Estimated reading time: 11 minutes
Growing your own food has many advantages. First, you can control the growing environment, avoiding pesticides, for example. Next, you can save money and trips to the market for fresh produce. And third, you can’t beat the taste and satisfaction of eating home-grown food.
Whether you’re new at growing your own food or are an old hand at it, you may be surprised to know that it doesn’t have to be a seasonal interest. You can grow many vegetables indoors all year round. And you don’t need lots of space or special equipment either.
In addition to your starter plants or seeds, you’ll need food-grade buckets (adding drainage holes as required), drainage trays, potting soil, and a sunny location or proximity to grow lights.
When it comes to watering indoor veggies, less is more. With your plants not having the heat of direct sunlight to contend with, there is more of a danger of over-watering than under-watering. However, dry, indoor heat can be tough on some plants, so plan to check the moisture level of the soil regularly.
What are some of your best bets for growing food indoors in buckets or other containers? This article offers a list of 14 foods you can grow in buckets any time of year.
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Since they are root vegetables, carrots need the deep soil a five-gallon bucket can provide. However, other than requiring soil depth and plenty of light, they are easy to grow.
Each plant will bear one carrot, and you can plant as many as 25 plants in one five-gallon bucket. For best indoor results, consider some of these shorter carrot varieties:
- Little Finger
- Scarlet Nantes
Potatoes are another excellent choice for indoor growing. A five-gallon bucket will yield a couple of pounds of potatoes. If you need more to feed your family, you can add more buckets or try larger buckets.
3. Green Beans
Beginner gardeners know that green beans are easy and satisfying to grow. You can expect the same success indoors. You can go from seed to harvest in six to eight weeks.
Keep in mind that green beans grow rapidly, so you’ll need to plan ahead to provide them with sticks or trellises for support. This video shows options for supports, and this video shows you how you can densely plant beans to pack more into your buckets.
Kale not only tastes great and adds nutrition to soups, stews, and other dishes, it’s also an attractive plant you’ll enjoy having indoors. We like this article for the details it provides on growing kale indoors. If you learn better with videos, here’s another resource.
Tomatoes like things hot and sunny. So, if you provide them with a warm spot near a sunny south-facing window, you can have tomatoes all year long.
Smaller tomato varieties tend to grow better indoors. The time between planting and harvesting varies depending on the types you plan. Most are ready to harvest in a range between 55 and 85 days.
One way to get ahead of the game with indoor pepper gardening is to bring your outdoor pepper plants indoors in the fall. When nurtured well, your pepper plants will continue producing fruit all year.
You also can start from scratch from seed or use starter plants planted in containers placed in warm, light-filled locations inside your home. Here is a helpful guide to growing peppers indoors, and here is a video that explains how to grow peppers in a small indoor space.
Easy to grow and quick to harvest, radishes are an indoor gardener’s dream. (They’re a perfect choice for the youngest gardeners in the family – especially if you use clear planters so they can watch the growing process.) Radishes take only about 30 to 40 days from germination to harvest.
The perfect addition to many salads and stir-fries, scallions (also called green onions) grow well indoors on a sunny windowsill. You can even grow them from scraps.
In only eight to 10 weeks, you’ll be able to cut and eat the sprouts, and if you are careful to leave about a half-inch of growth above the soil, the plant will continue to grow. Or try chives – a smaller cousin to the green onion. Check out this video for tips.
9. Salad Greens
If you have a sunny south-facing window or can use grow lights, you can grow many types of lettuce indoors all year. Spinach and arugula will be ready to harvest in as little as four weeks and do well in compact spaces.
Cucumbers are another option for your indoor garden. They like full sun, so plan on using grow lights unless you can give them space near a south-facing window. Plan for supports if you choose vining varieties. Bush varieties also do well in five-gallon containers.
To grow turnips, which come in wide range of varieties, you need a container with about an eight-inch depth. Mixing regular potting soil with compost is a good idea.
Place the container near a sunny window and keep the soil moist. You should be able to harvest your turnips after about eight weeks. This video shows how to plant, grow, and harvest turnips in containers. For written instructions, here is a helpful article.
Strawberries grow surprisingly well indoors in a bucket or a hanging basket. Look for compact varieties for the best results.
Strawberries have a shallow root system, and you can grow several plants in a single bucket. This article offers tips for growing strawberries indoors all year.
13. Sprouts and Microgreens
Sprouts and microgreens are ideal for indoor growing. You can add taste and nutrients to many of your meals with these young plants. And the best part is how quickly they grow. Here are step-by-step instructions. We think you’ll like the tips in this video too.
Many of your favorite herbs grow well indoors, and there’s nothing like snipping off what you need when you’re making dinner. Popular choices include:
Problems to Avoid When Growing Plants Inside
If you’re used to growing food outdoors and dealing with the whims of Mother Nature, you may think indoor gardening is trouble-free. You’d be wrong. Indoor gardeners must deal with some of the same variables as outdoor gardeners.
Here is a run-down of some of the common problems associated with growing food indoors and what to do about them.
Lack of Sunlight
Insufficient light is the number one problem indoor gardeners face. While you may be able to treat some of your container plants to sunshine from a south-facing window, most of us will have to supplement with artificial lighting. Many options are available, from special fixtures to installing different bulbs to the lighting fixtures you already have.
Many fruiting and vining summer vegetables prefer temperatures of around 65 degrees at night and 80 degrees during. If you’re germinating seeds, it will go a lot faster if the temperature is closer to 80 degrees.
Since your indoor temps may fall out of that range, you may want to experiment with heat pads and grow lights to offer plants like tomatoes and peppers the warmth they need.
Heated and air-conditioned air can play havoc with indoor plants. Low humidity can show plant growth and makes it harder for your plants to absorb the water they need from the soil.
Pests and Diseases
You won’t escape pests and diseases by growing your food inside. Just like with your outdoor plants, fungi, bacteria, viruses, and insects can invade your indoor food.
Aphids and whiteflies can be troublesome as well.
Inspecting your plants regularly can head off many troubles. And here are some tips to help prevent pest problems from happening in the first place.
Lack of Pollination
Without insects or the wind to transport pollen to different flowers, indoor vegetables will produce few or even no fruit. What can you do?
You can gently shake your self-pollinating plants to distribute the pollen. Or you can use a small paintbrush or a cotton swab to hand-pollinate flowers that rely on insects. Here’s how.
Too Much or Too Little Water
Overwatering and underwatering can stress plants, causing all kinds of problems from brown leaves to rotting roots. Test the soil for dryness before watering, and make sure your containers have adequate drainage.
Another issue that can arise with indoor gardening comes from placing containers where they can get knocked over or otherwise harmed by pets, children, furniture, or even the vacuum cleaner.
Overturned pots and damaged plants can result in delayed or diminished harvests. If you have a crowded household, consider placing your containers in a less-trafficked area of your home or shielding them from foot traffic with a baby gate or room divider.
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For more on year-round indoor vegetable gardening, here are a few additional resources:
- How to Garden Indoors & Grow Your Own Food Year Round
- Indoor Kitchen Gardening Handbook
- The Year Round Vegetable Gardener Handbook
- Four-Season Food Gardening