Growing your own food is a dream for many, and one that comes with cost saving and convenience benefits. The ability to grow food from a simple seed or seedling and enjoy it with your family is a powerful and fun adventure to undertake. However, it’s not without its challenges. Those cold winter months can make it difficult to keep fresh produce on hand for your favorite meals. So, what’s the solution? Setting up an indoor kitchen garden is a good place to start. This allows you to grow your foods year-round for a steady supply right in your home. If you’ve been considering an indoor kitchen garden but aren’t sure where to start, we can help.
The Basics of a Kitchen Garden
There are a few things to consider when starting a kitchen garden from scratch. The first thing to keep in mind for any garden is the amount of space you have available. Typically, when growing indoors space is at a premium, and you’ll often have to get creative to grow larger crops.
For our indoor kitchen garden we’re focussed on two main types of plants that play around this limitation. Herbs, and dwarf vegetables. Both of these take up limited space, and are great for spaces with minimal free space. While you can absolutely grow full sized plants indoors, the lack of space for many will make this more difficult.
Outside of that, you should look to grow something that you’re interested in and will actually use in your cooking. If you hate onions then growing scallions might not be the best choice. The goal here is to enhance your cooking with fresh ingredients, so choose some that you already use frequently.
Planting Your Garden
Next, you need to choose whether to use established plants or seeds to start your garden. Growing from plants is a bit easier and ensures you already have herbs to use. You can purchase them or transfer some that you’re already growing outside to an indoor container. Be sure to thoroughly check any plants for pests and wash the containers to prevent bringing unwanted guests indoors.
If you’re using seeds, add fresh potting soil to your containers and sprinkle in a few seeds following the instructions on the packet for depth and spacing. Then add a bit of water and cover the containers with plastic wrap to create a mini-greenhouse. This will encourage germination. When the seeds sprout, remove the plastic.
If growing herbs, you can pot some of them together, though not every plant likes being part of a crowd, so check the instructions before planting. You can also give each one its own pot to keep them organized and thriving.
Most herbs and vegetables like lots of sun, so a windowsill or sunny area is best. You also need to watch how often you water them since many plants like things damp but not soaked. Soggy plants lead to rotting roots, so give the soil time to dry out a bit between watering. Adding organic fertilizer or compost once a month can also give your herbs the nutrients they need.
Growing Vegetables From Scraps
In addition to the traditional ways of growing plants, there are also lots of opportunities to grow vegetables from scraps in your kitchen. This allows you to reuse parts of a plant you might otherwise throw away. It’s also a fun and unique way to grow that doesn’t take up that much space.
While this doesn’t work for all plants, lots of popular plants like scallions, bok choy, garlic, and lettuce can all be grown from scraps or cuttings. The method is generally the same where you’ll start the scrap in water and move it to soil once it roots. Plants grown in this way will generally produce less than their parent plant, but will still be just as delicious if not more so.
Herbs for a Kitchen Garden
There are a wide variety of herbs to use when setting up a kitchen garden. You can plant as many as you like, depending on how much space you have available.
The great thing about herbs is that many of them take up very little space. You can grow a container of chives in a small, 6” pot for example that will fit even in small spaces. This makes herbs one of the top picks for indoor gardening, especially those limited by space.
Basil has a wide variety of uses in the kitchen. It is a staple for many Italian dishes, like pasta, pizza, salads, and sauces. You can even use it to make a few tasty cocktails. There are a few varieties to choose from to alter the flavor of your meals however you like. Basil is easy to care for, using rich, organic potting soil, bright light, and lots of warmth. Be sure to reseed every few weeks to ensure a consistent supply.
Chives have a subtle onion-like flavor that enhances several dishes, so you can use them in almost anything. This includes eggs, dumplings, soups, or even sandwiches. They can be chopped fine or even cut using scissors for a faster method. You can even cut and freeze the long leaves for later use while encouraging new growth in your pot. Chives need bright light, rich, organic potting soil, and consistent watering.
Parsley is often used as a garnish but its mild, somewhat bitter flavor is a great addition to soups, sauces, stews, and salads. You can even use it in meat or vegetable dishes if you like. You can pluck as many leaves as you need for the dishes you have in mind. These plants can get quite bushy, so you don’t need many to maintain a steady supply. A deep pot of rich, organic potting soil, lots of light, and regular watering will ensure it thrives.
Thyme is a staple in most kitchens, due to its ability to enhance almost anything you cook. It looks somewhat delicate, with its little leaves and trailing stems, making it an appealing plant as well as a tasty one. It only needs water when the soil surface dries, so it is low-maintenance. Fast-draining potting soil and a warm, sunny window are also best.
Rosemary is often seen during the Christmas season, due to its lovely scent and appealing look. It is sold as a decorative bush during the holidays but it is also one of the most versatile herbs around. You can add it to meat, fish, vegetables, salads, potatoes, and soups. If you’re feeling experimental, it even makes a tasty addition to lemonades, cocktails, ice cream, and even candies. It likes its soil a bit drier and prefers cooler temperatures as long as it still gets lots of light.
Though oregano is most known for its use in Italian cuisine, this herb is also a must for Middle Eastern, Mexican, and Central American dishes. The scent of the fresh leaves isn’t as strong as dried leaves but it still adds a robust zesty flavor to tomato sauces, soups, casseroles, stews, and meats. It needs a fair bit of light but should only be watered when the surface of the soil is dry.
There are several mint varieties to choose from, including spearmint, peppermint, orange, ginger, chocolate, licorice, and apple. This gives you several options, so you can plant as few or as many as you like. The leaves and sprigs can be used for drinks, teas, desserts, soups, and salads. Be sure to plant mint in its own container since it is quite invasive and will steal nutrients from nearby plants. Mint prefers moist but well-draining soil, though its light needs vary, depending on the type you plant.
Dill is easy to grow, so it takes little effort to maintain a steady supply year-round. It adds a lovely flavor to potatoes, fish, lamb, and even veggies, so it should get a lot of use in your kitchen. This herb needs plenty of sun and regular watering to keep the soil from drying out. If you let it go to seed, you can collect them for future plants to ensure a consistent supply all year long.
Outside of herbs, another great option to try is dwarf vegetables. Dwarf plants are ones that are specifically bred to be smaller in stature and take up less space than traditional plants. This makes them fantastic options to grow when space is limited.
There are a huge variety of dwarf or baby vegetables available to grow, here’s a couple of our favorites.
Tomatoes are a classic garden vegetable so our first pick for an indoor kitchen garden are the small-sized cherry tomatoes. They require similar care to traditional tomatoes, but only grow a fraction of the size. This makes them great options for containers growing indoors. While they’re not as space conservative as herbs, they take up a whole lot less space than a full grown tomato plant normally would. Cherry tomatoes are a great addition to a ton of recipes, or are just as delicious on their own.
While traditional carrots can take up a lot of space, baby carrots are just the opposite. Their small size means they don’t need as deep of a container as full sized ones, and this makes them much more manageable for indoor growing. Even better, they come packed with nutrients and are a delicious snack both raw as well as cooked into a variety of dishes.
There are tons of different varieties of lettuce, and just as many that fit in the dwarf or baby categories. Our pick is mini-romaine as it is a versatile vegetable that works great in a variety of dishes or all on its own. Serve it as part of a fresh salad, perhaps with home-grown tomatoes for a delicious meal.
Caring For Your Garden
Once you’ve planted your garden the care is going to be generally the same as any outdoor garden. You’ll want to learn about your plants, and provide them with the right amounts of water, sunlight, and nutrients to keep them thriving.
The big thing to keep in mind, especially in winter, is the amount of light your plants are getting. It can be a bit tricky to get enough for high-light plants like vegetables if you don’t already get a ton of natural light indoors. If that’s the case, try using grow lights to supplement. Cheap, LED ones are great and don’t cost a lot to purchase or operate.
Indoor Kitchen Garden
Having fresh produce on hand year round is a dream for many gardeners. While many of us may lack the space to home grow all our own produce, we can still take small steps towards that goal. Hopefully the above has helped you start planning your very own indoor kitchen garden. We’d love to hear about all the fantastic herbs, veggies, and more you grow!