Growing vegetables indoors during the winter months will provide you with fresh food, help reduce the grocery bill, and the plants will help keep the indoor air cleaner.
Vegetables grown indoors during the winter have the same requirements as vegetables grown outdoors during the summer–sufficient sunlight, warmth, moisture, and fertile soil. If you can provide plants with those four elements, then you can grow a productive garden indoors in winter.
Look for the sunniest spot inside of your home – this is where your garden should be located. Food-producing plants will require at least 6-hours of direct sunlight each day. If you do not have a location that receives enough hours of natural sunlight each day you may have to supplement the plants with grow lights.
Small, enclosed grow tents with LED lighting are available to purchase from any garden supply center. These grow tents are self-contained and will allow you to grow plants indoors year-round. The amount of light and temperature can be controlled inside a grow tent for optimum plant production and enable you to grow fresh vegetables even in a dark basement or closet.
Plants need to be kept warm day and night for the best production. A sunny location will generate enough warmth to keep the plants warm during the day but may be too chilly for the plants after the sun sets in the evening.
Plants need to be kept in a location that will remain consistently above 65 degrees F (18 °C). If the indoor temperature dips below 65 degrees F plant growth will slow down. Also, keep plants away from air vents and exterior doors so they won’t be exposed to drafts.
Because indoor air is heated during the winter it lacks the moisture plants needs. Place a humidifier in the room with the garden plants to increase moisture or keep a couple of bowls filled with water near the plants. Misting the plants every other day will also help prevent them from drying out.
Indoor-grown plants are dependent upon you for their food and water, so start with nutrient-rich potting soil. Fill containers with a good quality potting soil that contains compost and/or slow-release fertilizer.
Use water-soluble plant food mixed at one-half the recommended rate once a week to keep plants well-fed and hydrated.
If a container-grown plant develops a white crust on top of the soil it’s a sign of the plant being over-fed. The white crust is excess salt from the plant food and too much is not good for the plant. To remove the excess salt from the soil, take the container to the sink and allow cool water to run through the soil for 5-minutes to flush the salt out. Reduce the amount of food given to the plant to prevent salt build-up in the future.
Best Plants for Growing Indoors in Winter
Grow dwarf or bush varieties of your favorite vegetables. Dwarf varieties will produce the same full-sized produce but the plants will be smaller and take up less space.
Spacemaster Bush Cucumber
These will produce big results in small spaces. Plant seeds in a 12-inch (30 cm) container and get ready to harvest fresh cucumbers in about 50 days. The compact cucumber bush will reach a mature size of around 2 1/2 feet (75cm) tall and wide and will produce cucumbers for several weeks during the winter.
Bush Champion Tomato
This will grow into a 2-feet (60 cm) tall plant that produces large red slicing tomatoes in 65-70 days after planting seeds.
Window Box Roma
This is a hybrid tomato that was bred to be grown in a container. This 2-feet (60 cm ) tall plant will produce a bountiful harvest of delicious Roma tomatoes during the winter.
Tumbling Tom Tomatoes
These are ideal for growing in a hanging planter and the compact vine will produce sweet cherry tomatoes for weeks.
These are easy to grow indoors during the winter and will supply you with fresh leafy greens for salads, soups, and stir fry recipes in just 2-weeks after sowing seeds. Sow cabbage, spinach, broccoli, kale, lettuce, beets, carrots, arugula, cilantro, and radish seeds in trays every 2-weeks for a steady supply of healthy greens throughout the winter.
All these vegetables grown in trays as microgreens can be planted in large containers and allowed to reach a mature size if desired.
These are ideal for growing indoors during the winter months since they provide two foods in one space. Beets, carrots, turnips, green onions, and radishes provide an edible root and green leafy top.
These grow on compact plants and grow well in an indoor location that is warm and sunny. Plant seeds of sweet banana peppers, bells peppers, or hot peppers in a 12-inch (30 cm) container and be patient for the harvest. Peppers take 60-90 days to reach maturity but will produce for weeks.
Onions and garlic
These will add flavor to your recipes and can be grown in containers. Sow onion seeds in a 12-inch (30 cm) container and harvest anytime after the green tops are 6-8 inches (15 – 20 cm) tall.
Garlic can be started from cloves you have in the kitchen. Break off firm cloves and plant, pointy-side up, 2-inches (5 cm) deep. Space cloves 2-inches apart in a container that is 6-inches (15 cm) deep.
Grow your favorite herbs all winter in containers placed on a sunny windowsill. Harvest herbs regularly to keep the plants producing and compact.