5 Plants That Make an Indoor Vegetable Garden

By: Laura Bullard Urban gardening
A bouquet of fragrant rosemary sprigs ready for addition to your favorite recipe.  Shallow dof

An abundance of research suggests that growing your own food is a more healthful and more sustainable alternative to picking up your fruits, veggies, and herbs from a grocery store. Whether you live in an area that’s not conducive to an outdoor garden or don’t have access to enough outdoor space, you can produce your own food with an indoor vegetable garden.

What to Consider When Planning Your Indoor Garden

Drainage

Drainage is key when it comes to indoor gardening. Purchase pots with drainage holes (or drill your own) and be sure to place a shallow drainage container underneath each to protect your floors, shelves, or window sills. And be sure to repot every year, as roots can sometimes grow through the drainage holes or become pot-bound.

Soil

Be sure to choose a well-draining potting soil. You can purchase well-draining potting soil at your local garden center or you can mix perlite into any regular potting soil to increase its porosity.

Temperature

Most plants suited for an indoor garden will do well in 65°F–75°F. Keep this in mind if you have window units or do not have air conditioning, as this can stunt your plants.

Light

Most vegetable plants need a significant amount of light every day. Fruiting vegetables need about eight hours, root vegetables and culinary herbs need about six, and leafy vegetables need around four hours per day. These numbers are not hard and fast for all indoor plants, we’ll talk about specific requirements below. Place your plants near windows and supplement your natural light with grow lights if necessary.

5 Plants for an Indoor Vegetable Garden

1. Basil

Basil is a remarkably easy herb to grow—indoors or out—and does extremely well in an indoor window box. Basil needs around six hours of natural sunlight per day to stay healthy and flourishing.

Water it regularly and use a bit of organic fertilizer once a month. Basil grows so well indoors that you may want to keep an eye on it—if it starts to overtake other herbs in your window box, you can easily split and repot it.

A member of the mint family, basil releases its aromatic oils almost effortlessly, and does well in drinks. If you’re adding it to a cocktail, you need only tap it gently with a spoon or muddler before you add wet ingredients. Basil plants also actually act as natural air fresheners. Just run your hand through the leaves and enjoy the delightfully sweet, peppery smell.

A bouquet of fragrant rosemary sprigs ready for addition to your favorite recipe.  Shallow dof

2. Rosemary

Rosemary is slightly trickier than basil to grow indoors, but it’s absolutely doable with the right planning and execution. First, because it needs quite a bit of space and has very particular watering needs, give your rosemary its own pot near a window. It loves a lot of sunlight (around four to six hours are necessary, but more is fine too).

When choosing a pot, make sure you leave enough room for the roots. If your plant is six inches high, leave space for six inches of roots. Rosemary is what some gardeners call an upside-down plant—it absorbs its moisture through its foliage, not its roots. To water it, mist the entire plant one to two times a week, and water it normally (the roots need some moisture) once every two weeks.

Once your rosemary has grown to its maximum height (as soon as the leaves are as tall as the pot is deep), repot it or prune the roots. Rosemary roots, if left alone, can outgrow their pot and fail to absorb proper nutrients.

While rosemary is somewhat temperamental to grow, it’s an extraordinarily versatile culinary herb. Make a night of it and drink a lemon and rosemary bourbon sour while you wait for your rosemary, taleggio, and leek pizza to cook.

3. Green onions

Green onions (scallions) are incredibly easy to grow indoors. Grab a bunch from the produce section of the grocery store (usually near the lettuces), chop off their delicious green tops and use them in a stir fry, and simply plant the little white bulbs and attached roots in a well-draining pot.

To get a nice yield, give your green onions a good amount of space. Each onion needs about two inches of open surrounding soil and do best in pots that are at least six inches deep. They need about six hours of sunlight a day, so make sure you place them in a window. Keep them moist and they’ll be ready for harvest in a few weeks.

Not only are they excellent for topping stir fries, salads, and fried rice dishes, you can also pickle them, fry them, and toss them in a gin martini.

4. Carrots

Carrots are actually easier to grow in containers than they are to grow outside because the indoors give you more control over moisture and sun exposure. If you want to grow a smaller variety, start with a pot that is around eight inches deep. If you want to grow full-sized carrots, make sure your pot is at least 12 inches deep.

Carrots need at least six hours of full light, so they do best in a window. Rather than worry about spacing them out evenly, simply sprinkle seeds onto moist potting soil and wait for them to germinate. Once they do, clip out the extra seedlings until each has about an inch of surrounding space. Once the seedlings are around three inches tall, you can begin to fertilize them every two weeks. At around 75 days, they should be ready to harvest.

Toss them into your soups and salads, bake them, saute them, or roast them. They’re delicious raw, but—because their cell walls are tough to digest—they’re actually better for digestion if eaten when cooked.

Figs and Sweet Honey on Wooden Background

5. Fig trees

Fig trees aren’t for the indoor gardener looking for immediate results, taking one to two years to actually yield any fruit. This may seem like a lot of time, but fig trees are actually some of the fastest fruiting trees (citrus trees take three to four years and they don’t typically do very well indoors). Even non-fruiting fig varieties make lovely ornamental trees.

Pick a fig tree and an appropriately sized container from a local nursery—we suggest you start with a five to ten gallon container to give your tree’s roots plenty of space to grow. Fig trees can grow up to 20 feet tall, but if pruned to your desired height, they won’t get much larger than four to five feet tall when potted in a container.

Unlike most of the herbs, fruits, and veggies on this list, fig trees don’t need direct sunlight. They do need to be in a sunny part of your house, but don’t necessarily need the sunniest real estate. Watering once a week is sufficient.

Once they start fruiting, pick them, split them, and drizzle a bit of warm honey over the top for an incredible tasting snack.

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