Guest Author - T. Lynn Adams
Hurray! It’s fall! They’re on sale!
Now is the time to start buying vegetable seeds. Best of all, you don’t have to wait until spring to use them. You can grow vegetables and herbs in your home, fill your house with some beautiful foliage this winter and put inexpensive vegetables on your table. And, if you maintain a schedule of reseeding every two weeks you can enjoy a steady harvest of your favorites throughout the entire winter!
What can you grow inside your home? Herbs are great but peas, beans, garlic, onions, lettuce, peppers, carrots, tomatoes—even corn—can grow to maturity inside your house! Tougher plants to grow indoors are those that spread, such as squash or cucumbers.
Over the years I have grown a lot of wonderful food in pots and containers, even inside my home. While I have not grown everything mentioned here in my kitchen or living room, I have included gardening tips so you can.
We're all seeing food prices rise. According to Carolyn Nicolaysen’s article at Meridian Magazine, “Pulled Up Sharply by the Soaring Price of Food” vegetables and fruit have increased the most with vegetables climbing an average of 14.2% in the last year and fruits averaging a 15.7% increase. Interesting to me is the fact that the prophets have commanded us for years to plant a garden and fruit trees whenever and wherever possible and now fruits and vegetables are soaring in price.
But, with this article as a starting point, you can grow them this winter, inside your home! With rising food prices this may help trim your grocery bill in as little as four weeks.
SOIL: Most indoor gardeners recommend a potting mixture that contains potting soil, peat moss, vermiculite and perlite. Most gardening stores sell such mixtures already bagged and ready to go. Can’t afford it? Go dig in your garden and bring in that soil. Mix it with some kitchen scraps (no meat, grain or dairy products) and use that. It will be better than nothing.
POTS: Try to use pots at least six-inches wide and six-inches deep. Make sure they are all well drained with a hole in the bottom. Place a layer of rocks or gravel in the bottom of each pot and cover the gravel with soil. Put your pot in a dish or pan to catch excess water and keep dirt from spilling onto your floor.
LIGHTING: A south or west-facing window is best, where your plants can get 8-10 hours of sunlight everyday. If you do not have that kind of natural light, you can substitute with artificial lights (fluorescents work better than incandescent). However, be aware that plants under artificial lighting will need even more light…up to 12-16 hours a day. A floor lamp works great because you can move it around your plants. Since plants tend to turn toward the light, be prepared to rotate all your pots to keep the plants healthier. In the winter, daylight hours are shorter. Plan to use both daylight and artificial light to grow your plants.
Note: If your plants start to look tall and spindly, they need more light and are reaching out trying to find it.
WATER: During the winter, furnances circulate heated air and cause potted plants to dry out quickly. Water them regularly. A layer of peat moss on top of the soil can help retain moisture. Feed your plants a plant food if needed or desired.
SEEDS: Plant foods you like but see if you can find dwarf varieties available. Miniature carrots, dwarf tomatoes, green onions inside of larger varieties.
When planting your seeds, sow them directly into the pot and lightly cover with soil. Until germination, use a spray bottle to keep soil moist without disturbing the tiny seeds. Consider covering them with moist peat moss until they sprout.
POLLINATION: Thankfully we don't have bees in the house during the winter, but some plants need bees to help pollinate the blossom. You can help the plants with this need by mearly shake any flowering branches lightly every couple of days. This will cause the ripe pollen to fall from an upper flower to a lower one. You may even see the pollen falling.
Or, every couple of days you can take a Q-tip and go around your plant, wiping it gently inside each flower. This helps transfer pollen from flower to flower. Do all your tomato plants with the same Q-tip. When you pollinate the pepper plants, use a different Q-tip. This only takes a minute or two every couple of days.
Growing even a few edible plants inside during the winter can be fun. It can also help young children see and enjoy the process of gardening in a warm, snug environment while snow piles up outside.
For tips on specific vegetables and fruits, click on "Growing Vegetables and Fruit Indoors", in the Related Links beneath this article.
Have fun and happy harvesting!