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“You’ve got some basil and a few chilies on the window ledge? Yes, that is really quite cool. However, have you seen my… 🥁… dining room potatoes?“
That’s right. They can keep talking their indoor horticulture smack. You can’t hear them over your bathroom pumpkins. (Okay, maybe that’s just a little bit weird this side of Halloween.)
You catch our drift. Indoor veggies bang. You might end up falling head-over-heels with your vegetables. (Probably not to the extent that you serenade them with classical concerts, like Barcelona’s Liceu Opera House, however.)
They are just as simple and low-maintenance to grow as the cilantro on the shelf, and you don’t even need garden space to do it. Mind. Blown.
Save the money you spent on fresh veg at the supermarket and spend it on nice hats. Save the planet by only harvesting what you plan to use when you need it.
The longer you do it, the more veggies you’ll want to add to the collection. Indoor growers needn’t to wait for the right season to get going, and everything you grow can be organic.
In some cases, you can even regrow your veggies from scraps. That, friends, is the circle of life in full swing. Let us show you how to transform your living room into a living grocery store — and which goodies to put on the shelves.
You can’t grow a radish without somewhere for it to lay its roots (and if that’s not yet a popular idiom, we think it should be.)
Setting up the right environment for your vegetable companions is key to eating them later.
Literally any container full of dirt with a hole in the bottom will work. but some are more user-friendly — and attractive — than others.
Some of our writers have used the following as makeshift veggie incubators:
- toiletry storage bins from Target
- plastic yogurt tubs
- ornate olive oil tins
- old kitty litter buckets
- drawers salvaged from an IKEA dresser that fell apart
- burlap coffee sacks
- old shoes
- a mug shaped like a llama’s head
- wet kitchen roll (although you might find the line drawn at cress, here)
- egg cartons
Sack farming in particular is ideal for people who have very little space. Sacks are high in volume but take up little surface space. Plus, you can slit the sides and grow different plants!)
There hasn’t been this much magic in a sack since “Little Big Planet” or Santa’s last globetrot.
Go through your recycling and get creative with it. You can use regular flower pots too, of course, but that’s so 2015.
Add a bit of gravel to the bottom of the container to encourage drainage.
If you don’t have gravel, you can use:
- smashed-up old ceramic plates or cups
- bits of concrete
- a handful of actual rocks
Put some kind of saucer or dish underneath the container to catch any leaking during watering, then fill the rest with soil. We like Sungro Black Gold, which is organic and affordable.
However, have a dig for an organic soil that suits your budget and growing needs.
Every show needs a star!
If you’re starting your garden from seeds and want to keep it low-key in the beginning, we recommend Jiffy Peat Pellet Seed Starters. They’re cheap and easy: You just add water, and they pop up (fluff ’em with a fork), so you don’t have to fill up a Dixie cup with dirt.
Plus transplanting to larger containers is a snap. There are upsides to going to a garden store and buying your own greenhouse seedlings, however: They’ll be hardier, healthier, and more likely to thrive than the ones you start yourself.
Here are some of the easiest, most prolific, and most useful vegetables to grow at home.
These may include:
- loose-leaf lettuces
These guys couldn’t be easier: Just water every day, get your scissors, and custom-snip yourself a salad. We like to have a few pots going at once and plant new seeds every 10 to 14 days to ensure a steady salad supply.
Greens are perfectly happy in smaller containers too. You can separate your salad species pot by pot or plant from a seed packet of mixed greens.
Chard, in particular, especially the rainbow-hued bright lights variety, doesn’t need a lot of attention and brings delicious, visually dazzling results.
Try them in 7 simple side salads to accompany literally any dish.
If you plant it from seed, celery takes about 120 long days from germination to harvest, but you can speed up the process significantly.
Just take the base of an old bunch of celery and let it sit in water for 5 to 7 days, until leaves start to grow out of the top and roots sprout from the base.
Then, replant it in a pot with soil that loosely covers the roots, and watch it go to town. Break off a few stalks as you need them, leaving the rest of the bunch intact and alive.
Celery’s easy as long as you water it daily. Don’t drown it, though, as the outer stalks can rot. You can also bake it and stuff it with goat’s cheese, garlic, and basil. Mmmm.
Sweet potatoes and potato potatoes
This one is the best:
- Take a sprouty old potato from the supermarket.
- Cut it up into chunks, with two or three sprouts per chunk.
- Lay them sprout-side-up on at least 4 inches of soil (and you don’t even need gravel).
- Bury them in another 4 inches of dirt…
- 😲😲😲😲😲 More potatoes! One potato, two potato, three potato…
It takes between 1 to 2 months before they’re ready, depending on the variety. You need to keep adding soil as the plants get taller and taller. But it’s so, so satisfying to rummage around in the dirt and pull up your own spuds. It’s the extra helping of french fries you always dreamed of.
There are actually potato-growing sacks out there, with flaps at the bottom for easier harvesting. However, a large pot works just as well.
The potatoes will tell you when they’re ready because the foliage will turn yellow. And they’ll always yell “Dude, let us go, our faces have been covered in soil for ages.” (They won’t. Don’t worry.)
When yellow foliage appears, cut the plants and leave them alone for 10 days before harvesting the potatoes underneath. A note: Make sure you cure your taters (don’t worry, it’s super easy) before you eat them.
Growing radishes is as easy as can be, and they grow fast, with only 30 to 40 days from germination to harvest. (That must be why there are strange musical cults dedicated to holding up the humble radish as the center of the universe. Beats me, but hail the radish indeed.)
There are all kinds of fun, colorful varieties too — watermelon radishes are a favorite. They don’t like to be crowded, so you’ll have to thin out the herd if they sprout too close together.
We should 100 percent look to radishes for tips on physical distancing.
Other than that, just plant the seeds under half an inch of soil in a container with at least 8 inches of soil in it, water them every day, and pull them up as soon as they’re ready so they don’t get bitter. (Nothing worse than a resentful radish.)
You can keep a few pots of these going at once by staggering when you sow them, just in case inspiration for taco night randomly strikes!
Try this perfectly simple recipe radish sandwiches. (Or, y’know… are tacos still on the menu? Please?)
Similar to radishes, carrots don’t need much space, and the sprouts also need thinning out. They like to have 1 to 2 inches of wingspan, so to speak. They tend to need deeper soil than radishes and typically take about twice as long to harvest (around 70 days). They are, however, essentially as simple to grow.
If you want to save time — and heartbreak, if you love all of your plants like pets, even the babies — you can buy carrot seed tape or pelleted seed that eliminates the need to thin your crop by hand.
Then make a tray of roasted carrots with cardamom butter. A bomb meal and you haven’t even been to the store.
If you like kicking your mouth in the pants, few things can beat a chili pepper.
You can grow chilis indoors, as long as you can give them at least 6 hours of bright sunlight a day and don’t keep your thermostat below 70°F (21°C). They can even grow from the seeds you scrape from your store-bought chiles, as long as they’re organic.
Whether you settle for jalapeños, habaneros, and Thai bird’s-eye chilis or escalate the heat to the near unmanageable levels of the Carolina Reaper, you can germinate all the heat you can handle in a 16-inch pot.
In even better news, they’re pretty hardy and won’t die if you forget to water them for a couple of days. (Looking at you, celery, you careless idiot.)
This is one plant that will benefit from a grow light or outdoor placement during warm weather if that’s possible. Chiles are self-pollinating, but outdoor insects help them out with this process.
If your chiles are flowering but not fruiting, hand-pollination (not a euphemism) is easy — just tap the stems gently once the flowers have bloomed to spread the pollen.
Then use the fruits of your labor in spicy baked chicken meatballs and prepare for the most visceral poop of you life.
You say tomato, I also say tomato. Because they’re great.
Tomatoes, like their nightshade cousins chile peppers, are self-pollinating, and many varieties can thrive in containers. Smaller tomatoes are a safer bet for indoor growing — these include:
- Red Robins
- Yellow Pears
- Tiny Tims
- Florida Petites
(Who named these, Mr. Rogers’ marketing team?)
Tomatoes can tolerate colder climes than chilis as well — a minimum of 65°F (18°C) or so.
Nothing’s worse than a mealy, pale, flavorless wintertime tomato (aside from a fresh one being launched in your direction as a projectile). Having access to your own sunny, organic toms will brighten your whole season.
If you love tomatoes as much as we do, you can start a new pot every 2 weeks to keep the cycle going.
Since tomatoes are self-pollinating, the chile pepper rules apply: If they’re not doing the thing on their own, just tap the stems of the open flowers to get the pollen moving around.
Of course, you need to try these homemade tomato sauce recipes once your tomatoes are going strong.
Kale can grow to magnificent heights in an outdoor garden, but it’s perfectly content indoors too — possibly even more so, as it’s not the biggest fan of extreme temperatures.
You can keep it going all year round, so long as you stay on top of the watering and direct sunlight.
If you’re aiming for microgreens, kale sprouts are ready in a couple of weeks. The plants take about 2 months total to reach maturity.
Once they’re ready, try one of our crazy-good kale recipes that aren’t salads.
Scallions are by far the easiest vegetable to grow from scraps. All you do is take the white ends of the scallions, stick ’em in enough water to submerge the roots, and change the water every few days.
After a week, you can plant them in a pot. Then just snip off the fresh ends with a pair of scissors to season your meals. Voila! Never buy scallions again! What even is a store anymore?
If they start to flower, it’s no problem — the zingy blossoms are great in salads. And then you have to give this Momofuku ginger scallion sauce a shot. Because, well, oh my goodness.
Indoor growing is so sustainable and easy that it’s stunning the world doesn’t still run entirely on home produce. Of course, there may be some vegetables that grow better in certain climates, so research what grows well near you.
And if you’ve got outdoor space, we also have advice on how to make the absolute best of your garden, even if you’ve never done it before.