Winter lasts a really long time around here and I tend to have a little bit of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) about the middle of winter until spring arrives. To combat this, I usually pick up a lot of hobbies I don’t do during other seasons such as crocheting and knitting.
But one of my favorite things is have as many green things growing in my house as possible. Tending to plants gives me something to do, but the greenery also lifts my spirits when all I can see out my window is never ending white and gray.
A few years ago, I started growing tomatoes indoors so we would have fresh tomatoes all year round. And that is something else that lifts my spirits – to see life growing and thriving in the dead of winter.
To do this successfully there are a couple of things you need:
A room with south facing windows to get as much light as possible OR grow lights.
You also need a room that stays consistently above 60 degrees.
You’ll want to start your indoor plants about the same time you would start a fall garden if you were able to garden year-round. For veggies that take longer to grow, like tomatoes and peppers, I start those at the end of August – beginning of September. But for shorter growing plants like lettuce, you can start them about a month before you'll need fresh lettuce and you can have succession plantings, or grow cut-and-come-again varieties like Romaine. That way, when the snow is on the ground, your plants will already have a head start on giving you delicious home-grown food during the winter.
Of course, if you had an abundant garden during the summer and still have produce tucked away in the freezer, or in the garage, you may choose to start your indoor garden later.
Since you can’t buy veggie starts in the fall or winter you’ll want to consider how you want to start your plants. There are a couple ways to do this.
Take a cutting from the plants in your garden. (Only works if you still have living plants in your garden when you begin this process.)
Start new plants from seed.
Taking cuttings won’t work for every plant, but if you want to grow tomatoes or peppers indoors, a cutting should work just fine.
Simply cut a good-looking stem from your plant and stick it in about an inch of water until you see roots forming. Once you have a ball of roots, you can transplant your cutting into a pot of soil and set it in a sunny place or under a grow light. Before long, you should start to see new growth forming on your stem. And in a few months, you’ll have fruit!
Some things to note about growing indoors:
Less sun = longer growing time. This is why grow lights can be so helpful as they act as extra sunlight when there isn’t any.
You don’t need to water as often in the winter. The soil holds moisture for longer because it doesn’t have 14 hours of hot sunlight drying it out. If you do accidently overwater your plants, you could end up with fungus gnats, which are not fun, and not the easiest thing to get rid of. If you do end up with gnats, let your soil dry out completely before watering again. Add some yellow sticky traps and try watering from the bottom instead of the top.
Hand-Pollinating. When growing indoors you want to consider how much effort you want to put into pollinating your plants. Tomatoes and peppers are self-pollinating, but you may want to give them a gentle shake once flowers start forming to help them along. If you have the space to grow squash indoors, you’ll have to hand pollinate using a Q-tip or small paint brush, you’ll need to identify the male flowers (those without baby fruits attached to the flower) and the female flower and transfer pollen from the males to the females.
If you want to stick to easy-to-grow veggies for your indoor winter garden that don’t require any, or very little hand pollinating, I recommend trying these:
If you have deep enough containers, you could also try some root veggies such as:
And if you have the space and time to self-pollinate your plants you could try these:
Have you ever grown fruits and veggies indoors during the winter? Did you enjoy it? What did you grow, and would you do it again?