What to Grow Indoors Now

by Lauren Caggiano

It may be cold and gray, but that doesn’t mean you can’t bring some good energy inside. (Goodbye, winter blues.) If you have a green thumb and time for a hobby, an indoor garden might have an appeal, especially if you enjoy cooking and like to experiment with different vegetables.

Benefits

For one, you ultimately have agency over all aspects of the plant's growth and environment. You have control over the water, soil quality, etc. Another consideration: You’re not at the mercy of the weather or pests and you can enjoy the fruits of your labor year-round.

If you’re new to the discipline or need a refresher, take some cues from the pros. According to the Farmer’s Almanac, think more in terms of guidelines than strict rules. Whether the plant will best weather indoor and/or outdoor-only conditions is based on your experience, personal preference, geographic location and the plant itself.

Generally speaking, crops that fare well initially indoors include broccoli, brussels sprouts, cabbage, lettuce, and tomatoes, per the Almanac. The same goes for cauliflower, celery, eggplant, and peppers. Nightshades like tomatoes and eggplants don’t do well in the cold, so it’s best to start them inside to spare them from a potentially chilly spring (and premature death).

Dos and Don'ts

One mistake to avoid? Assuming that all plants are candidates for starting indoors. Some varieties do not transport easily. It’s recommended to start cucumbers, muskmelon, pumpkins, squash, and watermelon in containers indoors or waiting until temperatures rise. Their tender natures means it’s wise to wait to sow them outdoors if there’s a possibility of frost.

Be mindful of other finicky veggies. For instance, carrots, beets, dill and parsley don’t respond well to having their roots disturbed. With this in mind, it’s prudent to start their seeds outdoors in the ground rather than transplanting them when it warms up.

If you decide to try your hand at indoor cultivation, keep the following in mind:

  1. Be realistic. Even the most seasoned gardener will face losses. Know that some of your seeds won’t germinate, or they will die without any rhyme or reason. Plant a few extra to account for these unknowns.
  2. Consider a grow light. Most veggies need between 6-8 hours of direct sun, and chances are your home is not sunny enough. Grow lights can be your secret weapon in helping produce healthy, vigorous, fast-growing plants.
  3. Use clean containers. Egg cartons make good containers for the earliest stages of seed starting, too. Take care to poke holes in the sides near the bottom to allow for water drainage. Know that at a later date you might need to transplant your seedlings into larger containers before placing them in the ground.
  4. Use labels. If you plan to try your hand at growing multiple veggies/herbs, labels will come in handy so you can later identify your babies.
  5. Rotate your seedlings. Remember to rotate the containers every so often to keep the seedlings growing evenly. If you’re using a grow light, it’s recommended to raise it a few inches above the tallest seedling every few days.

Here’s to you and your horticultural pursuits!

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