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Last year, I killed most of my plants. This year, I’ve graduated to Plant Lady. If I can learn how to keep plants alive (and grow them!), you can as well!
I was curious about how to grow vegetables and herbs indoors, I had no idea how to get started. I watched a ton of YouTube videos and I asked employees at a nearby garden center questions. I purchased the supplies. Then, I got my hands dirty.
It turns out that it is actually quite easy to garden indoors once you do your homework and follow the instructions. The process of gardening teaches you patience, a trait that carries over into other areas of your daily life. Gardening takes time, especially when you start vegetables from seed, but the results are truly incredible. The magic formula is good soil + light + water + patience = leafy greens!
I was so impressed with the results from growing tomatoes, peppers, and herbs in my first outdoor raised garden bed, that I decided to try my hand at indoor gardening. If you would have asked me five years ago if I had a “green thumb,” I would have laughed and told you to look at my indoor plants. But something changed when I took the time to research soil composition and each plant’s growth behavior. For my indoor garden, I decided to grow lettuce, kale, and herbs.
I want you to experience the joy of indoor gardening, too! Use the supplies list to shop for the items you need for your indoor setup. (I simplified the equipment as much as possible since I didn’t want to overly invest in expensive supplies.) Each item listed below is linked making shopping easy.
Sylvania Gro-Lux Bulb Housing Unit (here is a similar one)
Sylvania Gro-Lux 40watt LED bulbs x2
Indoor Plug-In Mechanical Timer
Miracle-Gro Seed Starting Potting Mix
Burpee Organic Leafy Greens and Herb Plant Food 5-5-3
Botanical Interests Starter Seeds
Seed Tray Warmer (optional)
Plastic Container Pots with Drainage Holes (I also used plastic salad containers.)
HOW TO GROW LETTUCE & HERBS INDOORS
The key to giving seeds a good head start is to germinate them in water for 24 hours and then plant each individual seed in a small well of slightly moist soil (cake-like consistency). Of course, you should also read the sowing directions on the back of each seed packet to optimize results.
I placed the grow lights 4″-6″ above the soil’s surface. As the plants grew, I adjusted the lights to keep them the same distance from the tallest leaf. Setting a timer to control the on/off lighting schedule is important. I had success running the grow lights and rotating fan for 12 hours and then off for 12 hours. Why use a fan? Just as outdoor plants are exposed to circulating air, indoors plants need the exposure as well.
Indoor grow rooms need to be at a comfortable temperature to give plants the best chance for success. I didn’t have to use a seed tray warmer since the basement room stays at approximately 65 degrees at all times. If you check your room’s temperature and it ranges between 65 degrees and 80 degrees when the grow lights are off, the seed trays should be okay without a warming mat underneath them.
After filling the seed trays with a seed starting soil and a bit of Burpee plant food, I used a pencil to create a well for each seed. Then, I carefully dropped one seed into each well and covered it with more soil. To keep them hydrated, I watered the seed trays from the bottom for the first couple of weeks. Later, I switched to top-down watering alternating between using a spray bottle and a watering can. I kept the soil moist but not saturated.
Soon, the seeds grew into fragile seedlings. A few weeks later, they were ready to be transplanted into larger pots until they were harvest two months later. During every stage of growth, I watched the leaves change in color and size as they grew taller all the while reaching for the light. I had the best luck growing heirloom kale, dill, romaine lettuce, and arugula. But I have to be honest, growing vegetables and herbs indoors wasn’t without challenges.
One day, I was tending to my plantings and noticed small, black gnats flying around some of the pots. Fungus gnats! My research proved correct. The gnats came from the store-bought potting soil. Ironically, I spent a pretty penny on the best potting soil in town. But, such is the gardener’s life! To get rid of the pesky gnats, I filled shallow bowls with apple cider vinegar, a few drops of Dawn dish soap, and a bit of water and placed them around the pots. Voila! The gnats flew into the bowls and died. Mission accomplished. (After I harvested the lettuce from those pots, I tossed the soil in the trash.)
The learning never stops when you’re growing food from seed. Each time I was perplexed by something, I read about it or watched my favorite YouTube channel “Growing a Greener World” or searched Google. In the end, it was all worth it. The feeling you get when you harvest food from your indoor garden is beyond words.
“I’m going downstairs to get some lettuce for our salad,” was never a sentence I thought I’d say out loud. I still consider myself a beginner gardener.
I suspect you’re one of those people who appreciate where your food comes from and want to know its path to your plate. I encourage you to try gardening. You will have successes. You will experience small fails. It will all be worth it the moment you taste the vegetables you’ve grown.
Please comment below if you have questions about my indoor growing setup. If you have indoor gardening stories to share, I’d love to hear from you!
Bonus! Click Properly Fill a Raised Garden Bed to learn how to grow massive garden plants outdoors. If you dream of having your own garden house, be sure to check out Garden House Showcase to see how my mom took the idea of a potting shed to a new level.