While summer’s the ideal time to reap produce from a garden, don’t forget you can grow one in fall and winter too! As soon as your tomatoes and zucchini begin to shed their fruit in late summer, it’s time to start thinking about starting your indoor fall garden. Here are 5 crops you’ll want to be sure to add to your seedling list.
5 Great Starter Crops for Your Indoor Fall Garden
Delicate spinach, lettuce, kale, arugula, and other bright leafy greens are the perfect crop to grow for an indoor fall garden — largely because when they’re inside, they can’t be killed by frost or eaten by little critters (ahem, we’re looking at you Mr. Rabbit).
Greens are super healthy and grow easily and quickly. Especially when you harvest them young (doing so is really the best way to enjoy crops like spinach and arugula anyway). Furthermore, they do super-well with just 10 to 12 hours of light (even artificial light) every day. If you can find a good rhythm to your harvesting and planting, you can have fresh greens for your salads and sandwiches year-round!
Hemp is one of the most versatile and useful crops in the world. It can be made into textiles and clothing, rope, paper, fuel, and even building material. Of course, it’s also used in many medicinal capacities and as a key ingredient in flour and oil for baking and cooking.
While growing hemp yourself was totally illegal for many decades, it is now legal to grow in the U.S. But you will need to read up on up-to-date government guidelines and restrictions and obtain a growing license as well. Once you have the legal go-ahead you can grow your own hemp and use it for various purposes in your indoor fall garden.
A good place to start is by visiting your local Portland dispensary and seeing the CBD products they have there (CBD oil comes from hemp plants). You’ll find that CBD oil from hemp can be used for all sorts of edible products, from baked goods and chocolates to chips and beverages. It’s an extremely versatile and useful plant to have around!
Even if your indoor fall garden setup isn’t elaborate with heating pads and lamps, a modest herb garden should do extraordinarily well. Choose herbs that you like to cook with. Many gardeners prefer basil, cilantro, parsley, and mint, but you can also add chives, sage, thyme, rosemary, and others.
As a rule, fresh herbs are remarkably expensive at the grocery store (plus hard to keep once you have them). Growing a crop at home yourself is a particularly wise investment.
Larger tomatoes are something you’ll want to grow outdoors. But smaller tomatoes (like the cherry or grape variety) do remarkably well in an indoor fall garden. Unlike greens, they’ll need more light (around 16 hours every day). You’ll probably have to baby them with additional heat as well. Heating pads help or keep them in an area of the house that gets a lot of warmth.
Don’t have a lot of space indoors for a garden? Sprouts are the answer! Growing sprouts is extremely easy. The key is to stay on top of changing your water. Let us explain.
To grow sprouts, you first need to make sure you purchase seeds that are specifically for sprouts. For example, don’t buy regular alfalfa seeds; buy alfalfa sprout seeds. Also, remember that you can’t grow just any seed into an edible sprout. Stick to common sprouting seeds (mung beans, radish, lentils, alfalfa, etc.).
From there, simply put your seeds in a mason jar with some water and cheesecloth on top. Rinse and renew the water twice a day. Your sprouts should be ready to eat in just two to six days
Tips for Starting an Indoor Fall Garden
The first thing you’ll need when starting an indoor fall garden is a warm(ish) space indoors. If you live in a cold climate, your indoor garden may not do well in a garage or barn. The environment has to be at least semi-warm for your crops to do well. Furthermore, you’ll need ample space because even container gardening (which is what you’ll be doing inside) can get crowded.
Most people start their indoor fall garden in a basement or extra space like a mudroom or den. To boost the heat, you can use heating mats. These plug-in and deliver continuous warmth from the bottom of your containers.
You’ll also need plenty of light. Natural light from windows is great. The sun rises later and sets earlier in the winter months, so you’ll want to supplement any natural light you’re getting with some full-spectrum bulbs. These produce warm and cool rays and simulate the light from the sun. Plant lamps can be inexpensively purchased and set up with outlet timers. Then, you don’t have to remember to turn them on and off.
Final Thoughts on an Indoor Fall Garden
Anyone can grow an indoor fall garden with a bit of planning and the tips above. Why not continue your food growing inside this fall and have food year-round?