Indoor Vegetable Gardening Tips

An indoor garden is an ideal way to increase your available gardening space. This is especially useful for gardeners who have little space in their yard for vegetables or no yard at all. Indoor vegetable gardens are also less susceptible to disease and pests. Many gardeners also choose to grow their vegetables indoors when growing plants that are especially prone to disease or when their soil or yard is plagued with pests or disease.

Choose Suitable Plants

Choose vegetables that do not take much space to grow. There are many dwarf and miniature varieties of large vegetable plants; however, many of these do not produce as prolifically as their standard-sized counterparts. You can also choose large plants that produce over an extended period of time, like tomatoes or peppers. According to the horticultural experts at the University of West Virginia, the following vegetables are ideally suited for container growth: bush beans, beets, carrots, cabbage, Swiss chard, cucumbers, eggplant, kale, lettuce, mustard greens, green onions, bell peppers, summer squash, tomatoes and turnips

Provide Adequate Sunlight

You can grow root vegetables, like carrots, and leafy vegetables, like lettuce, in partial shade. But fruiting vegetables, like cucumbers and tomatoes, need a minimum of five hours of direct, full sun a day to survive, and they will grow well only with between eight and 10 hours. Ideally, this sunlight should come from the south, where the sunlight is strongest. If you must place your vegetables where they will receive eastern or western sun only, place aluminum foil near the plants or surround them with white-painted surfaces so that they can receive the additional benefit of reflected light. If your indoor vegetable plants are tall, spindly and generally failing to thrive (this is quite common during the winter months, when sunlight is at its weakest), place two, 4-foot-long fluorescent lights (one cool white and one warm white) roughly 3 inches above the plant's topmost foliage. Leave the light on for 14 hours a day.

Choose Suitable Containers

Don't be afraid to use creativity or ingenuity to find or make planting containers. They can be made out of any material, and even found items like old wooden boxes can make ideal containers, as long as they have never held toxic chemicals. The only limitation is that you need drainage holes at the bottom of the container for excess water to drain out. These can easily be fashioned with a drill and a 1/4-inch bit: five or six evenly spaced holes in the bottom of the container should be sufficient. Most vegetable plants need between 6 to 8 inches of room to grow. Ideally, the containers should be lifted off of the ground when they are watered to allow excess water to drain. Consider keeping your plants on dollies or rolling platforms so that they can be moved easily in case of inclement weather.

Choose the Proper Soil

Most garden soil is too heavy for container gardening. Instead, use packaged potting soil that is well-drained and lightweight. However, most soil-less potting media are too light and nutrient-poor for vegetable container gardening.

Provide Enough Water

The soil in a planting container will dry out more quickly than the soil in the ground, especially if it is sitting in full sun. Check the planting container's soil once or twice a day by sticking your finger into the soil. Water adult plants when the top third of the soil dries out. Seeds and transplants should be kept moist until a week or so after they germinate or until they establish themselves and produce new growth. Water plants in planting containers until water runs out of their drainage holes.

Fertilize Properly

It's your job to provide your plant with all of the nutrients it needs. Commercial soil mixes will provide adequate nutrients for the first eight weeks. After that, give your plant a water-soluble houseplant fertilizer once every two to three weeks. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for application rates based on your vegetable plant's size.

Keywords: indoor garden, vegetable garden, indoor vegetables

About this Author

Emma Gin is a freelance writer who specializes in green, healthy and smart living. She is currently working on developing a weight-loss website that focuses on community and re-education. Gin is also working on a collection of short stories, because she knows what they say about idle hands.