If you enjoy the art of cooking a great meal, there’s nothing better than being able to pick fresh vegetables and herbs from your garden to perk up your recipes. Of course, that’s not really an option when said garden is covered in a thick blanket of snow and the temperatures readings are in the negative. Or, is it? There are several varieties of herbs and some veggies that are actually quite simple to grow inside. And…you don’t need to be some kind of garden wizard to make it happen. All you really need is some potting soil, containers and a spot in your home that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight a day. Even a window sill can house a bountiful herb garden. Read on to learn how adding a fresh little something extra to your winter meals can bring back a bit of summertime.
What You Will Need:
- High-quality potting soil
- Containers—These could be planters and pots, or even empty jars and cans—feel free to use your imagination here. Just make sure they are big enough to support the plants when fully grown and can hold the soil without spilling. You also want to ensure your containers have adequate drainage, whether that means holes in the bottom (make sure to put a shallow drainage container underneath) or some stones thrown in before adding soil for water to drain through.
- Vegetable and herb seeds of your choice
- That sunny spot you picked out for maximum growing potential
What to Plant:
- Lettuce is incredibly easy to grow and is not afraid of the cold, so it’s a perfect indoor option. Pick up a packet of mixed cut and grow-again lettuce seeds, and sow the seeds according to the packet’s instructions. Position your greens in a spot that has a balance of light and shade—too much sun will dry the seedlings out. You should see sprouts within a week, and within a month, you’ll have lettuce leaves to toss in a salad. To harvest mixed greens, pull off only the outer leaves to allow the plants to keep growing, and be sure not to disturb the roots.
- Kale and cabbage are just as simple to grow as lettuce. Sow the seeds a bit further apart than lettuce to allow more room to grow.
- Sprouts are likely the easiest plants you’ll ever grow. They are low maintenance, can be grown on your kitchen counter and sprout in a matter of days. They make a tasty addition to salads and sandwiches.
- Tomatoes are the best right off the vine, so why not grow a couple of plants this winter? Use a six-inch pot for one plant or a twelve-inch pot for two, filling with starter potting mix. To keep up a continual supply, you can start a new plant from seed every two weeks. Make sure to keep the soil moist but not soggy. Tomatoes definitely need a good amount of sunlight, so place in your sunniest spot, and turn your pots occasionally so all sides get their time in the sun. Once your seedlings reach about three inches tall, transplant them into potting soil. You will probably need to stake larger plants to keep them upright. And, because tomatoes flower, you will need to help them out in the pollination department by tapping the branches with your finger when they bloom. The tomatoes you grow indoors will not be as large as those grown in your garden, but they will be just as delicious.
- Culinary herbs add great flavor to anything you cook and can transform your meals. Most are low maintenance and growing your own herbs can be a relative bargain compared to buying them at the grocery store. How many times have you purchased some for a recipe and only needed a small amount, so the rest of them end up drying out before you could put them to use? They definitely cost more than a packet of seeds. Herbs also have many health benefits. Depending on the variety, they may contain antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, can help reduce inflammation and aid in digestion. Grow some cilantro to add authentic Mexican flair to your salsa. Basil is great addition to tomato sauce and pesto. Mint adds freshness to desserts and makes a soothing tea. Parsley is a workhouse herb that can be added to many dishes to add peppery flavor and brightness. Rosemary is a must in meat dishes and stews. The possibilities are endless! Herbs can be grown in individual pots or several can be grouped together in a larger container and are known to thrive on a sunny window sill. Consult the instructions on the seed packets for depth and spacing. Cover seeds with soil and make sure to label. Water using a spray bottle so the seeds stay in the soil. Water daily until the seeds have germinated. Then water as required and watch your herbs come to life. Carefully pick leaves from your herb plant just before you need them for ultimate freshness, making sure you don’t remove all the leaves from any one plant.
- Water your plants as you would outside. Keep in mind that the air inside your home may become dry over winter due to your furnace. Check your plants’ soil for moisture often. You want the soil to be slightly dry to the touch. Fertilize as needed, about every 2-4 weeks.
- The best part of your indoor vegetable garden is harvesting. Keep your plants cut back and use them often. Your greens and herbs will re-grow and thicken up as you use them.
Missing your weekly summer trip to the Farmer’s Market?
Growing an indoor garden is one of the best ways to stay healthy (and happy!) in the colder months, improves your mood and can satisfy both your taste buds and your green thumb. Give it a try—you may be surprised at how quickly and easily your indoor winter garden comes to life.