Alright, it’s fall, it’s getting chilly, and it’s time to put away your gardening tools, right? Wrong! Even if your zone’s climate is inhospitable to plant life during the fall and winter months, it’s not necessarily time to throw in the trowel just yet. We’ve all seen people grow their flowers indoors, and the same can be done with vegetables! Container gardening is a good way to keep your green thumb active throughout the year. In fact, some of your plants from your outdoor garden can even be brought indoors over the winter, and will keep producing for several weeks! just be careful to avoid spreading possible insect or fungus problems to tender young plants you’ve started indoors. To start, here are some of the things you’ll need:
Heating implement (if you don’t have a south-facing window)
Outdoor or aquarium thermometer
Small watering can
Of course, the basics like clippers and a small shovel
Depending on the plants you choose, you may want to invest in a miniature greenhouse or plant tent as well, especially if you’re growing plants that love heat such as peppers and certain melons.
Some vegetable plants are very finnicky, and others are very not. No matter what you plant, it’s important that you do the research on the vegetables you’re planting to determine their needs. With proper care, almost any vegetable can be grown indoors–but sometimes that care (or the plant’s size) make that slightly less than practical. All in all, growing vegetables indoors over the winter is a good way to continue providing for yourself throughout the year. Here are some good choices:
Onions, garlic, and chives
Carrots, turnips, and beets
Tomatoes and peppers
Lettuce, kale, and chard
Of course, as mentioned before, almost anything can be grown indoors if you’re willing to take the time and effort to care for them. In addition, you may want to try growing some herbs! They smell good, and will add an extra-special zest to the vegetables you’ve grown indoors. Some standards to try are oregano, basil, marjoram, and savory.
Once you’ve gathered your tools and seed packet, it’s time to get started! At first, it’s all pretty self-explanatory–fill up the pot with an inch to spare, bury the seeds to the depth recommended on the packet, and water gently.
What happens after that can be a bit trickier, as it may
from plant to plant. You may want to check out a growing guide or do some heavy research on your individual plants to determine what their needs are. How much sunlight do they need? How warm must they be? Will they require misting in the drier air of your house? These are some of the questions you should ask as you read your guides.
Generally, if you have access to a sunny, south-facing window, that should be where you keep your plants. If not, use grow lamps and heating implements such as heat mats. But be careful not to place these too close to the plants, or you risk burning their tender leaves! Use the thermometer to ensure that your plants are at the right temperature. Also, try grouping your plants by their light and heat needs, to make care less troublesome. For plants that require more moisture than a house’s dry air provides, be sure to mist them as often as recommended by your growing guide.
Many of your outdoor vegetable plants can be brought indoors to overwinter. Some may even continue producing while inside! But don’t be alarmed or disappointed if they don’t produce. They were raised outside, and “know” that it’s fall, the end of their growing time. They may take the opportunity to rest in anticipation of next spring.
When bringing your plants indoors, gently dig up your plants, while being as careful as you can around their roots. Try not to shake too much dirt loose. Make a space in the potting soil for your plant, fan its roots out and set in. Then cover the roots and gently pat the soil to remove overly large air pockets. Let your plant remain outside in its pot for a few days to give it time to acclimate. During this time, you may want to treat it with gentle antifungal and insecticidal soap in order to prevent transmission of these plant pests indoors, where they may harm your new babies. After a few days, let it sit in the shade for a few days to allow it to get used to less light. You should prune the plant a little, to help manage the size and also, as usual, encourage new growth. This growth will be taking place indoors, which means your plant will have an easier time of being transferred.
With a bit of time, effort, and research, you can keep your kitchen stocked with fresh vegetables even through the winter, without needing to spend a fortune at the grocery store!