Caption: Dwarf sugar snap peas sprouting under artificial lights. Photo credit: photo courtesy of MelindaMyers.com
by Melinda Myers
Limited outdoor growing space or cold winters may have you missing fresh homegrown vegetables. Make this the winter you try growing a few vegetables in a sunny window or under artificial lights.
Greens are one of the easiest to grow indoors. Most leafy vegetables tolerate the lower light indoors, require minimal space, and prefer cool temperatures.
Select a container with drainage holes that will fit near a sunny window or under an artificial light set up. Keep the artificial lights about six inches above the top of these and other plants. Fill the container with a well-drained potting mix and sprinkle seeds of your favorite leafy greens over the soil surface. Lightly cover the seeds and moisten the soil.
Remove overcrowded plants, called thinning, to provide sufficient space for the remaining plants to reach full size. Begin harvesting the outer leaves when four to six inches tall.
Extend the time between watering and increase success when growing these and other vegetables by amending the soil with a moisture-retaining product, like Wild Valley Farms’ wool pellets (wildvalleyfarms.com). This organic and sustainable product holds 20% of its weight in water and slowly releases moisture into the soil when needed.
Add some crunch to your salads with quick maturing salad radishes. Plant seeds ¼” deep and thin to one to two inches apart. Use scissors to the thin the plantings at ground level and use the greens to add a bit of zip to salads and sandwiches.
Expand your indoor edible garden by growing dwarf sugar snap peas. These and other vegetables that you eat the fruit or flowers need more light. Supplementing natural sunlight with artificial lights will help increase success.
Select shorter varieties that will be easier to train. Patio Pride grows only nine to 16” tall while Sugar Ann and Little Marvel grow up to 18” tall.
Plant two seeds in each three-inch pot or several seeds two inches apart in a long rectangular container. Once the seedlings reach two inches tall, thin the plantings. Leave one plant in each individual pot and seedlings spaced four inches apart in larger containers. Cut the extra sprouts at ground level and use them in salads, sandwiches and stir fries.
Peas are self-fertile, so no bees are needed. Harvest pods when they reach the size you prefer.
Don’t forget the tomatoes. These take longer and are a bit more challenging but that is the joy of gardening. Start your plants from seeds if transplants are not available.
Consider growing one of the many small-scale tomato varieties that require less space and increase your chance of success. All-America Selections winners Patio Choice Yellow, Lizzano, Torenzo as well as Tiny Tim and Micro tomatoes are some varieties you may want to try.
Grow small plants in one- to two-gallon pots and larger varieties in three- to five-gallon size containers. Water thoroughly when the top few inches of soil begin to dry. Once flowers form, lightly shake the stem to aid in pollination.
Growing vegetables indoors is a fun way to enjoy edible gardening year-round. With every planting you’ll increase your overall gardening experience and success.
Melinda Myers has written more than 20 gardening books, including Small Space Gardening. She hosts The Great Courses “How to Grow Anything” DVD series and the nationally syndicated Melinda’s Garden Moment TV & radio program. Myers is a columnist and contributing editor for Birds & Blooms magazine and was commissioned by Wild Valley Farms for her expertise to write this article. Myers’ website is www.MelindaMyers.com.