If you spend your winter months looking forward to the spring thaw when you can plant your first seeds, then you’ll be glad to know you can grow your veggie garden in the winter, without giving your green thumb frostbite. With a little planning and know-how, an indoor veggie garden can give you fresh, homegrown herbs and vegetables throughout the year.
Like your summer garden, your indoor garden will need sufficient light. Vegetables tend to do better than fruit during the winter months, as veggies require at least four to six hours of direct sunlight per day, where fruits will require eight to ten hours. If you have a spot in your home that can get adequate sunlight through the winter months, then you can grow your vegetable garden without the need for grow lights. However, you will find that providing extra light to your plants with grow lights will help them grow larger and faster.
You will need to plant your veggies in pots with adequate drainage. The amount of space you have for your garden will determine what you can grow, as different vegetables have different space requirements. Lettuce and herbs can be grown in pots only a few inches deep since you will collect the harvest before they’ve grown too large. However, vegetables that require larger root systems, like tomatoes, cucumbers or beans, will need pots large enough to support this growth. The same is true for any root vegetables like carrots, potatoes or radishes.
You will need to plant your indoor vegetables in soil specifically designed for indoor potting. This is not the same soil that you would use in your outdoor vegetable gardens. A mix of even parts perlite, vermiculite, peat moss and sand is ideal for indoor growing. These pre-mixed soils can also be purchased to include moisture-storing crystals and time-released fertilizer.
Your growing plants will benefit from fertilizer. Organic, water-soluble fertilizers that work well for indoor gardening such as fish emulsions or seaweed fertilizer are a great choice. Alternatively, chemical fertilizers are available that are given to your plants on a regular basis (often weekly) or are designed to be slow release. Whichever way you decide to fertilize your garden, be sure to match the needs of your growing veggies with the appropriate fertilizer and administer it according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
Of course, regular watering is essential for your veggie garden to succeed. Unlike your outdoor garden, a missed watering won’t be made up with a conveniently timed rainfall. Different plants will require different watering schedules, but all potted plants are prone to dry out quickly due to the small amount of soil in each pot. This is particularly true for veggies planted in small containers. Follow your watering schedule and check your soil regularly to ensure it’s not dried out. It’s important to know that overwatering your plants can be detrimental as well, and plants left in soggy soil will have rotted roots.
That’s why sufficient drainage is so important. Look for signs of overwatering such as mold on the surface of your soil, the dropping of new leaves and stunted growth. It’s interesting to note that it’s not just the water in your soil that will have an effect on your indoor plants. During the winter months, when most homes have their furnaces on, the air is likely to be dry and this can have a negative effect on your garden. You can combat this warm dry air by running a cool-mist humidifier near your garden to better simulate the conditions they would experience outdoors.
Not all vegetables will do as well indoors as others. For your first indoor veggie garden, try a few of these easier to grow indoor plants:
The greater the variety of plants you have, the greater the variety of needs you will need to accommodate, so it’s best to spend some time researching what types of vegetables you want to try for your first indoor veggie garden before you plant your seeds. While an indoor garden will not likely produce the same crop that your outdoor garden does, you can still have fresh, homegrown produce all year round.