From farmers’ markets to rooftop gardens and produce delivery services, more people are embracing fresh, farm-to-table food.
It’s no secret that locally grown produce is better for the environment and for local communities than its store-bought counterparts. Growing food at home also ensures that you know exactly where your food comes from and how it was grown.
Luckily, you don’t need to be a farmer to reap the benefits of home-grown produce. If you have a sunny window and a bit of extra time on your hands, then you’re capable of growing your own food right at home! Read on for our top picks of healthy fruits and veggies that are easy to cultivate indoors, and how to get them growing!
Tips + Tricks
All of the following plants require well-draining soil, which means you will either need to use a pot with holes in the bottom or pile up some stones in the bottom of your pot before adding soil (so that the water can drain through the stones). If you choose to use a pot with holes in the bottom, be sure to put a shallow drainage container under the pot so the water doesn’t drain onto your floor, shelf, or windowsill.
Many of these plants also grow best in areas that receive lots of sunlight and remain fairly warm throughout the day. Sunny windows are extremely helpful for growing plants indoors. However, if you don’t have sunny windows (or if the area is a low temperature), grow lights will be your new best friend — they help maintain optimal light and temperature conditions for plants regardless of outside weather or indoor conditions.
Tools of the Trade
Gardeners may not agree on the best mulch or the perfect fertilizer, but there’s one thing that every gardener agrees on: when it comes time to purchase tools, buy the best.
Quality garden tools such as those made by Nisaku are an investment that yield dividends over time. Check out the top gardening tools you should own for indoor growing here.
How to Grow: It’s possible to grow an avocado tree from an avocado pit, but doing so may not yield edible fruit. If you want to eat what you sow, it’s best to purchase a dwarf avocado plant. To tend for your tree, add some sand to the bottom of a large, well-draining pot before filling it with regular potting mix and planting your tree. Water the tree regularly but make sure the soil is never soggy — avocado roots don’t take well to being waterlogged. Prune the shoots regularly, and be sure to place the tree in an area with high ceilings — even dwarf trees can grow higher than 10 feet!
How to Harvest: Green varieties are ready to harvest when the fruits’ skin turns slightly yellow, while darker varieties are ready when their skins have turned almost black. Ripe fruits can be left hanging on the tree for a few weeks, but any longer than that and they’ll start to lose their flavor and texture.
How to Grow: Purchase carrot seeds and a pot or window box that’s at least a foot and a half deep and wide, with drainage holes at the bottom. Fill the container to within an inch of the top with a humus-rich potting mix. Water the soil before planting the seeds. Plant the seeds one inch apart in rows that are six inches apart from each other, pressing the seeds gently into the soil and covering them with a thin layer of soil. Water. Place the container in an area that receives tons of light. Keep the soil moist, but not soaked. To help preserve moisture, soak some peat moss in water overnight and then spread it on top of the seeds. Expect the seeds to germinate (i.e., start sprouting) in about two weeks.
How to Harvest: Carrots are ready for harvest when they’ve grown to about ¾ of an inch across the top (just below the green stem). If you can’t see the carrot itself, gently brush aside some soil around the stem so you can size it up (Note: Though it may be tempting to see how big carrots can get, they’ll start to lose their sweetness and flavor once they surpass their peak size.). To pick the carrots, grab them firmly at the root and wiggle them around a bit, then pull straight up. If you find that the soil is quite hard, water it and then wait an hour or so before retrying the harvest. Once the carrots have been pulled from the soil, remove the greens immediately, wipe off any excess dirt, and let them dry before storing them in the fridge.
How to Grow: If you want the option of harvesting fruits right away, purchase a two-to-three-year-old dwarf tree at a nursery. Choose a clay, ceramic, or plastic pot slightly larger than the root ball of your tree, and make sure it has several holes in the bottom. Fill the drainage dish with stones to allow air to circulate. Use a potting soil specifically formulated for citrus trees, or choose a slightly acidic, loam-based potting mix. Place the plant in an area that will receive eight to 12 hours of sunlight each day and will ideally maintain a temperature between 55 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Water regularly, but be sure not to over-saturate the soil (it should be moist, not sopping wet). Citrus trees like moist air, so regularly misting the leaves with a spray bottle will help keep the leaves perky.
How to Harvest: Most lemons will ripen in six to nine months. Test for ripeness by looking for full color and gently squeezing the rind — a slight “give” indicates that the lemons are ready for eating.
How to Grow: Purchase dwarf mandarin orange trees for the best chance of growing fruits successfully indoors. The trees will grow best in spacious pots with drainage at the bottom, and in rich soil. They also require a sunny location (rotate the plant regularly to ensure that it receives light evenly on all sides). Water regularly, allowing the soil to dry out slightly between waterings. The trees can grow up to six feet tall, and their root system grows along with them — when the roots begin to grow back on themselves or out of the drainage holes, it’s time to re-pot in a container that’s at least 2 inches larger in diameter.
How to Harvest: Mandarins need to be harvested as soon as they turn orange in order to preserve their flavor. When the fruits turn orange, clip or carefully twist and pull the fruit from the tree, making sure that the “button” at the top of the fruit remains intact.
How to Grow: Begin by purchasing starter plants or seeds from a local nursery (You can also order seeds online). Choose a planter box that has drainage holes in the bottom and fill it with potting soil. Use your finger to poke holes into the soil about four inches apart.
- If using seeds: Sprinkle a few of them into each hole, then pat the soil back over the hole to cover them up.
- If using starts:Massage the roots before placing each start in a hole, filling in around them with soil.
- After planting seeds or starts: Water the soil. When plants start to appear (if growing from seed), pull out all but the largest, healthiest shoots. Water the soil regularly, making sure that it always remains moist to the touch.
How to Harvest: 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.
How to Grow: Start by selecting one six-inch pot (for one plant) or a larger pot (approximately 12 inches) if you’d like to grow two plants. For a continuous supply of tomatoes, start one or two new plants from seed every two weeks. Fill the container(s) with starter potting mix and plant seeds about ¼ inch deep. Water, keeping the soil moist but not soggy. Place the container in an area that receives substantial sunlight, turning the pot(s) occasionally so all sides have even access to the sun. Expect the seeds to germinate in five to 10 days. When the seedlings are about three inches tall, transplant them from the starter mix to potting soil. About two weeks after transplanting, add an organic fertilizer to the mix. Water the plants thoroughly; again, keep the soil moist but not soggy. As the plants grow larger, they may need to be staked to avoid broken stems. When plants bloom, tap the main stem and larger side branches with your finger — this will help to encourage pollination.
How to Harvest: Tomatoes grown indoors will not grow to be as large as outdoor tomatoes, but they’ll still be full of tomatoey taste. When the fruits are red and firm, but with a slight “give” to the touch, they’re ready to eat. Either clip or gently twist and pull the fruits from their stems.