Edible plants are a great addition. They bring life into a room, some have healing properties, and all of them make a flavorful contribution to meals.
Many edible plants are low maintenance which makes them easy to grow at home. We'll cover some of our favorites and give a few tips for deciding where you can make room for your own food forest, regardless of the amount of space you may (or may not) have!
Enrich your atmosphere and enhance your meals with a variety of your favorite edible plants.
In this busy day and age, it always seems easier to just grab something at the grocery store, but with the increasing number of GMO crops, imported produce that creates a large carbon footprint, and the many chemical based insecticides and pesticides - the reasons are now more than ever to spend a small amount of time harvesting your own produce. Whether its just a few herb plants by the kitchen window, a simple raised garden bed in the back yard, our your very own decked out greenhouse - the options are limitless for an at-home garden.
First, you need to decide what and where:
Take a few moments to think of your options. Depending on the space you have, and where its located (kitchen counter, a patio, or in the backyard) will determine the type and amount of plants you can have. While the heat loving tomatoes, melons, and peppers prefer drinking in as much sunshine as they can get, some crops wither and die in hot, bright sun conditions. There are plenty of vegetables that grow in shade, dappled sunlight, or with as little as 6 hours of sunlight per day.
Vegetables that fruit from a blossom, such as cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, and squash are the least tolerant of shady areas. Plant these in full sun areas that receive the most direct sunlight per day. Root vegetables, such as beets, carrots, and potatoes will grow in partially shaded areas that have less direct sunlight, but will appreciate at least a half-day of full sun and some partial shade. Leafy vegetables, such as chard, spinach and salad greens, are the most tolerant vegetables that grow in shade. In fact, keeping these plants shaded as the season heats up will help them last longer. Plant these crops in areas on that are moderately shaded during part of the day or receive partial sunlight all day.
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.
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.
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. 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. Arugula prefers cooler temperatures, which makes it a perfect vegetable to grow indoors.
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.
Here’s another easy one. Spinach isn’t fussy about where it’s potted and is certainly not counting the hours of sunlight it receives each day. You can use mid-sized hanging planters in your window. This style pot doesn’t require too much water, so you won’t risk dripping all over the floor. Spinach only needs a mist of water and partial sun a few times a week.
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.
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.
I bet you didn’t know that you can grow cucumbers indoors! Just make sure you have enough space–these plants get big. Cucumbers need lots of room in a pot to yield the best results. Fill a 16-inch plante with about ¾ soil and get to planting. Cucumbers require Part Sun when available but will grow even in the dark winter. Give them water 3 to 4 times per week.
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.
String Beans require Full Sun. The bigger the better with string bean pots. Go all out with a 12x18 inch pot and you can even throw a packet of Kale seeds in there to grow along side. Water your String Beans every day or every other day depending on how dry the soil gets.
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.
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.
Chilies are a resilient crop, making them a wonderful candidate to grow indoors. Unlike many other herbs and plants, they won’t wilt away the second you forget to water them. Your pot should be around 10 inches deep and should be colorful! Out of all your plants, this one might be the most beautiful, so take advantage by making it a centerpiece for your kitchen.
You may have noticed that if you leave your whole heads of garlic sitting around for too long that they start to sprout. You can recycle unused Garlic and it will do most of the work for you if you give it a nice place to grow. You don’t even need soil for this indoor plant–just a shallow container. I recommend using a clear container so you can see when to clean the water and enjoy watching the roots grow. Just be sure to change the dirty water and keep the garlic halfway submerged in water. Alternatively, you can place your recycled garlic cloves half-covered in a small pot of soil.
Basil & Rosemary
You don’t have to be a gardening mastermind to grow Basil or Rosemary. With the right environment, these herbs have the potential to grow into a massive, delicious success. Just snip off a branch and throw it into your pot, pan, or pitcher of iced tea. These herbs can grow in just about any pot so pick one that you like to look at! Basil and Rosemary require Full Sun. Water your Basil and Rosemary plants once a day in hot weather or every other day in moderate temperatures.
Cilantro & Parsley
These herbs are a staple in households around the world! Parsley is great in classic savory dishes whereas Cilantro can add that Latin Flare to just about anything you cook. Parsley and Cilantro are more sensitive to water and sunlight. While you can absolutely grow them in a standard pot, you might want to consider something a little more high-tech, like an Indoor Grower with LED light support.
Tips for Growing Vegetables in Shade:
Use Good Soil: If you are going to challenge your shade-tolerant crops to grow in partial shade, provide them with good-quality soil with plenty of nutritious compost. If tree roots are a problem, consider using a raised bed or growing vegetables in containers.
Moisture Requirements: The watering needs of your shade garden will be different than a garden in full sun. Moisture doesn’t evaporate as quickly in shade so you may not need to water as often. However, if your shade garden is near trees, you may need to water more frequently since your plants will be competing with trees for moisture. Also the leafy canopy can prevent rain from reaching your plants. Water when the soil feels dry and mulch frequently to conserve moisture.
Watch for Pests: Shady and cool areas are very welcoming to slugs and snails. Consider using a border of crushed eggshells to deter slugs or provide a hospitable living area to attract frogs and toads to your garden.
Maturation Times: Vegetables that prefer more sunlight but can grow in shade will grow slower. Expect to wait for longer for the plants to mature than indicated on the seed package to make up for the growing conditions.
Start Seedlings Indoors: Start your own transplants from seed indoors and plant them in your shade garden when space opens up.
Direct Sow Seeds in Your Garden: Some crops are easy to grow from seeds planted directly in your garden.
Succession Planting: Experiment with a small shade garden and see which vegetables succeed. Also try growing in containers that can be moved to different locations. Knowing the type of vegetables that grow in shade will help you make the most out of your gardening space.