How to Grow Fruits and Vegetables Indoors During Winter

| October 7, 2012

growing plants indoor

Growing fresh, tasty edibles indoors during winter gives you garden-fresh produce and an enjoyable hobby. Keep these growing guidelines in mind to harvest your own fruits and vegetables in the house this winter, and be sure to ask your local nursery for additional tips.

Lighting

Proper lighting is critical to plant growth. While a sunny window may work for edibles that don’t fruit or flower, such as lettuce, most indoor-grown produce requires supplemental lighting. Full-spectrum (T5) light bulbs simulate sunlight. They can be installed in lamps or recessed light fixtures and used in place of regular fluorescent bulbs.

For maximum growth and fruiting, place the plants close to the lights — preferably within 6 to 12 inches of the top of the plants. Adjust the lighting upward as the plants grow.

Location

Choose a cool area of your home that has good air circulation, such as an unheated sunroom or near windows. A basement also works, as long as the artificial lighting is excellent. Avoid warm areas, such as near heating ducts, for growing edibles in the house during winter.

Plant selection

To have the best harvest possible, seek out small-leaved varieties of plants that feature edible foliage, such as lettuce, spinach and basil. In vegetables and fruits, grow dwarf and mini versions, like baby carrots, cherry tomatoes and kumquats. Also choose self-pollinating varieties, which usually means hybrid plants.

Seed your own plants

Depending on the time of year you set up your indoor garden, you may not be able to find plants in the nursery. If this happens, you’ll have to seed your own plants. Use a moist seed-starting mix and bury seeds according to their size. Very small seeds, like carrots, should be barely covered with soil, while large seeds like beans can be submerged as deeply as they are wide.

While the seeds germinate, keep the soil moist but not soggy. When the seedlings emerge, wait until they have two sets of true leaves before transplanting them into a larger container. Root vegetables like carrots and radishes should not be uprooted and transplanted. Allow them to grow in the container where they were seeded.

Watch the watering

Water plants when the top half-inch to inch of soil has dried. Underwatering your plants will result in limited production or none at all. Also, avoid overwatering plants, as overly moist conditions lead to root rot and plant death. Never let your plants sit in drainage trays filled with water.

Fertilize regularly

Ensure prolific crops of edibles in the house in winter by feeding indoor fruit and vegetable plants every three to four weeks with a water-soluble, organic food designed for fruits or vegetables. Avoid fertilizers that contain urea, as this strong form of nitrogen can build up in the soil creating toxic conditions for your plants.

Repot when necessary

If your vegetable plants outgrow their pots, it’s important to move them to the next pot size as soon as possible, as plants with inadequate growing room may stop producing and die. Indications that a plant requires repotting occur when the plant appears to be top-heavy and too large for the pot, when water drains through quickly and if you see roots coming out of the drainage holes.

Stay ahead of pests

Indoor gardens may experience scale or mealybugs. Because your intention is to eat your produce, use non-toxic treatment methods for these pests, beginning with rinsing them off with water. If the pests persist, try spraying with insecticidal soap or isopropyl alcohol.

Just because temperatures dip outside doesn’t mean you have to stop gardening, especially now that you know how to grow edibles in the house during winter.

Tags: , , , , ,

Category: Gardening & Landscaping, Home & Garden

About the Author ()

Julie Bawden-Davis is a Southern-California-based writer specializing in home and garden, real estate, small business and personal finance. Since 1985, her work has appeared in a wide variety of publications, including Family Circle, Ladies’ Home Journal, Better Homes & Gardens, Entrepreneur and The Los Angeles Times. Julie is a University of California Certified Master Gardener and has written five gardening books, including Reader’s Digest Flower Gardening.