables and Fruits to Grow Indoors

There are many small compact varieties of vegetables that can be grown indoors, including lettuce, radishes, carrots, peppers, green beans, peas, and tomatoes. Indoor plants require less fertilizer than outdoor plants and they will grow more slowly indoors. Because the winter months do not provide as much sun, extra lighting will encourage fruiting in tomatoes, peppers, and other fruiting plants. Microgreens are a great indoor growing option, you can use a seed mix of mesclun, kale, Swiss chard, basil, radish and dill. Sprinkle your seeds in a shallow tray of your potting mix and cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil. Mist the soil with a spray bottle and place the tray in a nice sunny spot. Keep your tray moist by spraying daily. Herbs are a welcome addition to any indoor garden. Plant chives, parsley cilantro, and other herbs in small indoor containers and enjoy fresh flavoring in all your favorite recipes. You can grow small potted fruit frees and bushes indoors in a sunny area and they will produce fruit. Try growing peaches, apricots, mulberries, blueberries. You can also grow dwarf citrus trees including lemon, limes, oranges and mandarin oranges. Strawberries grow really well indoors and if you have a trellis you can even try growing cucumbers, grapes, and raspberries. You can grow an avocado tree from an avocado pit which will yield edible fruit. Pineapples are fun to grow and easy to grow indoors. Choose a pineapple that is evenly ripe and has healthy leaves, slice the crown off and remove the lower leaves exposing the bare stalk about an inch. Let the pineapple stalk dry for a few days. After a few days plant your pineapple in cactus soil about an inch deep and firm the soil around it. Use a spray bottle to moisten the dirt being careful not to over water it and place your plant in a sunny spot. Your pineapple tree should yield fruit in 2-3 years. Basically anything that you grow outdoors can be grown indoors with the proper lighting, feeding, watering and maintenance. Indoor plants like outdoor plants are susceptible to insect problems. Even though indoor gardening poses less pest problems than if your garden was outside, it is still important to check your plants regularly for pests.


Final Thoughts

Many vegetable will grow in conditions that are not perfect, but to get the best results out of your indoor gardens, here are a few general tips to help your plants produce their best crops:

  • The most important factor for any garden is choosing a location with lots of sun. Outdoor gardens require at least 6 to 8 hours of sun per day and indoor gardens are no different. If your location does not provide enough sun, it is important to use an indoor garden light to help your plants thrive.
  • Make sure your plants have adequately water. Your plants depend on you for all their watering needs. Homes often have dry air, so providing the right amount of moisture without over-watering the plants is vital. Check your vegetable and herb plants ever other day by sticking your finger into the top 1 to 2 inches of soil to check the moisture. If the soil feels dry, your plant needs water.
  • Provide high quality enriched soil for your indoor garden area. Do not use outside soil because it can be infested with pests.
  • All of your plants require well-draining soil, which means you will either need to use a pot with holes in the bottom or pile up some stones in the bottom of your pot before adding soil so the water drains through the stones and your plants do not become saturated or over-watered.
  • Follow plant spacing recommendations on your seed packets, and thin/prune your vegetables as needed so that they have adequate room to grow.
  • You can grow vegetable such as cucumbers, tomatoes, melons, and squash using a vertical support or trellises, this will also allow for space saving. Vegetables like that grow on vines can be trained to grow up and over a trellis.
  • Hanging planters are an awesome way to maximize limited space, it increases accessibility because plants are easy to reach, and getting plants up and off the ground improves air circulation.

    Health Benefits of Indoor Gardens

  • Research has found that indoor gardens do not only provide healthy nutritious foods, your plants are also improving the air quality in your home because they are lowering the levels of carbon dioxide and increase the levels of oxygen.
  • The risk of respiratory disorders, chronic headaches and eye irritation lessons with improved air quality.
  • Growing your own food reduces your risk of chemical ingestion which are found in produce from your local grocery store.
  • Indoor gardens have a lot less maintenance and plants are relatively safe from pests and disease.
  • Environmental psychologists have found that indoor gardens improve mental well-being and productivity levels.
  • Research has shown that taking care of plants improves levels of empathy and compassion.
  • Indoor gardening provides quality bonding experiences within a family unit.

    As you can see, indoor gardening provides us with unending benefits from physical, mental, to environmental health benefits. You can easily grow fresh vegetables, fruits, and beautiful flowers within your indoor garden and take advantage of all the benefits that your garden can offer. If you are a beginner, starting a garden indoors is a great option. You can start with a small garden to gain knowledge and experience, and I am confident that before long you will be indoor gardening on a larger scale.

What to leave a comment about your experience with indoor gardening? I would love to hear them, or you can leave me a comment to let me know if you have any questions about indoor gardening. Good luck and lets start planting!

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12 comments

  1. We have grown herbs inside our house for years. It’s nice to have fresh herbs around all year long. This is going to sound strange, but we live in Arizona, and we have an indoor garden in the summer! We do have growing seasons here all year long, for various fruits and veggies, but some things just won’t tolerate the heat. We have window boxes set up inside, so that we can grow during the summer months. I have not tried any fruit trees, and I was absolutely amazed that you can grow pineapples inside. That is something I really might have to try. There are so many supplies for indoor gardening, it seems like this is definitely a growing trend (no pun intended). Awesome article, very thorough, you have given me some great ideas for my indoor garden boxes.

    1. Hi Steve and Kris,

      I live in Wisconsin and garden outside every summer, but I have always grown herbs indoor too because we tend to have very hot day that completely fry the delicate leaves. I love growing vegetables and fruits indoors all year round and I also have an outside garden in the summer. My fruit trees seem to do much better inside even during summer so I only move them out for short periods mainly when it rains. I have a spare room that I have turned into a garden room and it is a lot of fun growing so many different things.

  2. I love gardens and i am so grateful you made this article on just how to grow a garden. Green represents life and I like to feed on a lot of veggies . Have always been looking for ways to learn how to grow my own garden at home. apparently your site will be helpful and that explains why I bookmarked it like I do for every other site i perceive will be helpful to me. Thanks so much for sharing.

    1. Hi Bonto,

      I am glad my site is helpful. I love gardening and love to eat fresh greens too. The benefits of growing your own foods are massive. You can garden in any type of space and I hope you try it, because there is nothing like picking and eating fresh produce that you have grown yourself.

  3. Thank you for sharing this highly informative post on indoor gardening. We are about to shift into winter season and I am looking into options to move my porch garden indoors. The only concern is that I have a carpeted house and I’m worried about water leaks and damage. I was considering growing veggies in my empty garage with a cement floor, but I might have to spend more $ on lighting and heat as a tradeoff. Thank you for your post!

    1. Hi Ciara,

      I just started moving in some of my plants also. I have a carpeted room where I garden so I put down thick rubber (waterproof) floor mats and also have water catch containers. The mats are easy to wipe up if water happens to seep through any of my plants, and they are fairly inexpensive.

  4. I’ve never considered indoor gardening before, but your article has made me really think about how I can incorporate it into my home. I have an outside vegetable patch which I’m just about to plant out, but the thought of growing vegetables all year round is very appealing. It was really interesting to read, particularly the pineapple idea! Thanks for the info!

    1. Hi Alison,

      Indoor gardening is really fun individually and for a whole family. Growing vegetables all year round is not only economical it is such a healthy alternative to produce packed with chemicals. I love making food and drinks by just going into the next room and picking vegetables and herbs. Pineapple takes a while to grow its fruit but the pay off is delicious so I hope you try it.

  5. Awesome article on indoor gardening. You’ve inspired my green thumb to try it. I’ve never had an indoor garden before but it sounds like it’s a growing trend that I will try. I’ve grown outdoor gardens before but never indoors. I’ll bet it’s not as easy as you make it sound or is it just that easy? Again, thanks for sharing this awesome article. You’ve given me a lot of good ideas.

    1. Hi Robert,

      If you have had an outdoor garden it is just that easy, because you already know what a garden needs. Pick a room with lots of sunlight or invest in grow lights. Indoor gardens have the benefits of water control and less pests. I found that because it is indoors, nature does not affect it as much (drought, heat, excessive sunlight, bug infestation etc.). Once you have a spot picked out and do some planning (how to and how much to water, temperature, and humidity), your spot or room will thrive. I am in the process of building more indoor garden beds and dedicating a whole room to winter gardening. I will always have an outside garden in the summer, but I will now always have an indoor garden too.

  6. I really enjoyed your site, very informative. I agree with you on most points but I have to disagree about the lighting. I would opt for LED grow lighting myself.

    What do you think of growing indoor citrus trees. I heard they can be grown indoors but also heard it would take them several years to bear fruit. Should I give it a try? If so, would cloning a tree work better or should I start from seeds?

    Thank you for the great article and I look forward to hearing your response.

    1. Hi Karl,

      I have a lime tree that I have been growing in my house for two years that I bought as a small two inch plant. This year it is loaded with fruit and I am patiently waiting for them to mature. I am going start a lemon and grapefruit tree from seedlings. One thing that is important to remember when starting from seeds is that seed-grown plants have genes from two parents and they may vary so you may get a completely new hybrid plant. Seedlings can also take up to 4 to 5 years before you see your first blossoms. If you want fruit sooner, I would get a citrus plant that is already started, if you don’t mind waiting, start with seeds, it all depends on what you want.

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