How to start an indoor garden this summer

Creating your own vegetable garden is one of those tasks that can seem really easy when someone else does it, and then feel completely impossible when you try to do it yourself. If you have cursed thumbs instead of green thumbs (like me), causing every plant you nurture to lose the will to live for no apparent reason at all, keeping tomato plants or runner beans alive for long enough to actually get food from them is no mean feat.

Add to that the fact that perhaps you don’t have any outdoor space, or you’re in a rented property where you aren’t allowed to start digging up the garden to plant potatoes, and you might be tempted to sack the whole idea off altogether.

However, growing your own herbs and vegetables is a really great way to cut down the carbon footprint of your diet, and once you get the hang of it, it can save you money as well. You can also grow food that’s totally organic, so on top of eating vegetables that haven’t travelled to get to you, you know they’re also free of pesticides as well as tasting great.

If you’re trying to live a little greener but your veg growing potential is limited to indoors-only gardening, here are a few tips and tricks for starting your indoor garden this summer.

tomato plant indoors

Which vegetables grow well indoors?

First things first, you aren’t going to be able to grow something indoors that needs tonnes of space to thrive. But there are a bunch of things that can do quite well on a warm windowsill, or in the compact space of a vertical garden – a few examples include:

    • Spring onions
      These are so easy to care for that I managed to grow so many I couldn’t begin to eat them all, in a 10cm by 10cm pot on the windowsill of my kitchen. They don’t need as much light as some plants, so you don’t need to give these prime position.
      .
    • Radishes
      Apparently, radishes are known for doing well indoors – you just need to make sure they have enough vertical space to grow in their soil, so pot them in something deep.
      .
    • Cherry tomatoes
      Hear me out on this one – I know tomatoes are supposed to have a fair bit of room to grow, and be moved outdoors as they do so. But, I’ve managed to grow bumper crops of cherry tomatoes in relatively small plant pots, and as long as you can find them a sunny spot to get a full day of sun in the warmer months, you can totally grow these indoors. Just keep watering the heck out of them, and give them a shake to help pollination once there’s pollen in sight.
      .
    • Chilli peppers
      Chillis and other small peppers can do well on windowsills provided they get plenty of sun, and won’t grow so out-of-hand that they take up too much space. Like tomatoes, you’ll probably get more off the plant if you can eventually move them outside, but it isn’t obligatory.
      .
    • Spinach
      Like a few other leafy greens, spinach can grow well indoors all year-round. They do best in pots with good drainage, so stick yours in something with a hole or holes in the bottom and whack a dish underneath to stop surfaces getting damp.

I have made the mistake a few times of just using any old compost for indoor edible things, because I kinda just thought that all soil is much like any other soil. People I would refer to as Proper Gardeners will tell you how wrong I was. Look for an indoor potting soil, designed to give roots enough drainage to breathe.

Creating an indoor garden in limited space

indoor-herb-garden

Image: The Bird and Her Song

I had a look at some other posts about making your own indoor vegetable garden, and a lot of them seem to assume you’ve got plenty of room to shove sacks full of soil and potatoes all over your house, or enough wall to grow runner beans up a trellis next to your sofa. Bonkers.

I’m going to work on the assumption that you’re probably looking for tips on things you can grow on windowsills, shelves-near-a-bit-of-sun and in limited space, whether that’s on top of a cabinet or on a rack next to your TV. As windowsills are fairly self-explanatory, here’s a little info on another option.

Vertical and hanging gardens

Pots that are hung up around your house remove the need for surfaces altogether, provided you’ve got  a little wall space. Likewise, though they might seem daunting at first, vertical planters are a seriously cool solution for growing herbs in no more space than you’d need to hang a picture.

Here’s a little inspiration for vertical indoor gardening

And here’s some guidance for growing vegetables in hanging baskets or pots

If you don’t trust yourself to get quite as Pinterest as actually hanging pots and planters or fixing things to the wall, stepped standing planters are also good for popping into corners or standing on top of desks to catch rays.

indoor herb planters

In theory, you can grow some pretty big veg in a vertical garden – but you might want to start simple, and try your hand at a haul of cherry tomatoes before you consider growing squash in your dining room.

What you’ll need

Sunny spots where plants will get enough light and warmth. If your house is quite dark, you might need to invest in special LED ‘Grow Lights’ – the added benefit of these is that you won’t need to plant everything near windows, and can instead put things in any available space

Decent potting soil, that has the nutrients your new veg friends need, along with tomato feed if you’re planning on growing some of those guys

Pots in various sizes, so you can start small and upgrade things as they grow. If you have plastic cartons in your recycling with flat bottoms, you could cut these up and re-purpose them into plant pots for added eco-warrior vibes!

A mini fork and trowel will be handy if you’d like to avoid getting mucky as much as possible when re-potting – I got a metal kid’s set with wooden handles from a local garden shop for £3, and it does the job just fine

You shouldn’t need to worry about pest control when you’re growing vegetables indoors, but if you have other plants in the house that might bring in whiteflies or generally pesky aphids, don’t fret too much about needing to ruin your wholesome organic crop with pesticides.

Simple things like hanging dried lavender in your home can deter common pests like the ones I’ve just mentioned, and there are also ways to combine edible plants to really double-down on pest protection. Planting basil in with your tomatoes, for example, can deter whiteflies, aphids and spidermites, and you’ll also end up with two ingredients that go well together in just about any salad or pizza topping – result!

The benefits of diy veg growing

home grown vegetables

There are all kinds of perks to growing your own vegetables, whether it’s indoors, outdoors or a bit of both. In case you weren’t already fully sold on the idea, here are a few things to be smug about when you’re doing your own organic veg cultivation.

1. More nutritious things to eat

According to Harvard Medical School, and about 100,000 other people, vegetables you grow yourself typically have more nutritional value than any veg you’ll find in the supermarket. Let your home-grown produce ripen fully before picking, and your five-a-day will be better for you than shop-bought stuff as well as having more flavour. Plus, you know it’s chemical-free, so bonus planet points for that one.

2. Mindful moments

Gardening of any kind is said to be good for your health and well-being in a number of ways. If you’re trying to be more mindful, do a digital detox, or just want some me-time that leaves you with a sense of achievement, growing small and simple indoor veg is a great way to do it. It forces you away from screens for a while, and allows you to be truly focused on the task at hand – entirely in the present.

3. Cleaner air

Plants are basically magical, and the more real ones you have in your home, the cleaner your air should be.  For an added life hack, you could use fragrant herbs as a natural alternative to air fresheners and room fragrances; plants like mint and lemon balm can be grown in small windowsill pots, and can make a room smell lovely.

4. Saving cash

Last, but absolutely not least, a bit of DIY organic vegetable cultivation can be a great way to save cash in the long run. Initially there’ll be some outlay for pots and soil, and for seeds or bulbs to actually grow your veg from, but with plants that can produce crop after crop for less than the price of a single supermarket purchase, trust me and the 60 tomatoes growing in my house right now that your budget will thank you when you find your inner gardener!

how to start an indoor garden just can't settle

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