If you do not have a garden, or any outside space, you might think that growing your own food is out of the question. But all you need is a sunny windowsill to get growing. Of course, you won’t be able to become self-sufficient. But you can add to your diet, learn and have fun. If you get things right, even without outside space, you can grow a surprising amount of food.
Choose the Right Place to Grow Food Indoors
Successful indoors gardens are those which have been planned carefully. As with outdoors growing, it is important to think about patterns of sunlight, temperature, air flow and human movement when planning what to grow and where.
Most of the things you will want to grow will do best in a light and bright location – but not somewhere they will be in direct sunlight all day long. Try to choose a location for indoors growing that is not too close to a radiator, oven or stove, where temperatures will alter dramatically and more quickly over time. A spot where you can create a little natural ventilation (by opening windows on sunny days to create a through-breeze) is ideal.
Think about placing plants where you can water and tend them easily. Don’t place containers etc. where they will get in the way of other activities inside your home.
Make the Most of Your Space
At its most basic, growing your own indoors can simply be placing a few seeds in toilet roll tubes or other DIY containers on your windowsills. Or populating a simple window box with edible plants.
But if you really want to grow as much food as possible, you can get more inventive and really make the most of your space.
Employ ‘vertical gardening’ techniques and use shelving, planting towers, trellis or other support etc. to cram in as much growing space as possible. By thinking about vertical space as well as horizontal space, you can get creative and grow far more food in smaller spaces.
Hanging containers can also help you make use of additional space.
Set Up Systems Right Away – Think Long Term
One of the mistakes people make when planning an indoors garden is failing to think long term. An initial rush of enthusiasm can become disillusionment when people have trouble maintaining watering, fertility etc. long term.
Set up the following systems right away and it will be far easier to manage an indoors container garden over time:
- A home composting system. This will provide compost for making potting mix, and can also give a liquid compost tea to fertilize plants in pots later in the year.
- Rainwater harvesting. If you can, consider adding a rainwater butt or other container to the down pipe from the guttering on your roof. Even in a rented home or a flat, you might be able to simply hang a container outside a window to collect small amounts of rainfall to water indoors plants.
Make the Most of Your Resources
You don’t need to spend much money to get growing. A major part of the challenge is making the most of the resources already at your disposal.
Heading out on a walk in your local area, you might be able to collect natural resources to use in home growing, such as:
- Fallen branches and sticks (for plant supports and other structures).
- Fallen leaves (for compost/ mulches).
- Weeds (to make a liquid plant feed, or even to supplement your home grown diet).
You may also already have access to things you need right there inside your own home. For example:
- Food packaging and other old items to use as pots and containers.
- Food scraps, cardboard etc. for composting.
Another thing to consider is that you might be able to regrow vegetables from scraps. Or even save some of your own seeds from food you buy for planting.
What to Grow
There are plenty of things that you can grow indoors. In fact, most common vegetables and fruits can be grown in the right containers. Leafy greens and culinary herbs are great things to start with. For a small container garden, it can be particularly helpful to embrace micro-greens & sprouts. (Space saving planting is ideal for small spaces). But once you get started, you will find that you are less limited than you might imagine in what you can grow.
Elizabeth Waddington is a freelance writer, permaculture designer and sustainability consultant. She graduated from St Andrews back in 2003. She has her own garden where she grows fruits and vegetables and keeps rescue chickens, and also helps others with their gardens and farms all over the world. She works with individuals, businesses and charities to create better systems for a better world.