Growing Food Indoors...

chimboodle04 Posts: 286 ✭✭✭

So, the weather here has definitely taken a turn the past few days and winter months are looming. While I am scrambling to finish fall clean up of my garden beds (some of which are still producing cool weather crops), the gardener in me is not quite ready to set aside the seeds and trowel 😊 I think this is the year that I would like to start experimenting with a winter indoor garden to add fresh produce and greens to our diets through the freezing months, especially once my covered outside fall crops are depleted. Has anyone here successfully grown crops indoors??? Specifically, which crops (and varieties even!) were you successful with? I already have a good array of quality indoor grow lights, and I am thinking that deeper containers are a must (looking at using deep plastic window box containers I think...), but I would love to hear from anyone who has some hands on experience before I venture forth!


  • judsoncarroll4
    judsoncarroll4 Posts: 5,461 admin

    Wow, yes, I can't believe that I waited so long to get into sprouts! This is crazy easy and fast. I started a tablespoon of alfalfa sprouts in a jar on Monday, and by tomorrow I should have over two cups of fresh sprouts. I also started 8 flats of micro-greens on the counter, comprised of lettuces, mustards, etc. This is fresh, tasty, healthy food all winter... (obviously, an accompaniment to meat for me) CHEAP!

  • gardneto76
    gardneto76 Posts: 528 ✭✭✭✭

    I have a small pot of rosemary already going and we have done basil before. Herbs are great for the window sills. Key is any plant that won’t take up to much space! I saw a picture of someone growing onions in an old plastic juice bottle in a window sill. They started with onion sets. Green or bunching onions would be great. Sprouts require the least patience though.

  • shllnzl
    shllnzl Posts: 1,820 ✭✭✭✭✭

    I have been growing herbs indoors all summer. My problem is not enough direct sunlight to the plants, so they are growing pretty slowly. (My shaded house is wonderful for keeping out desert heat though.)

    I am growing them alongside houseplants, so haven't ventured into grow lights as it would spoil the look.

    I also tried herbs in pots on a deck that only gets a couple hours of morning sun and out in the open as well. Only a couple out in the yard survived. The ones on the deck are limping along. We are in hard freeze, so they are being moved to the garage overnight. I plan to turn a few of the smaller ones into more houseplants AFTER I treat them for pests. (There is a gardener who has a method of soaking the entire plant in water that has Dawn dish soap added.)

    If I get a method that works for my conditions I will share it.

  • maimover
    maimover Posts: 359 ✭✭✭

    Last year I grew some herbs and cherry tomatoes with the aero garden. This year I potted most of my herbs and brought them inside. I’ve lost the cilantro already and there are a couple of others not doing too well but the rest appear to be doing well; here’s hoping...

  • blevinandwomba
    blevinandwomba Posts: 813 ✭✭✭✭

    My calamondin just came in for the winter, but I don't know if it counts as a crop. It does typically ripen around November, so I do get to enjoy it when the gardens done. It's a long term investment, but I can highly recommend it if you are looking for a potted citrus tree. Mine has been almost carefree, and very productive, but including the pot it is about 5 foot high and maybe 3 foot across- not the plant for a windowsill.

  • greyfurball
    greyfurball Posts: 591 ✭✭✭✭

    Unless you are thinking of growing crops themselves forget about the deeper containers of soil. Sprouts take no dirt at all and microgreens do not want more than 2" of soil for them to grow healthy and productive.

    But then microgreens do not appreciate soil either they want a potting mix instead. The reason, microgreens are grown on top of the soil, the seeds do not get covered at all with soil. Since potting mix is such a light and cushiony soil mix the roots can easily travel down into the soil. Also microgreens are generally done growing within 14-21 days (some varieties can even be cut earlier) you don't need to worry about maintaining nutrition underground for the roots. Remember also, since you say you are a newbie, microgreens can be cut when they are about 4-5" high but always leave about 2" there because they will grow back again. This can often be done at least 2-3 times before you start losing too much harvest. It's also a trial and error thing for your area, your light, your temps etc.. So just keep cutting back and allow them to grow again until you find it's just not worth it anymore because you aren't getting enough harvest.

    Also microgreens must have light daily and a window usually won't cut it because the glass diffuses the sunlight too much. Also this time of year there just isn't enough sunlight for long enough to keep microgreens healthy. Your greens will do better if you give them at least 14-16 hours of light daily. So it's easiest if you turn the gro-light on when you get up in the morning and then turn it off when you go to bed. The extra couple of hours of light will never hurt them.

    There is all kinds of little tricks which can be used to keep your indoor winter garden more productive so I highly recommend going to You Tube and find a video on growing microgreens first before you start.

  • chimboodle04
    chimboodle04 Posts: 286 ✭✭✭

    @judsoncarroll4 @greyfurball - wasn't really thinking sprouts or micro-greens (even though I know they are highly nutritious and more conducive to an indoor garden!) - more along the lines of what I can grow to replace store-bought vegetables through the winter. Thanks for the advice on those though :)

    @blevinandwomba We have been looking to get some citrus! - I have not heard of the one you mention though - Can you give me some details please? taste, fruit size, etc??? Thanks!

    @gardneto76 I am a famous killer of rosemary (which is why I bought TWO plants this year lol!) - any tips as to keeping it alive inside???

    [email protected] Posts: 49 ✭✭✭

    Someone told my Mom she grow her tomato plants all winter long so has them in the house a few have popped out but I am not sure if this is going to last. Is this even possible?

  • greyfurball
    greyfurball Posts: 591 ✭✭✭✭

    @angelaclay509 I've heard repeatedly from some people they successfully grow Tiny Tim tomatores all winter long indoors under a grow light and many of these people live in Canada. I'm a member of an online garden club and since they have such a short growing season a few of them are always experimenting with something to see if it works. So you might want to give them a try.

  • ines871
    ines871 Posts: 1,283 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @chimboodle04 This topic re " Growing food INdoors" you chose, is Excellent 🤗 !, especially for growing >sprouts & micro-greens<. -- Sprouts are the most highly nutritive food you can grow. - And as earth's External environment becomes evermore polluted, you may well find that growing sprouts yes INdoors will become evermore important.

  • blevinandwomba
    blevinandwomba Posts: 813 ✭✭✭✭

    @chimboodle04 , I'd be very happy to give you further details. It's a favorite topic of mine, partly for sentimental reasons.

    First of all, calamondins are really sour- equivalent to lemons or limes- so if you were looking for a sweet, eating out of hand fruit, they won't fit the bill. But, they have numerous other good qualities.

    They go by several other names, including calamunsi. There is a pretty detailed wikipedia article on them under that name. They are a miniature mandarin orange, about the size of a ping-pong ball, or smaller. Like other mandarins, they are very juicy, have a thin peel, and little pith. The peel is interesting, kind of bitter and sweet and aromatic; I enjoy eating it.

    They are wonderful for cooking, though preparing them can be tedious. They are very small and sometimes seedy.

    They make lovely, intensely fruity preserves or marmalade. You can also make a curd, like the filling in a lemon meringue pie. One time I made a calamondin and mulberry pie, which was quite the conversation piece; mulberries are somewhat bland so the contrast was very nice. The other night I juiced a few for a recipe, and I had some peel and juicy pulp left. I chopped it fine and mixed with honey- sooo delicious.

    I've also used them to make mojo criollo - I don't know how authentic it was, but it tasted great.

    I actually enjoy eating them as is, but I love sour things. I don't know how to explain it exactly, but it seems to my taste to be a very "clean" kind of sour, just as intense as a lime but more pleasant.

    As for growing, it is not a fussy plant. It can tolerate some cold, and if only a light frost is expected we simply cover it with a sheet. If we expect a hard frost we bring it in. Depending on weather, it is outside probably May-October.

    It takes almost a full year from blossoms to fruit, but that is typical for citrus I believe. I do thin the fruit as necessary. Once ripe, the fruit does hold a long time on the tree, so you can harvest as you need. Yields are usually excellent.

    As far as I know they are not a miniature plant, but they do adapt very well to pot growing in pots. My grandma had a calamondin right next to her house, in the ground, and it was maybe 10-15 feet. (I am just basing the height on memory.)

    One thing I can't tell you is where to get a good plant- I bought mine at a gift shop in Florida, on the way back from visiting my Grandma. It was maybe a foot tall and had a few leaves.

    Anyway, thanks for asking. I am getting so many warm fuzzy feelings from this- thinking about visiting my grandma, picking citrus with my cousin, picking out souvenirs with my parents( calamondin marmalade!).

  • chimboodle04
    chimboodle04 Posts: 286 ✭✭✭

    @blevinandwomba thank you for all of the wonderful detail in your response - I am definitely intrigued! I too love sour citrus and was planning on getting a lemon to grow in a pot so I can take it indoors (we live in zone 5). I will be looking into one of these though! I wonder if I could just use it in place of lemon in various recipes...? Thank you again for sharing this plant and your lovely memories as well :)

  • blevinandwomba
    blevinandwomba Posts: 813 ✭✭✭✭

    @chimboodle04 I substitute it for lemon all the time. The flavor is more orangey, but I think it would usually work.

  • gardneto76
    gardneto76 Posts: 528 ✭✭✭✭

    @chimboodle04 I am not sure I am the best one for that answer as I just killed my new one! LOL. I attempted to turn it into a plant that could go into my aquaponics, so I found a glass the pot would just fit into the top of and filled the glass with water. This rosemary had the longer leaves and did NOT like it. I think I drowned the plant, as the dirt stayed wet. The last plant I tried it with is doing great other than we are using it to quickly, thus the other plant.

  • LaurieLovesLearning
    LaurieLovesLearning Posts: 7,519 admin
    edited November 2019

    @angelaclay509 I have done so (in Canada) without a grow light, with tiny tim & full sized tomatoes. I had a small taste of tomatoes usually starting after super early tomatoes. I would suggest NOT bringing the outdoor tomatoes in, but keeping fully indoor ones...if you bring outdoor plants in, you are going to being aphids and other pests in with your plants AND ready to hatch pest in with the garden soil.

    I had kept tomatoes this way over 3 years. I Ended up having to throw my plants out in the dead of winter because I could not rid them of pests and didn't want them to spread to other houseplants.

  • Torey
    Torey Posts: 5,640 admin


    I agree. Leave those outdoor plants outside! Every time I have tried this (with the exception of Rosemary), I have wound up with critters. Even if given a soapy spray before bringing them in.