If you don’t have access to outdoor space, you can still grow good food indoors. You can find creative solutions for growing just about anything indoors, but some plants especially thrive indoors. Follow the guidelines on growing food in containers, with these additional considerations for growing indoors:
Choose a location that’s easy to access, but also out of the way enough that the containers aren’t in the way or easily knocked over. Windowsills and large countertops are great options, especially if they get at least four to six hours of direct sunlight each day.
If natural sunshine is in short supply, consider purchasing a small indoor grow light. Many local garden stores and online vendors have starter options as inexpensive as $20. With a grow light, you open up a lot of possibilities for location. Because plants also like warmth, which they would naturally get from the sun, some folks keep their plants on top of the fridge (which gives off a bit of warmth and warm air rises). Keep plants away from air conditioning units and strong fans and choose a location with generally consistent temperature and humidity.
Microgreens and baby greens
Microgreens are packed full of nutrients, only take around 10 days to grow, and take up a tiny amount of space. Choose from fast growing radish greens, spicy water cress, or substantial sunflower greens.
Each plant will have different growing requirements (check your seed packet), but many require seed soaking before planting in soil. You can grow them densely in repurposed fast food containers, yogurt cups, or any other vessel that you can add drainage holes to (or there’s lots of trendy kits online). Keep a pair of scissors handy to trim microgreens onto a salad, sandwich, smoothie, or just about any meal.
Baby greens are essentially micro greens that have been given more time (around 2 weeks) and space (space around an inch apart).
Sprouts are younger than microgreens—they’re seeds in early germination and growth. This means they’re ready to eat even faster, as soon as three days after you start them.
Choose a sprouting seed like alfalfa (to make the classic sprouts you see at the grocery store), broccoli, chia, or pumpkin. You can even sprout many raw nuts and beans. Be sure to buy seeds that are meant for eating instead of planting, as they’re treated and processed differently.
You’ll need a large mason jar, repurposed pickle jar, or other clear glass container with a lid. Many seeds are very small, so you need a special lid for draining water from the sprouts. You can purchase a sprouting lid for a few dollars at many health food stores or online, or you can repurpose a piece of screen or mesh secured to the jar with a rubber band.
Soak 1-2 tablespoons of seeds in the jar overnight. After soaking, drain, rinse, and store upside down so excess water can drain out. Rinse at least twice a day until your seeds sprout and store in the fridge in a container lined with paper towel or filled with cold water (change the water regularly).
Fresh herbs are expensive to buy at the store but are relatively cheap and easy to grow indoors year-round. They prefer 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day, otherwise may need a grow light.
The herbs that grow best indoors are perennials like mint, oregano, thyme, and rosemary. Parsley, basil, and cilantro can also be grown indoors but need to be replanted regularly. Trim off the plant with scissors as needed for adding to meals—this trimming actually encourages the plant to grow more, just like a haircut—but avoid removing more than a quarter of the leaves at any one time.
Grow your kitchen scraps
Foods from the grocery store that still have the root node can be placed in a jar or bowl of shallow water and grown at home. When you’re shopping, choose produce with this root node still intact, like a full head of lettuce instead of loose-leaf lettuce. Other foods you can grow this way include celery, beet greens, bok choy, and green onions.
Mushroom stems, onion ends, and sprouted potatoes can also be used to grow food at home.
Growing at home helps you eliminate food miles and the climate impacts of shipping food around the world. Growing from kitchen scraps takes that one step farther by keeping these organic materials out of the landfill where they produce methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.