Vegetable seeds used to be hard to come by during the winter months, but more garden centres are carrying them throughout the year now. Maybe there are more indoor vegetable gardeners out there than I know about.
Temperature, pollination and lighting are certainly key issues when planning your indoor garden. Leafy vegetables such as lettuce and swiss chard like cooler temperatures. A bright room that is not used a lot would make a perfect spot. You can lower the temperature in that room to 15 C and the leafy veggies will be happy.
I grew swiss chard in a container indoors last year from a packet of seeds that contained the white, red and yellow types. The chard grew extremely well and made a colourful houseplant display.
Vegetables such as tomatoes and sweet and hot peppers require warmer daytime and evening temperatures than our leafy friends. A south-facing room is desirable, or a west-facing room with supplemental lighting may work as well. Daytime temperatures for these plants should be 21 to 23 C; nighttime temperatures should not fall below 15 C.
Lighting is a bit of an issue, but one that is easily overcome with artificial lights. Because the sun is so much lower on the horizon during the winter, it does not provide enough light to the plants.
These vegetables, and especially ones like the tomatoes, will need six to eight hours of light per day. A combination of cool-white and warm-white fluorescent lighting works well. The plants will have to be very close to the lights to get maximum effect.
Do not place your plants too close to the cold windows. Natural light is good, but keeping them warm is vital.
Choose a good-quality potting mix. The soil-less potting mixes make great choices for growing veggies. They are rather low in nutrients, so you will need to fertilize the plants on a regular basis.
A great way to fertilize is to water the plants with a dilute solution of fertilizer. Mix up a solution at half the recommended strength of the fertilizer and use this solution to water your plants.
A good schedule is to alternate plain water and fertilizer solution – one watering with plain water, the next with the fertilizer solution.
The key to keeping your veggies happy is even moisture. Evenly moist but not wet is the best.
There is also a concern with a lack of humidity during the heating season. This means having to mist your plants on a regular basis. The alternative is to place the plants on shallow tray filled with pebbles. You add water to the tray to a depth just below the top of the pebbles and place the plants on top of the pebbles. The tray then increases the humidity surrounding the plants.
Here is a list of veggies to try to grow indoors:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Various hot peppers
- Leaf lettuce
- Swiss chard
- Small-rooted carrots
- Bush beans