There’s no need to let cold weather or a lack of outdoor garden space stop you from growing food. There are many vegetables, fruits, and herbs that can be grown indoors. Below you’ll find 11 indoor food garden ideas to get you started. Some, like sprouts and microgreens, are very quick to go from seed to harvest, while others like lettuce and carrots can take four to six weeks to size up. But you can also try a fun DIY like growing your own Meyer lemons or re-growing scallions or lettuce stems. Read on for all the advice you need to get started growing an indoor food garden.
Before you get started with these indoor food garden ideas, a word about light
Before I dive into my favourite indoor food garden ideas, I wanted to take a moment to talk about light. Providing adequate light is the biggest challenge when growing food indoors. A sunny, south-facing window is generally fine for growing garlic shoots, re-growing scallions, or starting microgreens. To grow edible plants like strawberries or hot peppers, however, especially in winter where the days are short and the light is low, adding a growlight can make all the difference. If you have big plans for growing food indoors, consider investing in a grow light. There are many types, styles and sizes available. They can be bought as single tabletop fixtures, multi-tier light stands, compact kits to mount under kitchen counters or bookshelves, and there are even simple clip on grow lights that make it easy to add a bit of extra light to your plants. The excellent book, Gardening Under Lights by Leslie Halleck is essential reading for anyone wanting to grow food indoors.
11 Indoor food garden ideas:
Where are the herbs? I always keep herbs on my kitchen window but I didn’t include herbs in the below list of indoor food garden ideas. Why? Because I’ve already written about growing herbs inside in this detailed article. That said, my favorite herbs for the windowsill include basil, thyme, rosemary, parsley, and oregano, the ones I find myself using the most. And, as you’ll find out below, I often grow herbs like basil and cilantro indoors as microgreens to add bold and bright flavor to our salads and stir-fries.
They may cost a pretty penny at fancy restaurants, but did you know that microgreens are easy to grow at home? They’re also quick with most ready to harvest just 10 to 25 days from seeding, depending on the crop. Microgreens are vegetables, herbs, or even flowers that are seeded densely and harvested at the cotyledon or first true leaf stage. They’re flavorful and nutritious and can be sprinkled on salads, sandwiches, pastas, and other dishes.
Seed companies offer individual packets of microgreen seeds for vegetables like broccoli, arugula, lettuce, chard, and radishes, as well as microgreen mixes which are often divided into ‘mild’ or ‘spicy’. Herbs like cilantro, basil, and dill also make excellent microgreens, or flowers like sunflowers or celosia. There are so many flavors and colors so don’t be shy about trying new-to-you microgreens. To learn more about the many, MANY plants that can be grown as microgreens, check out this detailed chart from Johnny’s Selected Seeds.
You can grow microgreens in pots or trays filled with a high quality potting mix or coconut coir or hemp fibre mats. If using potting mix, I like to use a shallow seeding tray or recycled clear plastic salad container as you only need to use 1 to 1 1/2 inches of potting mix. If growing microgreens in a basement or room with little air circulation, use an oscillating fan to move air and reduce disease issues like damping off. A heating mat is also useful at speeding up germination and growth. If your microgreen garden is on your kitchen counter, you may want to grow in wooden microgreen kits that look more stylish than plastic trays.
For a non-stop supply of tasty microgreens, sow new trays every few weeks. And there’s no need to have a different tray for each type of crop. You can sow bands of different seeds in a single tray. Just try to group crops that take about the same amount of time to grow together.
Here are four steps to growing microgreens:
Step 1 – Place your growing medium in the trays or flats. I pre-water the potting mix to ensure an even distribution of moisture.
Step 2 – Sow seeds densely, about a quarter inch apart. Press the seeds lightly to ensure good soil-seed contact. Cover with a scant 1/8 inch of potting mix or vermiculite. Water from the bottom (to avoid dislodging the seeds) or spritz the soil surface with a hand sprayer.
Step 3 – Place planted microgreens beneath a growlight (leaving it on for sixteen hours a day) or in a sunny window. Water often, keeping the soil lightly moist, not wet.
Step 4 – Read the seed packet for harvest information, but most microgreens are harvseted with clean scissors or herb snips when they have developed their first set of true leaves – about two to four weeks. Rinse to remove any seed coats that may still be sticking to the tiny plants and enjoy!
If you’re looking for quick and easy indoor food garden ideas, consider growing sprouts. Sprouts require no fancy equipment or grow lights, and can be grown right on your kitchen counter. Plus, they’re ready to harvest in mere days!
I recommend buying organic seeds sold for sprouting as they won’t have been grown using pesticides or herbicides. One of my local garden centres has a wall of sprouting seeds, along with jars, and other equipment, but you can also buy bags of sprouting seed online.
A word about seed sprouting equipment:
You don’t need much to grow sprouts. I use clean quart-sized jars fitted with sprouting tops to allow air circulation and good drainage. Instead of a sporting top you can also use a piece of cheesecloth secured to the jar with a rubber band. If you’re serious about sprouting, you may want to buy seed spouter trays, which nestle together and allow you to grow several varieties at a time.
How to grow sprouts indoors:
Step 1 – Once you’ve gathered your materials, read the seed packet to see how many tablespoons of seeds to place in the jar – this can vary by type of seed. I learned from Jessica (in this excellent article) to disinfect the seeds first by soaking them in a mixture of one cup water and two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar. After ten minutes, drain and rinse the seeds with clean water.
Step 2 – Place the seeds in the jar and fill it with clean water. Leave the seeds to soak overnight, or for eight hours. After the allotted time is up, drain the water from the jar and then place it on its side on a plate or tray. It should be placed out of direct sunlight.
Step 3 – Continue to rinse and drain the seeds twice each day (I do this first thing in the morning and before I go to bed at night).
Step 4 – It takes about three to five days for the seeds to sprout and start to show a little green. At this point, they’ll likely almost fill the jar. Use them anytime. When ready, I remove the sprouts from the jar and place them in a lidded plastic container lined with paper towels. We use them within five days.
There are four ways to grow kale indoors: as a sprout, microgreen, baby salad green, or full-sized plant. You’ll find instructions for growing sprouts and microgreens above so I’d like to focus here on growing kale as a baby salad green and mature plant.
It’s also important to note that there are many types of kale with varied plant sizes, leaf colors and textures, and maturity times. My favorites for indoor growing are the standard variety Red Russian and dinosaur kale. Both are relatively fast-growing and make excellent baby greens.
- Growing kale for salad greens – Kale is very nutritious and the young leaves make tender salad greens. Growing kale for salads means you probably want to harvest quite a bit at once. Although you can also selectively harvest leaves to add to mixed green salads or sandwiches. For maximum production, sow seeds in a tray or seeding flat filled with potting mix. Space seeds one inch apart and cover them with a scant quarter inch of potting mix. Keep the tray consistently moist to promote good germination. Once the seedlings are four to five inches tall, you can start to harvest by pinching leaves off with your fingers or clipping them with herb snips. With proper care, your mini kale garden should continue to provide you with fresh leaves for four to six weeks.
- Growing a mature kale plant – To grow a good-sized kale plant on your windowsill, start by selecting a pot that has drainage holes. Fill it with a high quality potting mix and direct seed three to four kale seeds, sowing them a quarter of an inch deep. Keep the soil consistently moist to promote good germination and early growth. Once the plants are eight to ten inches tall, remove the smallest seedlings, leaving behind one healthy plant (eat the seedlings you remove or lift them carefully and move them to their own pots). Fertilize with an organic liquid food every month and keep the plant in a bright sunny window, or add a spotlight grow light if you can’t provide enough natural light. I love the form and foliage of kale and think it makes an excellent edible houseplant.
Re-growing veggies (the most unique of my indoor food garden ideas!)
This is one of my favorite indoor food garden ideas, especially for kids! It’s fun to plant up the stem end of supermarket vegetables like lettuce, scallions, and celery after you eat the tops of the plants. You can even plant the top of your pineapple once you’ve eaten the fruit and it will grow a new plant and eventually another pineapple. Of course this is not the most productive way to grow food indoors. It’s more like a science experiment with benefits! You get to watch the plant grow and then eat the fresh shoots.
Depending on what type of vegetable you’re re-growing, you can put it in a jar of water or plant it up in potting mix. Find suggestions for each method below. Read more about this fun subject in the awesome book, No-Waste Kitchen Gardening.
- Vegetables to re-grow in water – celery, scallions, leeks, lemongrass, lettuce, beets, turnips, radishes.
- Vegetables to plant in potting mix (they should have some roots still attached) – scallions, lettuce, garlic, onions, ginger, turmeric,
Growing citrus trees like lemons, limes, and oranges indoors is becoming increasing popular as these plants can make excellent houseplants. Most citrus plants sold for indoor or container growing are grafted to dwarf rootstock so the plants stay compact. The challenge then becomes keeping the subtropical plants happy inside a home where humidity and light can vary.
If you’re new to citrus, start with a Meyer lemon, which is considered the easiest type to grow inside. It’s a cross between lemons and mandarin oranges and flowers and fruits throughout the year. And the flowers are enough of a reason to grow this plant as they have an incredible fragrance. As the flowers open, hand pollinate by transferring pollen between blossoms with a cotton swab. As the fruits mature, harvest them for lemonade or cooking.
Keeping indoor citrus plants happy:
- Light – Citrus trees need light. A lot of light! Place them in a room where they get ten to twelve hours of light each day. In northern regions, a supplemental grow light from late autumn through late winter is helpful.
- Humidity – Most citrus plants appreciate high humidity, which is a challenge when growing indoors. To boost humidity, place the pot on a saucer or tray filled with pebbles. When you water, the extra moisture will collect on the tray and increase humidity around the plant as it evaporates.
- Watering – When dry, citrus plants curl their leaves, a sure sign of stress. Water deeply, but infrequently aiming to keep the soil lightly moist, but not too wet or too dry.
For more information on growing citrus in pots, check out this excellent post by Jessica.
With its mild flavor and crunch, lettuce is the most popular salad green grown in gardens. But it’s also a great choice for growing indoors in pots or trays. It’s fast-growing, dependable, and there are many varieties to plant. For the greatest success, I recommend growing leaf or romaine lettuces indoors which can be harvested when the leaves are three to five inches long.
Growing lettuce indoors:
Step 1 – Fill a pot or tray with pre-moistened potting mix. Sow the seeds evenly on the surface of the soil, trying to space them about an inch apart for baby greens. If you want to try and grow heads of lettuce, space them three to four inches apart, eventually thinning to six to eight inches apart. Cover with a scant quarter inch of potting mix and water.
Step 2 – Place in a sunny window that offers at least ten to twelve hours of light per day, or under growlights. Keep the soil consistency moist (not wet) until the seeds germinate and the plants are growing well.
Step 3 – Start harvesting baby leaves for salads by plucking individual leaves. If you’re growing full-sized heads, cut them at the soil surface once they’ve reached the desired size.
I grow a lot of hot peppers outdoors in my garden beds and greenhouse. We use the fruits fresh from late summer through mid-autumn and also dry many to make crushed pepper flakes. But the truth is that dry peppers just don’t compare to the juicy heat of fresh peppers so I always bring a few of my hot pepper plants indoors in early autumn before the first frost.
Peppers like Basket of Fire, which grows 12 to 15 inches tall and 18 inches wide are big enough to yield dozens of fiery fruits, but compact enough to fit in most indoor spaces. You can dig and pot up garden grown plants or move container peppers indoors, just be sure to check for pests first.
Peppers love heat and light so place them in a spot where they receive at least ten hours of light every day. I place mine in a south-facing window and then supplement with a spot grow light during the winter months (leave the grow light on for about 12 to 16 hours a day).
To promote healthy growth, don’t overwater. I stick my finger into the soil and water when the soil is dry about an inch deep. Pepper flowers are self-pollinating but you can improve fruit set by giving the branches a delicate shake to move pollen around. You can also transfer pollen between flowers with a clean, dry paintbrush.
Harvest hot peppers when reach their mature color. If your plant is still doing well in spring, fertilize with a liquid organic fertilizer and move it back outside. Just be sure to place it in shade for a few days first to allow it to acclimate to outdoor life.
Strawberries are one of the easiest fruits to grow indoors with alpine or day-neutral strawberries the best types to plant. Of course, it’s hard to grow a large quantity of strawberries indoors, unless you want to start a hydroponic grow operation in your basement, but you can enjoy a steady supply of super sweet fruits from just a few plants.
Alpine strawberries can be grown from seed with the first berries harvested about six months from sowing. You may luck into packs of alpine strawberry plants in spring from a local nursery which will save you time. Large fruited strawberries are best started from plants, also typically sourced in spring through mail order companies or nurseries. These are sold bare-root, often in bundles of ten or twenty-five.
Growing alpine strawberries from seed is pretty straightforward. Sow the tiny seeds in potting mix in flats or pots under grow lights. Water and fertilize as the plants grow, eventually moving each one into a six to ten inch diameter pot or place a few in a windowbox or planter.
If you’re starting with bare-root strawberry plants, soak the roots in a bucket of water once you get them home. A half hour soak is enough to re-hydrate them and prep them for planting. Pot them into ten to twelve inch diameter pots filled with potting mix. You can mix a slow-release organic fertilizer into the growing medium or water with a liquid organic food after planting.
Place strawberry plants in a south-facing window that offers at least eight to ten hours of sun each day. Or, if you have a grow light, use that for twelve to sixteen hours each day.
Strawberries are self-pollinating and each flower contains male and female parts. In the garden, bees move pollen but indoors, you’ll need to help. Use a soft, dry paintbrush to gently brush pollen across the flower from the male to the female parts.
While a popular garden crop, carrots can be a challenge to grow outdoors. They do best in fine-textured, stone-free soil, which is a problem when your native soil is clay-based. Sowing carrots seeds indoors, on the other hand, is a fun way to grow sweet, tender baby carrots. (and don’t forget that the foliage of carrots can be used to make a yummy carrot top pesto!)
While most carrots can be planted inside, I’ve had the greatest success with fast-growing varieties like Romeo, a round Parisian-type carrot or true baby carrots like Little Finger or Adelaide. Baby carrots take about 50 to 55 days to go from seed to harvest.
Here is a step by step guide to growing carrots indoors:
Step 1 – Start with a pot or container deep enough to accommodate the growing roots, at least six to eight inches tall. Make sure the container has drainage holes. Fill the pot with a high-quality potting mix. Water and lightly mix so that the growing medium is evenly moist.
Step 2 – Sow your seeds. Plant carrot seeds one-quarter of an inch deep, try to space them an inch apart. Gently firm the soil to ensure good soil-seed contact. Water and place under grow lights or in a south-facing window.
Step 3 – Once the plants are growing well, you’ll likely need to thin. Space baby carrots one inch apart (if you seeded too closely) and rounded carrots two inches apart. Keep soil lightly moist, but not wet as the plants grow.
Step 4 – Start harvesting carrots once they’re big enough to eat; the tops of baby carrots should be one half to three-quarters of an inch in diameter while round carrots are about an inch to an inch and a half across.
If you use a lot of garlic in your cooking, you’ll likely have noticed that garlic cloves sprout after a few weeks of lounging on your kitchen counter. Many cooks might toss them away, feeling that the cloves are past their prime, but I suggest you plant them instead. The sprouted cloves produce garlicky greens that can be clipped and used in pastas, salads, stir-fries, or chopped and sprinkled over eggs and baked potatoes.
Here are two ways to grow garlic greens:
- Growing garlic greens in potting mix – Fill a six to eight inch diameter container with potting mix. Plant cloves – sprouted or not sprouted (they just take a bit longer to grow if they haven’t already sprouted) – about one inch deep and two inches apart. Water and place in a bright window or beneath grow lights. The greens take a few weeks to emerge and can be clipped as soon as they’re around eight inches long. Take just what you need and allow the plant to continue growing. Pot up a fresh container every four to six weeks for a winters worth of delicious garlic greens.
- Growing garlic greens in water – Place sprouted garlic cloves in a glass, small jar, or shallow dish of water. Don’t submerge the cloves, but rather keep the water about halfway up the bulbs. Place in a bright window. Change the water every day or two. Start harvesting when the greens are eight inches long. Once most of the greens have been harvested, compost the spent cloves and start again.
Radishes are quick and easy to grow in the garden, but they’re also a good choice for indoor growing. Spring-type radishes like Cherry Belle and Sparkler White Tipped go from seed to harvest in just three to four weeks. They’re one of my favorite indoor food garden ideas for kids, who love watching the plants grow and rounded roots pop out of the soil.
Here’s how to grow radishes indoors:
Step 1 – Fill a pot that is at least four inches deep with a pre-moistened soilless potting mix. Make sure the pot has drainage. You can upcycle an old salad or berry container, poking holes in the bottom if there aren’t any.
Step 2 – Sow the seeds a quarter inch deep, spacing them one inch apart. Water after planting. Place the container in a sunny window or beneath a grow light.
Step 3 – Expect the seeds to germinate in just a few days. Keep the soil lightly moist, watering when necessary. Don’t let the growing medium dry out.
Step 4 – Harvest as soon as the roots are large enough to eat; when they’re three quarters of an inch to an inch across. And don’t forget the leaves! Radish leaves have a peppery heat, similar to arugula, and are excellent in salads and sandwiches.
More indoor food garden ideas:
If you liked these indoor food garden ideas, be sure to check out these posts:
- How to grow broccoli sprouts and microgreens
- Plant an herb garden in your kitchen window
- Learn to grow edible sunflower microgreens
We hope you found these indoor food garden ideas helpful – which ones do you want to grow?