Can You Grow Food Indoors?

Author Kim Roman says, yes, you can. In her new book, How to Garden Indoors and Grow Your Own Food Year Round (Creative Homeowner, 2022), Roman gives encouraging and pragmatic tips for how to grow food indoors using hydroponic and soil-based systems.

how to garden indoors coverA gardening teacher and expert in square-foot gardening, Roman lives in Maryland (USDA Zone 7b), significantly south of Minnesota, but definitely a place with winter. For years, she used greenhouses and other season extenders to grow food in the colder months. But you can only eat so much kale, and she wanted to expand the variety of food she grew. Thus began her experiments with indoor growing.

Let There Be Light

The book covers the basics of how to grow food indoors: the types of systems (purchased or do-it-yourself), soil or hydroponics, plant choices as well as the key issue for northern gardeners—light. Plants grown indoors need more hours of sunlight per day than those grown outside, Roman notes. So, if lettuce needs four hours of light to grow in your garden, it needs six to grow in your living room. To grow tomatoes or other fruiting plants, you’ll need about 16 hours of light per day. The bottom line for northern gardeners is that you will need supplemental lights to grow food indoors. The book includes a brief, but helpful section on lighting and the types of lightbulbs for growing food.

The chapter on hydroponic growing offers an introduction to several systems for growing food in water, from basic “plug-and-play” kits to the popular deep-water culture system. For those interested in hydroponic growing, the book gives an overview, but you would need a more in-depth guide to pursue any particular system. Still, Roman’s insights (and even her decision to take down her own hydroponic system) give gardeners an idea of what’s required to grow hydroponically.

The book also covers growing microgreens, using wall systems and basic indoor seed starting, as well as a plant-by-plant guide to which foods can be grown indoors. It also includes some fun do-it-yourself projects to try with children. Profiles of indoor food gardeners from around the world provide encouragement and practical tips. I was especially interested in the set-ups of gardeners from the North – one in Ontario and one in Glasgow, Scotland. Both gardeners use grow lights extensively. The gardener from Ontario chooses plants that are ready for harvest in fewer than 50 days and looks for plants that are hybrids and compact—making them more likely to fruit quickly.

For those looking to expand their food gardening activities, How to Garden Indoors and Grow Your Own Food Year Round offers a thorough overview of your options, peppered with lots of encouragement and practical tips.

 

 

Mary Lahr Schier is a freelance garden writer and blogger and recently retired as editor of Northern Gardener magazine. Follow Mary on Instagram at @mynortherngarden_mary.

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