Time and time again you've heard that indoor gardening is the best way to grow fresh, nutritious, pesticide-free, organic fruits, vegetables, and herbs. But what if you live in an apartment or a similarly cramped space and the closest thing you have to a back yard is a fire escape, and you've killed every potted plant you've ever owned? Don't despair.
The success of indoor gardening, or container gardening, begins with knowing which species grow the best in limited spaces. Once you get the basics down, you'll have the yummiest and freshest organic produce at your fingertips all year round, even if you live in an extremely hot or cold climate. Below are a few recommendations for fruits, vegetables, and herbs that are best for growing indoors.
Better Bush Tomato (ReinerSeeds.com): This bush type of plant produces tomatoes on a central stem that can support a forty-eight-inch height. The tomatoes themselves are four inches in diameter and have a 'real tomato taste.' You can also use dwarf or cherry varieties in the house, but a wooden dowel or an indoor tomato cage is usually necessary for support.
Dwarf Musa Banana Plant (DirectGardening.com): This fast-growing, low-maintenance plant can be expected to reach approximately six feet in height and will yield tasty, yellow, five-inch bananas within two or three years.
Dwarf Lime Trees (Gurneys.com; DirectGardening.com): These Dwarf Lime trees are easy to maintain and will fill your home with glossy foliage, sweetly scented blossoms, and most importantly, tangy, edible fruit!
Dwarf Lemon Trees (DirectGardening.com): It may be a dwarf tree, but the lemons it yields are full-size and three inches in diameter. This miniature lemon tree, with its waxy white blossoms and wonderful fragrance, will be a sensory delight for you and your guests, even before it bears fruit.
Strawberry Guava (Gurneys.com): Guava berries that taste like strawberries, and can be grown indoors? Apparently, it is possible! This ideal houseplant may take a couple of years to produce edible guavas, but patience is one of the few skills you'll need to maintain its overall quality and health.
Small Miracle Broccoli (ReimerSeeds.com): This variety allows you to grow more broccoli in less space. In fact, you can plant the seeds as close as eight inches apart for an even greater yield.
Early Sunglow Corn (ReimerSeeds.com; ParkSeed.com): You wouldn't think growing corn stalks indoors was a possibility, but it is! Dwarf, midget, and baby corn varieties are most commonly recommended by indoor growers. Early Sunglow is a yellow Regular Sweet type of corn that grows on short stalks under five feet tall, so they can be planted close together.
Cabbage Gonzales (ParkSeed.com; JohnnySeeds.com): This mini cabbage is just six inches in diameter and is great for single or couple servings; you grow the perfect amount for your needs and reduce food waste. Your mini cabbage seedlings can be spaced eight inches apart and will be ready to eat in under two months.
Kinko Mini Carrots (JohnnySeeds.com): These carrots only grow four inches long and are great for space conservation, as they can be planted only two inches apart. They're also known for being pretty, easy-to-grow houseplants.
Hybrid Squash (ParkSeed.com): These trouble-free squash plants grow vigorously and bear multiple harvests of fruit measuring seven to eight inches in length.
Garlic You don't need to buy garlic bulbs from a plant nursery or garden supply store. Chances are you already have at least a clove of garlic in your refrigerator right now; simply plant it in soil in order to have whole heads of garlic ready and on-hand for cooking.
Little Gem Lettuce (ParkSeed.com): Sweet, tender, Boston lettuce that grows in small, space-saving heads in just fifty days. Their cute, miniature size is perfect for window boxes or small spaces, not to mention picky eaters! Lettuce is a notoriously easy-to-grow plant and most varieties (from purple to green to variegated) will do well indoors, as long as their pots aren't too close to heat vents.
Radishes (ParkSeed.com; CooksGarden.com): If you like vigorous plants that mature quickly, you'll love growing radishes indoors. You can reseed them every two weeks for a continuous crop of two-inch red globes that can be harvested just three weeks after planting!
Peppers You can try a seed mix like Park Seed Co.'s Sweet Pickle variety, which yields two-inch yellow, orange, red, and purple fruits sixty-five days from planting, but almost any kind of pepper can be grown in a pot.
- The Cook's Garden offers a packet of must-have herbs that includes seeds for broadleaf sage, basil sweet Genovese, thyme, Greek oregano, and dill dukat (instructions included).
- They also offer a Culinary Classics Herb Plant Collection that includes basil, summerlong, rosemary, oregano, sage, thyme, and sweet marjoram.
- If you don't want to buy a whole set of kitchen herbs, additional varieties that are best for growing indoors and are essential for cooking include chives, coriander, fennel, mint, parsley, and tarragon.
Once you've decided which fruits, vegetables, and/or herbs you want to plant in your own home, the comprehensive guide by horticultural expert Diane Relf, “Vegetable Gardening in Containers,” can provide you with more in-depth detail and specific instructions.