The winter season for adventurous vegetable growers is not a time to put their feet up and relax but rather a challenge to try growing vegetables indoors. Taking your gardening indoors during winter requires planning, equipment, and planting the right plants!
Growing vegetables indoors in winter is possible, but you must give the plants the environment they would normally expect outdoors in summer. This requires offering the right light for the right amount of time and providing a temperature-controlled space to promote healthy plant growth.
If winter has arrived and you don’t want to hang up your gardening gloves, prepare a space in your home to grow your vegetables indoors throughout winter and get a head start on your summer outdoor growing.
Best Ways to Grow Vegetables Indoors in Winter
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If you enjoy growing vegetables and don’t want the cold winter season to restrict your vegetable growing, you can continue to grow these plants throughout the winter.
Growing vegetables indoors in winter allows you to enjoy summer crops all year round but also helps you get a head start on your summer outdoor growing. Late in the winter, you can start seeds indoors destined for planting in the garden in springtime.
You must plan carefully to successfully grow plants indoors in a season when they are typically dormant, but it is not as complex as you may think.
The needs of the plants remain the same for winter gardening as for summer gardening, so if you supply your vegetables with the correct environment, you can have a thriving indoor winter vegetable garden!
Where To Grow Vegetables Indoors in Winter
One of the biggest considerations for an indoor garden in the winter is space availability. The available space will be your main driving factor for the method you choose to grow the veggies.
If you have the space, you can use a corner of a room for your indoor garden, a sunny window sill, or a garage. The type of space you use affects your environment for the plants or the additional gear you may need to grow your veggies indoors.
As an example, if you grow your vegetables indoors, you probably have central heating or climate control for your home to make the environment comfortable for humans. This space requires less adjustment to make it suitable for growing plants than an unheated space such as a garage.
You can create your indoor winter vegetable garden by growing plants in various types of pots using potting soil, or you can go for my personal favorite, and opt for the soil-less route and grow hydroponically.
Pro tip: If you’re new to gardening in general, and hydroponics in particular, I recommend AeroGarden. There are many different models available on Amazon.
If you have the space, grow tents are a great option to provide a controlled indoor growing environment for your vegetables in winter.
Light Requirements to Grow Vegetables Indoors in Winter
Indoor winter gardening requires providing vegetables with the growing environment they expect during the summer.
The number of daylight hours contributes to seed germination, plant health, and growth. Most vegetables are sun-loving plants and need at least 6 hours of sunlight each day. To successfully grow vegetables indoors at any time of year, you need to provide this amount of light for your plants.
A sunny room is a good option, but it will not provide all the light requirements for your plants as the sun moves and no longer shines through the window. Some regions do not have good sunlight in winter because of cloud cover, and the number of sunlight hours is reduced.
The only way to supplement the light needed by your vegetables to promote good growth and a harvest is to offer artificial light to supplement the limited sunlight or replace sunlight completely.
We have an article dedicated to using artificial lighting for indoor hydroponics called “What Types of Lights Do I Need for Hydroponics?” The information in this article is relevant to growing vegetables indoors in winter.
Heat Requirements for Growing Vegetables Indoors in Winter
One of the main challenges for growing plants indoors in winter is providing them with the correct temperature range to promote healthy growth.
This is especially true for seed germination, where certain seeds will not germinate until the soil reaches a particular minimum temperature.
Many seeds will only germinate if the temperature does not drop below a minimum of 59°F or 15°C. Some summer vegetables require even higher soil temperatures to germinate, often up to temperatures of 70°F to 80°F or 21°C to 27°C.
It is important to research the seed germination temperatures of each plant you want to grow and ensure you can provide the right environment.
Heat for growing vegetables indoors can be provided in two ways or a combination of both methods. These heat mats (Amazon) are ideal for germinating seeds in seed trays and growing the seedlings.
Heat lights that provide heat and light are an option to heat the air temperature around the plants and are ideal for larger plants.
Some plants need a combination of heat mats and heat lamps besides the lamps needed to provide the lighting needs for the plants.
Plants kept in your home where the air temperature is already regulated for humans may not need heat lamps, only lamps for light and heat mats for germination.
Best Vegetables to Grow Indoors in Winter
So now you have your indoor winter garden all set up, it is time to choose the best veggies to grow indoors in winter.
One major challenge to growing vegetables indoors is the lack of pollinators. While you can grow non-self-pollinating plants indoors with some practice and experience and pollinate them yourself, it is recommended that you plant self-pollinating plants first as a first-time indoor winter gardener.
Plants that do not grow too big or spread out too much are ideal for maximizing your growing space available indoors.
The following are some of the best vegetable options to grow in your indoor winter garden.
- Bell Peppers. These plants require a little more warmth but grow well in an indoor winter garden.
- Spinach. Spinach grows easily and can be decorative as well as offer food in the winter. Plant smaller varieties to save on space.
- Green onions. Shallots or green onions do not require deep root space and deliver intense flavor for your winter dishes. Pro tip: Check out my article, How to Regrow Green Onions from Scraps to learn the easiest way to grow green onions.
- Tomatoes, especially cherry tomatoes. Tomatoes are self-pollinating, so they grow well indoors. You may need to shake the plant a little when the flowers develop to distribute the pollen among the flowers.
- Herbs of all varieties. While not technically vegetables, herbs grow easily in winter indoor gardens and give exceptional flavor to your meals. I buy all of my herb seeds from True Leaf Market.
- Chili peppers. Chilies can be a little challenging to grow, especially germinating the seeds, as they have a narrow temperature tolerance range for germination. Once they germinate, they grow well indoors.
- Potatoes. Potatoes can be grown indoors but require fairly deep containers, such as buckets or grow bags (Amazon), to provide enough space for the tubers to develop. The greenery above ground will need to be contained to prevent it from taking over your entire grow room.
- Radishes. Radishes do not need deep soil and require little care once they are established. Their peppery flavor adds to winter soups and stews or adds character to fresh salads.
- Green beans. Growing a couple or three green bean plants are a good addition to the winter garden if you can give them the vertical space they need. To learn more about growing green beans in an AeroGarden, check out my article, Growing Green Beans in an AeroGarden Harvest and Harvest XL.
Easiest Vegetables to Grow Indoors in Winter
Some vegetables are easier to grow indoors than others. Vegetables that prefer cooler conditions will require less heating indoors, reducing the amount of equipment you need to get started.
Typical cool temperature-loving vegetables that are the easiest to begin growing indoors during winter include the following.
- Carrots. The only problem with carrots is the depth of the soil needed for the roots to develop. A pot of at least 16-inches or 400mm deep is ideal for raising a carrot crop in winter. If you don’t have deep enough pots, check out shorter carrot varieties such as Parisian and Royal Chantenay and Little Fingers available from True Leaf Market.
- Lettuce. Lettuce loves cooler temperatures, and leaf lettuce is a better option than head lettuce which takes longer to mature and requires more space.
- Swiss chard. Swiss chard is similar to spinach and grows well in lower temperatures.
- Broccoli. Broccoli is a slightly larger plant, but a single broccoli growing in a pot can supply you with enough produce for the winter.
- Peas. Peas are easy to grow because they prefer cool weather. The challenge is to provide them with vertical support as they climb, but this is not too difficult with a little imagination and resourcefulness.
- Kale. This is another fairly large plant you can grow if you have the space. It responds well in cooler weather and does not need pollinators to produce edibles. If you don’t have much space, try a smaller variety such as Prizm Kale (Amazon).
Growing vegetables indoors in winter is not as difficult as it may seem, and once you have the basic hardware, the costs are minimal. An indoor winter vegetable garden will give you nutritious summer vegetables all year round!
If you don’t want to hang up your gardening gloves till spring, take on the challenge, start an indoor garden, and experiment with the vegetables you would like to grow.
Recommended Resources for Growing Vegetables Indoors
Here are my favorite resources for growing vegetables indoors anytime of the year, including winter.
AeroGardens. I personally have about 20 AeroGardens that I run year-round. They make it easy to grow vegetables indoors, because they provide the light. A pump is included in each garden, which helps the water circulate. Since everything is on a timer, all you have to do is add nutrients every two weeks, and water as needed. I purchase most of my AeroGardens from Amazon.
Grow Lights. If you opt to use something alongside or in place of AeroGardens, be sure to pick up some grow lights, such as these on Amazon. Even if you have a sunny window, you generally need to supplement sunlight with grow lights. Grow lights come in all price ranges and you can get just about any type of grow lights you desire on Amazon.
Heat Maps are great for germinating seeds. They can also help with vegetables that require a warmer soil temperature. Check out this selection of heat maps available on Amazon.
If you enjoyed this article, you’ll also enjoy these related articles.
- What is PPM in Hydroponics and Why it Matters
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- Hydroponics Vs. Soil | The Best Option for Apartment Gardening
My own experience plus the following articles: