Friday, 11 March 2011

Growing Vegetables and Fruit Indoors

While a lot of the time you need a vegetable plot in order to grow your own vegetables, there are some plants that cope very well indoors. These range from tomatoes, to lettuce and a mixed salad, and even radishes and chillies.

In some ways the most decorative choices are lettuces, if you choose a mixed leaf seed packet. The different leave shapes can be very nice to look at. Of course, you can grow them almost all year round – there might be a little bit of a problem during the darkest winter months with light when they will grow very slowly though.

If you fancy going for something a little different, chillies are actually very successful when sown from seed and kept indoors during the spring. First you get some really beautiful white flowers, and then latter on the chillies start growing. These start off green, and progress to red. When they have ripened you can even use them – so you save money and get a really great house plant. 

So, you get months of an unusual decorative houseplant followed by great food. What a winner!

Tomatoes are more challenging, and should only be grown in a conservatory. But you can have the odd plant. Just prune them so they don’t get really hard to maintain.

Beyond that, you can grow baby carrots, radishes and even spring onions in a window box.

Probems with growing indoors

The process for sowing and taking care of them couldn’t be simpler: get a container with a hole in the bottom and a tray, fill it with seed compost, and sow like normal. When growing vegetables in your home it is important to turn them. You do that just like you would turn a flower... literally making sure that a couple of times a day you turn them round so they don’t lean towards the sun.

This will prevent them getting leggy.

The second main problem people get is they fail to water them enough or water them too much. Plants in containers need a lot of regular water. It’s not exactly too hard though... just make sure you water a little, but regularly... so that the plants don’t get too dry buy also doesn’t get soaking wet. A little experience goes a long way on this.

Maybe these plants are too difficult for you?

In which case, If you want something really basic, parsley and cress comes to mind... cress especially is something that will grow almost anywhere. As a kid, we were given a head... and we grew the cress like crazy green hair. But of course you can grow it in soil, it is very forgiving. And probably the best choice for someone with no experience.

Decorative fruit and vegetables for indoors

On the other hand some people may not want to feature the veg... In which case, the alpine strawberry is a great choice. You can add it into the mix in a normal flower container, and it is low growing, with small but delicious ripe fruit. I would say the alpine strawberry is more a decorative plant than something that will feed the family... but on the other hand we planted some in the paths here, and it supplies us a hassle free strawberry crop whenever we walk past.

I guess the other side of the coin is people with greenhouses and conservatories that can go really wild. It is possible to get a lemon or orange crop if you have a greenhouse. In fact, I know a few people who make their own traditional lemonade with home grown lemons. Although of course you need to keep your conservatory quite warm if you are going to produce enough to compete with the supermarket – so it is not exactly a moneysaving idea!

While these ideas won’t feed a family of five... they do mean that you will get more experience of vegetable gardening, and you will be able to produce home grown vegetables throughout most of the year.

Vegetable gardening is fun, whether you do it inside or out, and the basic process is much the same either way. Of course you won’t want to grow rhubarb indoors, or large crops like peas or beans... but don’t forget you can get a lot out of a pot by the back door... we used to eat beans for months with just two posts of runner beans made into a tripod we used to place by the front door. Beautiful flowers and delicious crops.

Plus by growing them indoors you are much less likely to experience pests.

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