Indoor gardening in winter is a popular, easy way to have fresh produce available at your fingertips regardless of how cold it is outside. Enjoying fresh herbs and vegetables grown by your own hand isn’t a dream that has to die when winter temperatures come rolling around. It doesn’t take too much in the way of supplies or effort to start an indoor winter garden, so continue reading to figure out how to get started.
Can We Do Indoor Gardening in Winter?
Indoor winter gardening is suitable for anyone who is looking to bring some of the outdoors inside during the winter season. If you’re limited in outside space because of apartment living, or you simply want to extend your plants’ growing season, indoor gardening is suitable for all types of needs and spaces.
What to Grow in Winter Indoors?
Deciding what to grow in the winter is a matter of both personal preference and skill: if you’re a beginner, you might want to start with a few easy plants, though if you’re a seasoned gardener, the options for growing vegetables in winter are almost endless. Here are some ideas:
- Herbs: Sage, rosemary, basil, parsley, cilantro, and thyme are just a few options and are great for placing in a sunny window in the kitchen
- Microgreens or sprouts: alfalfa, mung beans, sunflower, wheatgrass, and broccoli sprouts are easy, edible, and fresh produce options to add to meals any season.
- Root veg: onion and garlic are easy to grow indoors, but even carrots, beets, and turnips are good additions to an indoor winter vegetable garden
- Mushrooms: grow kits are very common and typically require very little set-up, and most kits can provide a mushroom harvest multiple times
- Salad greens: lettuce, arugula, spinach, and kale are the most common and easiest salad greens to grow indoors
Vegetable Garden Ideas
With such an array of vegetables you can grow indoors in the winter, it’s best to have a plan or vision in mind before starting out. Below you’ll find some ideas on what kind of indoor winter plants may be best suited to you:
- Herb Gardens: These are best suited for beginners, as they can easily be grown on a sunny windowsill or bright kitchen counter.
- Microgreens: Microgreens can be grown on a seed starting tray with some soil and some indirect light. They’re perfect for adding to salads or sandwiches and are highly nutritious.
- Nightshades: Bell peppers, hot peppers, and tomatoes are summer veggies that can be brought into the winter season by gardening indoors, though these may be more suited to gardeners with experience. These plants will require much more space than just a counter and a lot of bright light for at least 8 hours a day. Trellises or cages may also be needed to keep your plants upright.
- Ginger, garlic, and turmeric: Sprouted ginger and turmeric rhizomes can be shallowly buried in containers and covered to allow them to grow a fresh plant.
- Scallions and onions: Sprouted garlic, scallions, and onions can be regrown in shallow water dishes, placing the roots down in the water and ensuring the cut side is not submerged. Water should be changed out every few days, and the greens from the plants can be cut when needed, returning the roots back to water when finished. These bulbs can also be potted into well-draining soil if desired.
- Other plants: these plants will take a bit more space, larger and deeper containers, and more time to harvest
- Green beans
Benefits of Winter Gardening Indoors
There are many benefits to having homegrown food available year-round in your house, including but definitely not limited to the following:
- Fresh produce available at your fingertips
- Lower grocery costs and trips to the store
- Fresh produce is often more flavorful and nutritious
- Reduce food waste by only using what is needed
What We Need for Indoor Winter Gardening?
Starting a garden indoors will require a few extra materials than a garden that is being planted outside. Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
- Seeds or small potted plants
- Pots or containers
- Light: either ample natural light availability or plant grow-lights
- Potting mix
- Watering can and spray bottle (for misting)
- Heating pad to help start seeds
- Hand shovel
How to Build an Indoor Garden for Winter?
An added benefit of indoor gardening is that it doesn't really require building raised beds or other labor-intensive projects. However, the materials and space needed will depend on how many plants are planned for the indoor garden. Here are some steps for getting started:
- Have a plan in mind: it's important to know what plants you need so you know how much light is needed or if you need to install grow lights. Very importantly, you'll want to know where you'll put your plants! You'll want to make sure your plants aren't going to dry out or freeze, so consider a room with a steady temperature and keep your plants away from any air vents or frequently opened windows.
- Prepare your materials: Get all the pots and bags of soil needed to sufficiently fill your containers, and get the plants you want for winter. The easiest way to do this will be to get small plants, though you can start them from seeds if desired. This will take more time, and there's more room for error, but if the plants you want to grow are not readily available in your area, starting from seed is the only option.
- Pot up your plants (or start your seeds): If you've already got your baby plants, it's time to get them into pots. Use pots with drainage holes and materials such as terracotta to help manage the moisture from the soil. If starting from seed, you may need to use a heating pad to keep them warm enough to sprout before planting them into a pot for the rest of the season.
- Water well: After your plants have been placed in their pots, give them a good soak to help them settle into their new environment and start the growing process. From here, you'll want the soil to stay moist but not soggy for the best growth. A good rule of thumb is to water your plants when the soil is dry about halfway through the pot.
- Make any adjustments: After a week or so, you might find some things that can be tweaked: plant placements or grow-light height adjustments. These plants will be in your house at least through the wintertime, so take time to know what will make them thrive.
- Continue caring and harvest when ready: The best part of the indoor garden is harvesting your plants without leaving the house! Always use clean tools when removing parts of your plant, and try not to remove more than ⅓ of the leaves at any one time (this applies to salad greens and herbs). Maintain your plants by regularly fertilizing at the appropriate dosage, checking for pests, and trimming any yellowing or browning leaves to keep them looking their best.
Common Problems & How to Solve Them
As with any project involving live plants, there’s always the possibility you’ll run into a few problems along the way. Here are the most common issues encountered when growing an indoor winter garden and how you can solve them:
- Root rot: It’s very easy to overwater your plants, especially when they’re inside and at the front of your mind. Root rot will often be accompanied by fungus gnats or damp, soggy soil that may take on an odor. Other signs are poor growth and leaf death. To prevent this, make sure your pots have drainage holes, and using moisture-wicking pots like terracotta will help with moisture regulation. If your plants are already showing signs of root rot, remove them from the damp soil and cut away any soft or dead roots. Repot into a clean pot with fresh soil and be more mindful of watering in the future.
- Nutrient deficiency: Leaf discoloration and poor growth can point to a lack of nutrients in your plant’s diet. Ensure you feed your plant fertilizer regularly and appropriately to get the most out of your indoor garden.
- Leaf burn or wilting: This is usually a sign that your plants are getting too much light, which can be common if using grow lights too close to the leaves of the plant. Raise your grow lights or relocate your plant to an area with a bit less direct sun to reduce future damage to your plant’s leaves.
- Leaf curl: Curling leaves are commonly seen in plants that are in a dry environment or under-watered. Houses often get dry during the winter due to indoor heating systems, so ensure you’re watering your plants as needed and provide humidity by misting to keep your plants hydrated and lush.
- Browning leaves: Leaves can turn brown if they’re older and dying off, but they also may turn brown if you’re not watering your plants enough. Determine your plant’s watering needs and try to match them consistently. Additionally, too much fertilizer can also cause browning leaves. Follow the dosage instructions on your fertilizer product to avoid over-fertilizing.
Can We Have an Indoor Garden All Year Round?
Growing indoors doesn’t have to be just for the winter. If you have limited outdoor space or light availability in your area, indoor gardening year-round makes a lot of sense. As an added bonus, if you started out your indoor gardening ventures with a winter garden, there’s not too much of a difference in what you need to do aside from switching out the plants you want to have seasonally!