If you love to cook with fresh vegetables and herbs, growing an indoor garden is a great way to keep your recipes clean and healthy year-round. When outdoor garden space is limited, or the weather outside is too cold, your windowsill can serve as a small-space garden for certain edible plants, such as leafy greens and herbs. Typical indoor temperatures are perfect for growing many types of food–even during winter months. The key to successfully growing plants indoors is providing the right amount of light. With enough hours of sunlight, you can grow an indoor garden any time of the year.
Leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach, microgreens and kale can grow with moderate light, like what they’d receive in a part-shade/part-sun location in an outdoor vegetable garden. The same is true for cool-season herbs such as cilantro and parsley. Most of these plants are compact and lend themselves to small-space kitchen gardening. If you have a sunny window that’s south- or east-facing, these vegetables and herbs are good candidates for a window box garden:
Step 1: Start with Transplants
To plant your windowsill garden, start by picking up transplants of leafy greens and herbs at your local garden center. Look for loose-leaf lettuces, sorrel, arugula, spinach, kale, cilantro, parsley and related varieties, growing in 3- to 4-inch diameter pots.
Step 2: Pot Up Your Plants
Next, pot up each plant into a 6- to 8-inch diameter container, in a loose indoor potting mix, and place them in a bright windowsill or bright sunny room. A bigger pot will allow your plants to put down new roots. Choose pots with drainage holes and use a water-catching tray. Water your plants so that the soil is damp to the touch, but not soggy.
Step 3: Provide a Good Light Source
Place plants in a bright south-, east- or west-facing window. If you don’t have a bright windowsill, you can also grow leafy greens, herbs and microgreens under low-intensity grow lamps. Two HO T5 fluorescent (HO stands for high-output, and T5 is the size of fluorescent grow lamp) or LED lamps will do the trick. Leave the lights on for 12 hours a day.
Step 4: Fertilize Monthly
Leafy greens and herbs aren’t heavy feeders, but since you’ll be harvesting from them regularly, be sure to feed them monthly with an organic natural liquid fertilizer that contains humus or seaweed.
Step 5: Harvest
If you start with transplants, you’ll be able to start harvesting a few leaves from your potted leafy greens and herbs right away. If you’re starting plants from seed, refer to the days-to-harvest listed on the seed pack. When harvesting, always snip off leaves growing around the outside of the plant, allowing the new leaves to continue growing from the center. Leafy greens and herbs can be grown indoors continuously year-round, but if you’re harvesting regularly you may need to refresh your plants with new ones from time to time.
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