How to Grow Vegetables With Indoor Lighting

Overview

Growing vegetables indoors is a great way of extending the growing season into the winter. Best of all, it is not any more difficult then growing vegetables outdoors. While you may face challenges of meeting a plant's need for water and light, you won't have to deal with many of the pests and diseases that come with growing vegetables outdoors.

Step 1

Select a container that is deep enough to grow the vegetables when they are mature and has adequate drainage. Make sure that it has never contained any products that might be toxic.

Step 2

Fill the container with soil. Do not use soil from your garden. Instead, use a mixture of one part potting soil, one part vermiculite, one part peat, and one part perlite.

Step 3

Plant the seeds according to directions on the seed package.

Step 4

If possible, place the container in a location that receives at least six to eight hours of direct sunlight every day by placing it directly next to a window with a southern exposure. Although this is not required, vegetables that receive at least some natural light will grow better. You may still need to use artificial light to supplement most vegetables.

Step 5

Hang the fluorescent light fixtures above the plants using chain and s-hooks, which allow you to raise the lights as the plants grow. For vegetables, you will want to use a fixture that holds two to four florescent bulbs.

Step 6

Raise or lower the fluorescent light fixture(s) until they are 6 inches above vegetables that should be grown in full sun. For vegetables that require less sunlight, you may want to raise the fixture a few inches (up to 1 foot).

Step 7

Use a a combination of cool-white and warm-white fluorescent bulbs in your lighting fixture to supplement the lighting needs for the vegetables or if growing the vegetables away from a window. You will need about 20 watts per square foot of growing area to provide enough light to grow most vegetables, according to horticulturist David Trinklein. (Most fluorescent tubes are 40 watts.)

Step 8

Turn the lights on for at least 12 to 14 hours a day if the plants receive some direct sunlight and 16 to 18 hours a day if they receive no sunlight. Use a timer to help turn the lights on and off. The lights should be used at the same time natural light is received.

Step 9

Water the plants daily or every other day. Apply water until it runs out of the drainage holes. The extra watering will help make up for the lack of humidity typical of indoor growing conditions.

Step 10

Adjust the lighting or the plants as necessary by raising the fluorescent lights as the plant grows and by turning plants so all its sides get equal sunlight.

Step 11

Fertilize with a balanced organic fertilizer every two weeks because the extra watering can deplete nutrients in the soil faster.

Step 12

Pollinate plants by tapping the main stems with your finger or brushing each of the flowers with a small paint brush. This will ensure the flowers are pollinated.

Things You'll Need

  • Potting soil
  • Vermiculite
  • Peat
  • Perlite
  • Water
  • Organic fertilizer
  • Window with southern exposure (optional)
  • Reflective florescent lighting
  • Cool-white florescent bulb
  • Warm-white florescent
  • Chain
  • S-hooks

References

  • University of Wisconsin-Extension: Growing Vegetables at Home
  • Colorado State University Cooperative Extension: Grow Your Own Tomatoes Indoors This Winter
  • University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension: Growing Vegetables in Containers
  • University of Minnesota Extension: Gardening in the Shade
  • University of Missouri Extension: Lighting Indoor Plants

Who Can Help

  • Texas A&M University: Vegetable Gardening in Containers
  • Ohio State University: Container Vegetable Gardening
  • Iowa State University: Container Vegetable Gardening
  • The Southern Great Lakes Gardener: Indoor Vegetable Gardening
Keywords: growing vegetables indoors, indoor container gardening, indoor lighting

About this Author

Darcy Logan has been a full-time writer since 2004. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English and Master of Arts in special education from Middle Tennessee State University. Before writing, she worked for several years as an English and special education teacher. Logan published first book, "The Secret of Success is Not a Secret," and several education workbooks under the name Darcy Andries.