There’s nothing quite like being able to pick fresh vegetables and herbs from your garden to cook with, but that really isn’t much of an option when it’s -10 degrees and snowing outside, is it?
Well, it can be. As long as you have some potting soil, containers, and a spot in your home that gets at least six hours of direct sunlight, you’d be surprised what you can grow indoors over the winter months.
What You’ll Need To Grow Food Indoors
- High-quality potting soil
- Containers (these could be planters and pots, or even empty cans and jars)
- Vegetable and herb seeds
- Twine (if growing beans)
- A sunny spot
If you have a south-facing window, chances are that you’ll get a significant amount of light over the course of the day. The area near that window will also be the warmest spot in your home, so that’s where you’ll want to grow your plants.
What Will Grow?
Incredibly easy to grow, as well as very cold-hardy, you can grow an assortment of lettuces in a simple window box that you place on a sill, or on a table close to a sunny window. Just get yourself a packet of mixed cut-and-grow-again lettuce seeds, fill that planter with soil, and sow the seeds according to the packet’s instructions. You should see sprouts within a week, and within a month, you’ll have lovely lettuce leaves to gnaw on.
Kale and Cabbage
Like lettuces, brassicas are notoriously easy to grow, and do well all through the winter months. In fact, if you live in a place where the weather doesn’t dip far below freezing, you can likely grow these outside all winter long, provided that you have a cloche or cold frame over them. To grow them inside, follow the same instructions as with the lettuces, only sow the seeds a bit further apart, as these plants need more room to grow than lettuces do.
Sharp and spicy, this leafy green is a wonderful treat any time of year, and is as great on sandwiches as it is in soups and salads. Sow it generously in a window box or planter, but don’t water it too much: it’s easy to drown arugula roots. As soon as the leaves are a few inches tall, clip down down near the root; the leaves tend to get bitter when they get larger, and if you just cut them back, they should re-grow.
Tomatoes and Peppers
You can actually grow these a couple of different ways: in a windowsill planter or in an upside-down pop bottle planter. The latter is my favorite method, as it allows the plant to channel all of its energy into growing fruit, rather than pushing itself upright. Considering that winter sunlight isn’t anywhere near as strong or warm as it is in summertime, this really is the best option.
Not only are these the easiest things in the world to grow, they can also be quite pretty as house plants. My favorite way to grow beans is to stretch twine over a canvas frame, and secure that to a window. Sure, as the beans grow they’ll obscure a bit of the view, but enough light still gets through to illuminate the indoors, and seeing all of that greenery in the dead of winter is really quite lovely. If you don’t want to go the twine route, you can just stick long bamboo poles into the pot of soil, and lean those against a wall.
It’s lovely to be able to add fresh herbs to anything you’re cooking, and with the exception of dill (which needs a lot of sun and heat and is very temperamental), you should be able to grow just about any cooking herb you can imagine. Woody herbs like rosemary, thyme, and oregano do very well in window boxes, as will cilantro, winter savoury, and chives.
It’s unlikely that you’d be able to grow nasturtiums or hibiscus during the winter months, but you can absolutely grow lavender, violets, calendula, and (if you’re patient), sunflowers.
Undoubtedly the easiest foods to cultivate indoors, sprouts can be grown on your kitchen counter and be ready to eat within a couple of days. I’d recommend visiting Sprouting.com for resources on how to sprout (including instructional videos) as well as tips on where to get the best seeds and legumes to sprout at home.
More stuff about planting that you'll be interested in: Companion Planting 101Featured photo credit: agricultural field of winter wheat under the snow close-up via Shutterstock