When the growing season ends, it’s often assumed that means you have to stop growing fresh crops until the next spring. For some, that makes sense. Maybe you want a break from tending to vegetables and want to spend the winter pursuing other interests. For others, though, it can be a disheartening time of year. If you fall into that category, why not try indoor winter gardening? Moving your vegetable garden indoors to have a winter harvest can be a bit of a challenge because of limited daylight, but it’s quite rewarding to have fresh salads you grew yourself all year long.
Moving your vegetable garden indoors for the colder months means that you get to enjoy a fresh harvest for even longer. By doing ample research and understanding the differences between outdoor gardening and indoor gardening, you’ll get to experience fruitful results of your hard work year-round instead of only during the active growing season.
Not only that, but you get to control more aspects of the growing process than you would if the plant were outdoors. Indoor gardening eliminates concerns like frost, overwatering from rain, too much drought, and undeterred pests. You choose when to water, how much to water, and what kind of potting mix and nutrients the plants receive. You’ll just have to try your best to combat the challenges that come with the benefits.
With winter comes less light, and gardening indoors means the plants don’t have access to pollinating insects or wind. Luckily, there are crops you can grow that don’t require nature to fruit or grow, and those are the ones that are better suited for indoor growing.
If the plants are coming from your garden or from outdoor containers, you’ll need to slowly transition them to an indoor environment. It unfortunately isn’t as simple as just moving them inside due to the fact that the light and humidity levels between the two environments are quite different. Thankfully, the transition is a very simple process that only takes a bit of diligence to complete.
The first thing you should do before you bring any plants indoors is inspect them for pests like aphids, spider mites, mealy bugs, and others that can potentially infest your home and indoor houseplants. If you find any, you should give them a light spray with a hose to wash the bugs off and treat them with neem oil. Once they’ve been cleared of bugs, they’re safe to start transitioning indoors!
The slow process of bringing outdoor plants indoors helps decrease the risk of leaf loss, shock, and wilting. For the first few days, you’ll bring the plant indoors at night and then put it back outside when the sun comes up. Over the next two weeks, you should slowly increase how much time the plants are spending indoors until they’re fully inside.
Because light levels are different between indoor and outdoor environments, especially during the winter, you may need to consider buying grow lamps to help them thrive and get what they need so you can have a successful harvest.
The easiest crops to grow indoors are those like lettuces, other leafy greens, herbs, and dwarf varieties of vegetables. Think plants that don’t need a lot of room to grow (both above and below) and are suited for container growing.
Because there are no pollinating insects in your home—we hope!—you should shy away from vegetables and fruits that rely on bees, butterflies, and even birds to help pollinate the flowers. Plants like tomatoes, though, can simply be shaken lightly to help the pollen spread from one flower to another. Here are a couple specific plants to get your indoor winter garden started.
Carrots prefer longer containers, like window boxes, though can be accommodating to almost any kind. The smaller the variety, the easier time you’ll have growing them in an indoor garden because you won’t have to worry about how much space they need to reach maturity.
You can start these with seeds or seedlings, just be sure to keep the soil moist as they grow. The time to maturity will vary from variety to variety, so make sure you familiarize yourself with the specific type of carrots you decide to grow.
Light needs: Bright, indirect lighting in an indoor environment (may need grow lights during winter)
Water needs: Water as-needed when the soil feels dry, at least one inch a week
Soil needs: Loose, well-draining soil
Pepper plants, believe it or not, are tropical! They don’t tolerate cold well and are actually a vegetable that has the potential to thrive in an indoor environment so long as they’re cared for properly. Like carrots, you can grow them from seed. An alternative is to pot plants from your garden at the end of summer, following the proper indoor transitioning method, and continue growing them throughout the winter that way.
Containers for your pepper plants should be at least eight inches tall, if not bigger, and you’ll need an area in your home where the plants will get 10 hours of light a day. Pepper plants are self-pollinating, but you may need to give them a gentle shake to help them along since there won’t be any wind indoors to move flowers around.
Light needs: Bright, indirect lighting (10 hours a day)
Water needs: Like to dry out between waterings
Soil needs: Well-draining soil
By choosing varieties that work well in containers, you’re setting your indoor garden up for success. Lettuce and herbs don’t need to grow too tall or take up a lot of space, so you can have fresh ingredients for your meals year-round. Just take the time to transition any outdoor plants into your home, and you’ll get to experience the joys of indoor winter gardening.
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