This is how we got into growing vegetables indoors, in our apartment, before we got here at the Valhalla Homestead. And how tasting one delicious cherry tomato grown on our own balcony determined us to move to the countryside. Few of us are fortunate enough to have a plot of land to grow anything, especially here in Romania. My guess is that you also face the same problem. You want to start your own indoor garden and start growing vegetables indoors. And maybe, like us, hoping this is just practice for a real garden.
Three years ago Greti discovered she also has a passion for growing plants. She received some succulents as a gift, took care of them and with a little bit of advice from me, her plants didn’t die. This quickly turned into her planting her very first seeds – it was either cilantro or basil, I can’t remember which.
With Greti’s support, I was ready to give my fair shot to starting an indoor vegetable garden. Next Spring we started planting the first seedlings. We started simple, with some of the easiest to grow indoor veggies I knew about: basil, mint, parsley, cilantro and oregano. We already bought a few of those already potted, so we were familiar with how to take care of them.
Whenever you try to grow something indoor, your main job is to mimic that plant’s natural conditions as best as you can. For houseplants, assuring the right amount of water and sunlight usually does the trick. When it comes to vegetables, you need to be twice as careful and hardworking to ensure they have the right condition to produce fruit.
Next to daily watering, sunlight is the most important factor. Tomatoes, for example, won’t produce ripe fruit without at least 8 hours of proper daylight. But other vegetables like lettuce, radishes and herbs like basil or parsley will do just fight with a lower amount of light. But they still need to be placed by the window.
Not all vegetables are suited for growing indoors. Another challenge you’ll face when starting an indoor garden is making sure your pots are deep enough. That’s why growing turnips, carrots or beats is not recommended for your indoor vegetable garden.
In my experience, the most successful indoor vegetables are baby spinach, radishes, green beans and lettuce. As far as for herbs basil, mint, parsley and cilantro are at the top of my list.
We planted our baby spinach in long planters by simply spreading the seeds in a thin line over the top of the soil and watering well. Once the baby spinach grows bigger than the second set of leaves, you can start harvesting. This will help thin out your crop and keep it producing for longer while giving you a forever-lasting supply of fresh greens.
There’s nothing easier to grow than beans. Think about it, kids grow green beans for school projects, why couldn’t you do that? Place the beans between two napkins, spray them with water. Leave them for a few days inside a closed lid container, until you see them sprouting. Plant the sprouted beans in long pots at 15-20cm intervals. Water daily and watch the magic beans grow.
Plant radishes the same as the lettuce. Choose a longer and deeper container for these and plant thinly. If the radishes are too close to one another they will not have the proper space to grow, so leave enough space between seeds. Choose a colder place for radishes and water them thoroughly after the leaves come out. We used to harvest the lettuce as it grew, same as we did for the spinach.
If herbs are your thing try plating some basil. Choose a medium pot and sprinkle 5-10 basil seeds on the surface. Water well and wait for the little sprouts. Don’t let the soil dry until the basil grows it’s the second set of leaves. I found that pinching the basil’s third set of leaves helps the plant develop better, although it seems cruel to do so. Harvest the big basil leaves when you need them for cooking. After pinching the basil it will shoot out new shoots. You should pinch those too after their third set of leaves is out.
Parsley and cilantro are also amazing herbs to grow indoors. The trick is to always be planting more. We used to have 3 pots and I planted a new batch every two weeks or so. The young plants are much better tasting and by the time you’ll need the pot to plant a new batch you will understand why this technique is amazing.
If you have a balcony or a big south-facing window you could consider growing tomatoes. We tried planting cherry tomatoes in large terracotta planter pots on our balcony. We bought the seedling and after planting them we stowed the pots in a small greenhouse until the cold weather was gone. They love plenty of water but they grow like crazy. And the tomatoes are better tasting than you can imagine. It’s hard to believe what crappy vegetables are sold in supermarkets nowadays.
My grandpa used to grow pepper on his balcony. Large individual pots for each plant, plenty of water and sunlight lead to great harvests. I only tried growing store-bought hot pepper plants and in all honesty, I never had good results with them. Ragnar ended up eating the only pot that survived the “store-to-apartment” shock, so we’re out of hot peppers at the moment.
I really hope that this is enough to encourage you to try starting your own indoor vegetable garden and start growing your own produce. It’s not as hard as many people think, and unless you’re a total black-thumb you should do just fine. After all, seeds are cheap so even if your plants don’t make it, you don’t lose too much and you can start again. If you need advice you can message us on Facebook or Instagram and I’ll be more than happy to share my 2 cents.