The following is part one of a three part series on how to set up and enjoy fresh greens grown indoors year round.
Dar Corrigan is a Master Gardener and a member of Halton Region Master Gardeners since 2018. Prior to that, Dar lived a very urban and transitional life, moving between three countries over the past two decades. She now raises her family and gardens at home in Oakville. Her current gardening interests include indoor kitchen gardens. She continues to take courses in horticulture and learn on the ‘job’.
Setting Up an Indoor Veggie Garden!
With the long cold winter ahead of us, setting up an indoor veggie garden can be a great way to liven up the daily grind! Below, I will outline a budget-friendly guide on how to get started with a few easy steps.
This is important. Use a seed starting soil mix sold at your local garden nursery (and not garden soil). Indoor plants need soil that is amended to allow for air circulation and provide nutrients that are not otherwise available indoors and in pots. This is not the place to deviate from the rules. Be good to your plants and they will be good to you!
See below for some of my DIY indoor garden creations.
The Indoor Single Grow Light Bulb
This is the easiest and least expensive growing option. Simply replace a regular bulb in a desk lamp with the grow light bulb and shine in on trays of microgreen seeds. Sunblaster and MiracleLED light bulbs can produce two full trays of microgreens in approximately two weeks. I have had great success with the MiracleLED bulb. Make sure the lamp is compatible with bulb wattage.
Single Tier Home Made Shelf
Double Tier Ikea LACK shelf with added Grown Lights
A/V Cart Repurposed as Veggie Cart (with added shelving)
- Read all growing instructions on the seed packets – take advantage of tutorials on quality seed company websites.
- Mist (with water bottle) during germination process and new seedlings – do not let the soil dry out. Use a dome to help trap humidity during germination process (not necessary but makes it less work)
- Be sure to read all operating and safety instructions with grow lights. Be careful with electrical cords and tripping hazards with extension cords.
- Ideally, set up the indoor garden near a water source – but not too close to the electrical wires!
- Plan and stagger planting dates to keep a steady supply of greens and avoid the extremes of feast and famine. For example, staggering will protect against a scenario where everything is fully mature at the same time and then nothing but bare pots for the next 5 weeks! Seed packets will (should) have information on how long it takes for veggies to grow. Think about how many people will be enjoying the harvest and how many plant trays the set up can accommodate. Personally, I plant a new tray (or two) every week to replace what we eat – but I also have a big veggie cart! More on that in the follow up article.
- Labels trays with the name of the seeds and date planted. This will help take a lot of guess work out of the project and makes for better decision making on future plantings (eg. maybe that particular lettuce was not worth waiting 55 days for, opt for more quick microgreens instead).
- Consider installing a timer on the lights, which should be on for approximately 12-14 hours a day. Convenience is key and protects against possibly overstressing plants if someone forgets to turn them off one night.
- Do keep an eye on humidity levels and air circulation. A fan and possibly dehumidifier may be needed, depending on how big the set up it.
- If you have kids at home, consider enlisting their participation. Not only will they learn from the experience, they may get a nutritional boost as well!
I hope this short article encourages some gardeners to take up this winter growing option! In the weeks to come, I will follow up with another article with more tips on indoor gardening!
Master Gardener, Halton Master Gardeners