I’m the kind of person who looks at a backyard and sees garden beds instead of turf. That makes winter a bit hard for me, which is why I turn to indoor gardening.
Don’t let cold weather or limited space squash your green thumb. Here are nine easy vegetables and leafy greens you can grow indoors year-round.
1. Lettuce greens
Lettuce is surprisingly easy to grow and does not take up much space, making it an excellent choice for a sunny window. Look for lettuce mixes marketed as cutting lettuces or leaf lettuce varieties. With these, you can harvest the leaves and the plant will grow back, giving you more lettuce for half the work.
Start your seeds in a pot or a plastic bag with drainage holes. Fill with moist potting soil and sprinkle five to 15 seeds on the surface. Cover them with 1/8 inch of soil and mist them with a spray bottle until the surface is damp but not soaked. Place them in a sunny window or under a grow light and keep nice and moist. Thin the seedlings once they germinate, leaving the strongest to grow into delicious, fresh lettuce.
More: Container gardening tips
You won’t get monstrous carrots from an indoor garden, but with a deep enough pot you can enjoy fresh carrots year-round. Shorter carrot varieties need a pot at least eight inches deep and longer varieties require 12 inches to reach their full size. Choose a moistened organic potting soil mix and fill your container up to an inch from the top. Plant your seeds 1/4 inch deep.
Keep your carrots in a sunny windowsill and keep them moist but not wet. Once they germinate, thin them so that each carrot is at least an inch apart from its neighbor. Plant a new batch of carrots every two weeks to keep them coming all year long.
Spicy and delicious, arugula germinates quickly and grows even faster. Each plant gives you multiple harvests if you cut the larger leaves and leave the small ones at the center. Arugula prefers cooler temperatures, which makes it a perfect vegetable to grow indoors.
Sprinkle arugula seeds in your container the same way you would lettuce. Water and place them in a sunny windowsill, thinning out weaker seedlings as needed.
Once a garnish and now a superfood, kale is a great vegetable to grow indoors. Like arugula, you can harvest the bigger leaves and leave the small ones for a later harvest. Plant a few seeds in a medium-size pot and cover with 1/2 inch of soil. Keep the soil moist and thin to one plant per pot, as kale can get pretty large.
Scallions, also called green onions, give you that onion taste without the space requirements. You can start them from seed or you can pick up some scallions at the grocery store or farmers market. If they still have roots attached, stick them in the soil, burying them up to the top of the white bulb, and watch them grow. Harvest the tops periodically.
Sometimes waiting for salad greens to grow is tedious. Microgreens are one of the best vegetables to grow indoors. They grow quickly, they require very little space, and they are absolutely delicious. To grow microgreens, simply sprinkle a single crop of mesclun or microgreen seed mixes in a shallow, well-drained container. Cover the seeds with a fine covering of soil, keep moist, and harvest once the first “true leaves” of the plant pop up.
I was surprised at how long my tomatoes lasted indoors the first time I moved a potted plant inside. Had I added fertilizer, I suspect it would have lasted even longer. Tomatoes do well in containers, but they do like sunlight so make sure your tomato gets the best seat at the window.
I highly recommend starting your seeds in a seed flat (egg cartons work well too) and transplanting them into a large pot when they are a few inches tall. This gives them sturdy roots. Trellis your tomato with a stake to offer further support and fertilize every two weeks.
Ginger is an attractive plant that looks a little like bamboo. The best way to start ginger is to pick some up at a natural food store, as these tend to use fewer chemicals. Even then, you’ll have to soak it in water for a few hours to remove any growth inhibitor chemicals on the plant.
Place your root in a wide, shallow container and barely cover it with soil. Keep it moist, sit back, and watch it grow.
Lemons are technically not a vegetable, but they go well with so many dishes that it seemed criminal to omit them from this list. Dwarf lemon trees make beautiful houseplants. They also provide full size, juicy lemons that pair nicely with meat and vegetable dishes, not to mention a hot cup of tea in the winter.
While you can start lemons from seed, most potted citrus enthusiasts buy a dwarf citrus tree from a nursery. It takes a long time to grow a productive tree from seed, and professional nurseries use a grafting process that keeps potted lemons small enough to grow inside.
A few tips on indoor gardening
These vegetables all require well-drained soil and partial sunlight. For best results, place a grow light near your vegetables during the winter months to boost your garden’s yields and avoid overwatering.