How to Grow Your Own Food Indoors

Growing Container Strawberries

Since the COVID-19 pandemic has shaken the world, there’s a renewed interest in learning how to grow your own food. Being less dependent on third-party suppliers for our food resonates with a lot of us. In addition, there are a number of other benefits that come with growing your own fruits and vegetables.

If you don’t have outdoor space or you live in a tiny apartment, the idea of growing your own food may seem out of reach. This how-to guide will show you that it’s not. It will cover the many benefits of growing your own food, some growing kits that make it easy, plus types of fruits and vegetables that you can grow in containers in an indoor environment.

Benefits of Growing Your Own Food

While it takes some time and attention to grow your own food, if you consider the amount of time you would otherwise spend getting to and from the market a few times a week, not to mention the cost of transportation, time spent growing your own food isn’t as monumental as you might thing.

Once you get set up with your seeds, growing containers, and other necessities, the crops will do their thing and you just have to tend to them in short bits of time. Furthermore, there are so many benefits to growing your own food that they can far outweigh the investment of your time. Here are some of those benefits:

1. Growing your own food is fun – and social.

There’s something that is incalculably rewarding about growing things. Yet unlike growing decorative plants, growing crops that you can eat and feed to others with is a very rewarding feeling – in fact, it’s fundamental to human nature.

Being connected to where your food comes from will make you appreciate it all the more. That feeling is the antithesis of the fast food eating experience, in which you’re disconnected from the Earth and a natural, healthy way of eating.

If you have children in your life, you know that kids have an innate affinity for creating and growing things. Not to mention, it’s good for them to have a sense of where their food actually comes from. Growing things is a creative process, and nothing beats sharing your homegrown fruits and vegetables with friends and neighbors.

2. Growing food is good exercise: It gets your off of the couch and off the screen.

Kids Growing Food
Children at the Lycée International de Londres learning how to garden. Photo: GHassanLIL.

If you think about the amount of waking hours that many of us spend on our phones and computer screens, it’s pretty bleak – because there’s a great big physical world out there, full of sensory experiences that we’re missing out on. In fact, sitting with your face in a screen for hours on end is hard on your body, your eyes, and your brain.

Growing food takes your attention away from the screen. It’s physical work, and you can make it as physically demanding as you choose. But most importantly, it gets you moving and using all of your senses. For this reason, gardening is known to be a reliable depression-buster.

3. You’ll eat more fruits and vegetables.

Homegrown vegetables
Homegrown vegetables. Photo: Gorupka.

Of all the fad diets and obscure supplements being marketed to us on a daily basis, there’s one thing that virtually every health expert and wellness guru agrees on, and that’s eating more fruits and vegetables. Organic produce is jampacked with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.

Growing fruits and vegetables yourself will inspire you to eat more of them! Furthermore, you can freeze what you don’t eat and put it in smoothies or other recipes later. When healthy foods are frozen, they maintain much of their nutritional value.

4. Homegrown food is healthier and more nutritious.

The closer that fruits and vegetables are to their living, growing state, the more nutritional value they hold. As soon as you pick produce, transport it, store it, and cook it, it begins to degrade and lose nutritional value. This is why farm to table eating is healthier than farm to truck to highway to airport to loading dock… you get what I mean.

In most cases, the commercial production of fruits and vegetables utilizes chemicals, including pesticides, which further erodes their nutritional value. The use of artificial chemicals in food is a business decision, not a nutritional one. Growing fruits and vegetables at home gives you the luxury of growing them without exposure to commercial agricultural chemicals.

5. Growing your own food is better for the environment.

Pollinators

There are a number of ways that growing your own food is better for the environment than buying it in a store.

  • You reduce the carbon footprint of food transportation and commercial refrigeration.
  • If you grow your food organically, you reduce the demand for pesticides and other insecticides, which keeps toxins out of the environment and helps birds and insects. In addition, you help to reduce water pollution that results from runoff from chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and other pollutants.
  • You reduce packaging waste.
  • You reduce food waste.

Cutting Down on Food Waste

Food waste is a surprisingly massive waste of energy and productivity in our culture. If you haven’t seen the documentary Just Eat It yet, I highly recommend it. In fact, you can watch it for free right here!

Just Eat It, the Food Waste Documentary

6. Growing your own food can help you save money.

Another benefit to growing your own food is that you can save money by doing so. While there are startup costs to growing your own food, such as getting containers, soil, seeds, and grow lights, over the long-term, growing your own fruits and vegetables can be far more economical than buying them at the store. Quite simply, you eliminate the cost of picking, packing, transporting, storing, and marketing the food. Instead, you’re just paying for your initial home garden setup and your raw materials.

7. Homegrown food tastes better.

Just at food loses its nutritional value the further it gets from its natural, live state, it also loses flavor. If you’ve ever compared the taste of a fresh, ripe, organic handpicked strawberry vs. one that’s grown with pesticides, you know there’s no comparison when it comes to the taste.

8. Home grown food is safer.

According to the CDC, 1 in 6 Americans get sick from eating contaminated foods or beverages every year, and 3,000 of them die. In addition, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says that foodborne illnesses cost society more than $15.6 billion every year.

Salmonella and E. coli are common foodborne illnesses, and now the COVID-19 coronavirus has added an element of risk to simply going to the grocery store. When you grow your own food, you know exactly where it came from and who handled it, and you don’t have to go to the store to get it. If you use your own soil to grow it, you can ensure the soil is organic as well. You also get a level of control when growing your own fruits and vegetables that you simply don’t when buying them from a third party.

Growing Your Own Food Indoors or in an Apartment

Growing plants in recycled containers
Growing plants in recycled containers. Photo: Thomas King

One of the biggest hindrances many of us have to growing our own food is space limitations. But with a growing number of options for containers, grow kits, grow lights, and other indoor gardening tools, it’s now easier than ever to set up a mini indoor farm, even if you live in a studio apartment in the big city.

Food Deserts

Urban food deserts, where local residents don’t have easy access to fresh produce, is a huge problem in the U.S., as well as many other countries. If you don’t have access to a local farmers’ market or community supported agriculture, then growing your own produce can be your best alternative.

Around the world, people are coming up with innovative ways to grow rooftop gardens and vertical gardens, and now there are more resources available for growing food in an indoor environment. Interestingly enough, whether you partake or not, the loosening of cannabis laws has brought a lot if indoor growing tips out into the open, as growers in some states have had to be less secretive about their indoor growing methods!

Indoor Gardening Tips

There are a number of resources available for growing food in an indoor setting. I liked this post from Airtasker about growing vegetables in an apartment.

In addition, this video from eHow Home gives you a good primer on growing vegetables inside. eHow Home has a whole series on indoor gardening tips that are worth checking out.

Growing Sprouts and Microgreens

The YouTube channel Growing Your Greens has a great video about growing one of the easiest-to-grow and most nutritious types of produce that you can eat: sprouts and microgreens. (The difference between sprouts and microgreens is that sprouts are grown in water and microgreens in soil.)

Growing Kits and Supplies

There are a variety kits available that make growing food in an indoor setting easy and without taking up a lot of space. Here are some resources:

AeroGarden In-Home Garden Systems

AeroGarden Home Gardening Systems
Home Gardening Systems by AeroGarden

Hydrofarm Gardening Kits

Hydrofarm Gardening Kits
Hydrofarm Gardening Kits

As their name implies, Hydrofarm specializing in indoor gardening kits, including ventilation systems and lighting, that are geared to grow plants hydroponically, that is in nutrient-rich water instead or soil.

Buy on Amazon >

Hydroponic Gardening

Hydroponic gardening is made for the indoor gardener! In this video, Michael from Grass and Garden TV talks about the many benefits of growing plants hydroponically – right from his own basement.

Stackable Strawberry Planter

Growing Strawberries Indoors Stackable Planter
Mr. Stacky Stackable Planter

There’s a list of vegetables and fruits that you can grow indoors later in this post, and one of those on the list is strawberries. This is why I had to include this stackable planter in my list of recommended indoor grow kits. There are few things as heavenly as fresh strawberries, and this cool kit lets you grow them on your kitchen counter. You can use it to grow other plants as well.

Buy on Amazon >

Microgreen Kits

Microgreens Grow Kit
Urban Minimalist Microgreens Grow Kits

I found the Urban Minimalist on Etsy. They offer some turnkey microgreen kits that have everything you need to start growing these superfoods.

Buy on Etsy >

Sprouting

Getting into a rhythm of regularly sprouting seeds is an ideal way to infuse a ton of nutrition into your daily diet. You can add sprouts to smoothies and salads or just eat them straight. All you need are some mason jars or similar containers and organic, non-GMO seeds.

Glass Mason Jars

Glass Mason Jars
Glass Mason Jars

It’s good to have mason jars on hand in your kitchen. They’re great for storing things, and they make great beverage containers or water bottles too to remind you to stay hydrated. Plus, they’re perfect for sprout seeds!

Buy on Amazon >

Sprouting Jar Lids

Sprouting Jar Lids
Sprouting Jar Lids

These nifty jar lids fit your standard mason jar and they have screen tops, so you can drain the water out once your seeds start to sprout.

Buy on Amazon >

Organic, Non-GMO Seeds

Organic and Non-GMO Seeds
Organic and Non-GMO Seeds

I was super-impressed to find a number of sources, like Back to Nature, on Etsy that provide heirloom, organic, and non-GMOs seeds. If you don’t know why using only non-GMO, organic seeds is so important, check out my post on ways you can help birds, bees, butterflies, and other insects.

Buy on Etsy >

Fruits and Vegetables that Are Easy to Grow Indoors

So, what will you grow? The beauty of growing your own food indoors is that you can grow it regardless of the season outside. However, with growing plants in containers indoors you’ll need to compensate for certain conditions, such as soil drainage, ventilation, and lighting.

Every plant is unique, so once you decide what you will grow, I recommend doing additional research on each plant so you have the ideal setup for them to thrive in your home.

Here are some fruits and vegetables that you can grow in containers indoors:

1. Microgreens and Sprouts

Microgreens

Great in salads and smoothies, microgreens and sprouts grow easily in small containers. You can focus on one type, like alfalfa, or “branch out” to broccoli, arugula, parsley, and more. Plus, as mentioned earlier, sprouts and microgreens are packed with nutrition, so having a steady flow of them in your diet will bring more vibrancy and wellness into your life!

2. Herbs

Herbs are another great option for small spaces. If you do a lot of home cooking, fresh herbs will deliver on flavor in a way that store-bought seasonings in a jar never will. Try rosemary, thyme, oregano, and basil.

3. Peppers

Because peppers come in a variety of sizes, you have a lot of options to fit your growing space. Jalapenos, cayenne pepper, Thai peppers, and habaneros are all small and can be easily grown in pots indoors.

Here’s a video from eHow Garden with some tips on growing peppers indoors:

4. Scallions and Garlic Greens

Growing Container Onions Greens
Growing onion greens in a container. Photo: Dennis Brown.

Scallions and garlic greens (or garlic sprouts) pack a lot of flavor, are easy to grow indoors, and they don’t take up a lot of space.

5. Carrots

Carrots are a popular vegetable that are surprisingly easy to grow in pots. Projects Diaries is a great YouTube channel that has a ton of helpful gardening tips. This video will teach you all about growing carrots in containers:

6. Lettuce, Spinach, and Other Leafy Salad Greens

Always get your greens! While salad greens take up more space than microgreens when growing, getting more uber fresh and tasty greens into your diet, whether in salads, smoothies, or other recipes, will bring enormous healthy benefits.

I really like the CaliKim Garden & Home DIY channel on YouTube because Kim focuses her videos on making things easy. So, if you’re new to this indoor gardening thing, be sure to check out her videos. Here’s one on growing salad greens indoors:

7. Strawberries

As noted earlier, you can also grow fresh strawberries indoors. The key is that they need the equivalent of about seven hours of sunlight per day, and they do best in warmer conditions, which is typical in most home environment anyways.

Here’s another helpful video from eHow Garden on growing strawberries indoors:

8. Figs

Not only are fig trees a beautiful plant, they also deliver one delicious type of fruit. This guide on Green Thumb Planet will tell you everything you need to know about growing a fig tree indoors.

Fig Tree
Fig Tree

9. Oranges, Tangerines, Lemons, and Limes

Even if you don’t live in Florida or some other sunny place, you can still grow citrus trees, including orange, tangerine, lemon, and lime. MIgardener is a YouTube channel that focuses on sustainable, organic gardening. Their citrus tree growing guide will show you how to set up ideal indoor conditions for these healthy fruits to thrive.

10. Bananas

Another beautiful plant, banana trees can be grown indoors while giving your home a peaceful, tropical vibe. Some banana trees don’t produce fruit, so it’s important to distinguish between the two varieties when you’re choosing your plants or seeds. The Dwarf Cavendish is one type that will produce edible fruit. But keep in mind that even through it’s a dwarf variety, it can still grow to seven feet in height.

Here’s another video from MIgardener about growing bananas indoors:

Go bananas – but don’t stop at bananas! In addition to the fruits and vegetables listed here, many other edible plants can be grown in an indoor environment, including cherries, peaches, apricots, and more. Just as you see a dandelion busting through a crack in the concrete, with a little bit of encouragement and care, you can grow edible plants in your home and enjoy one of Earth’s greatest gifts to us: real food.

Santé!

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