svg What Herbs and Vegetables Can You Grow Indoors? | Urban Leaf

What Herbs and Vegetables Can You Grow Indoors?

One of the most important decisions you will make as an indoor gardener is also one that most people rush, and do a poor job of. 

Get this decision wrong, and you’re pretty much guaranteed to waste time, effort, and not to mention money. But get it right, and your chances of having a successful and rewarding indoor garden increase exponentially.

In this blog, we are going to be talking about plant selection. We’ll give you a few pointers, as well as provide a framework to help you figure it out for yourself.

Just Because You Can Grow It Indoors Doesn’t Mean You Should

While almost any plant that grows outside can technically be grown indoors, some aren’t practical from a size, light, and livability perspective (we love our plants, but not enough to keep the apartment at 90°F and 75% humidity!) Fortunately, these plants are the exception, not the rule, so with practically limitless options, how do you go about deciding what plant you’ll try next?

Whenever we screen a new seed variety or decide what herbs and vegetables to grow ourselves indoors, we use a set of criteria (flavor, looks, rarity, productivity) that we’ll break down for you in this blog. 

We hope that by the end of this blog, you’ll be able to have an idea on how to begin your indoor gardening journey. If you want to learn more about indoor gardening, enter your email address below to get a FREE copy of our eBook.

 

The Short Answer: Herbs You Can Grow Indoors

These are some of the better herb choices for growing indoors: 

  1. Basil
  2. Dill
  3. Mint
  4. Chives
  5. Oregano
  6. Cilantro

The Short Answer: Vegetables You Can Grow Indoors

Vegetables often need more space than is available indoors. You should always look for dwarf/compact cultivars, especially for peppers and tomatoes. 

  1. Peppers
  2. Tomatoes
  3. Leafy Salad Greens
  4. Radishes
  5. Microgreens

If you’d like to learn more about what you can grow indoors, and the framework we used to come up with this list, then keep reading below!

Start Small And Experiment with Herbs and Vegetables that you can Grow Indoors! 

Some edible plants, like some herbs and vegetables, are totally brown thumb proof, and some are better to work your way up to. If you are diligent – you can grow pretty much every plant indoors, but we find it’s more encouraging, enjoyable, and relaxing if you master the basics first. We have a separate article that covers the recommended edible plants for beginners as well as how you should progress between them.

Grow Herbs and Vegetables That You Like To Eat

Seems like stating the obvious, but I found myself growing bushels of Thai basil before realizing that I just don’t really like the taste of it. You can start off by focusing on plants, herbs, and vegetables that you love, then try to explore from there. If you love salad, then it’s worth exploring the 1000+ lettuce varieties that you can’t have unless you grow them yourself. 

Of course, leaving room for experimentation and trying new plants to grow is part of the fun of indoor gardening, but if you start by focusing on growing the herbs and vegetables you love indoors, then your indoor garden will always be rewarding.

Herbs and Vegetables That Are Best Eaten Fresh 

Did you know? The moment you ‘pick’ a fruit, vegetable, or herb and detach its fruit or leaves from the main plant, it starts decomposing. The speed at which plants decompose varies based on the type and storage, but a loss of flavor, nutritional density, color, and smell are all inevitable. This is one of the many reasons why we’re so obsessed with eating fresh food or growing our own food indoors!

While all produce starts breaking down right after it’s picked, some keep a lot longer than others. We think it makes sense to focus our home-grown gardening efforts on plants, herbs, and vegetables that experience a very rapid degradation of quality after they’ve been harvested. 

Ones where the difference between 1 minute old and 1 day old is really noticeable. This approach means you will be tasting and enjoying flavors that are simply not available at your local supermarket. 

For vegetables that break down more slowly (see RHS in the table below) – one could argue that it might make more sense to just buy these veggies or herbs at the local farmer’s market instead of growing them indoors.

The herbs and vegetables (on the left-hand side below) are much more suitable for indoor growing as they are more likely to lose nutrients faster, and we all want fresh herbs and vegetables.

Fresh or bust

Doesn’t (really) matter

Herbs

Onions

Tomatoes

Peppers

Lettuces

Cabbage

Peas

Cucumber

Summer squash

Winter squash

Eggplant

Citrus Fruits

Beans

Celery (?)

 

Herbs and Vegetables that You Only Need a Little Bit Of Are Best for Indoor Growing

Certain plants, herbs, or vegetables can elevate an entire dish with just a tiny amount – a single Szechuan pepper adds serious zing to a noodle dish, and a little fresh basil livens up canned soup. If you are low on space, your indoor herb or vegetable garden can still have a big impact by selecting plants that you only need a little of. 

Herbs that are more suitable for indoor growing like basil, dill, and parsley, are great to have on hand – especially when the alternative is buying a pack of half-wilted leaves only to throw most away.

Focus on Edible Plants, Herbs, and Vegetables That You Can’t Find In Stores 

There are a lot of herbs and vegetables you can grow indoors, but we recommend trying those that you can’t find in stores. One example is tomatoes. 

Although they can be found in most stores, there are over 10,000 varieties of tomato… but you’d be lucky to find 10 in a produce aisle.  Why just those 10? Unfortunately, it’s not because they were the best tasting, but rather they were the best tasting that could also withstand cross-country shipping without a bruise and sit on the shelf without spoiling. 

That leaves 99% of all tomatoes that you haven’t tried. Our favorite places to explore are seed catalogs, Facebook groups, and seed banks.  

Look for Herbs and Vegetables That Offer High ‘Return on Investment’ 

With indoor gardening, you’ve only got a small amount of space, so it’s important that the herbs and vegetables you can grow indoors 'earn their keep'. The most productive plants are ones with short growing periods, small footprints, and that offer continual harvests. 

Based on the above, our favorite edible plants, herbs, and vegetables that are best for growing indoors are: 

  • microgreens, 
  • lettuces, 
  • cucumbers, and 
  • indeterminate tomatoes
  • herbs like basil, dill, oregano, etc

Edible Plants That We Think Are NOT Suitable for Indoor Growing

While it goes against our nature to tell you to not grow something – there are a few plants that just aren’t worth the trouble or otherwise don’t make much sense to grow indoors.

Melons Can’t Ripen In Your AC

First off, melons need lots of space (about 15ft2 per fruit) and they also need long hot summers to ripen… so they basically just don’t make very good roommates. 

Corn Needs Proper Pollination

While it would be fun to have some corn stalks growing in the corner, you would need to have lots of plants to get proper pollination. That’s why we don’t recommend growing corn indoors.

Pumpkins & Winter Squash Need Space To Stretch Out

Pumpkin and winter squash vines are large and sprawly, they’ve got a long growing season, and they keep for a long time so you’re much better off with getting these at the store and using your gardening space indoors for more rewarding plants. 

Cabbage Plants Are Monstrous 

Great to grow as microgreens, but if you’ve never seen a plant up close – they’re massive. You’re much better off with its cousin, kale. 

As you may already know, Urban Leaf specializes in indoor edible gardening, and all the products we offer have been developed for urban and small space gardeners. 

If you’d like to learn more about how to grow your own food at home, a great place to go next is our eBook. You’ll be amazed by what is possible as you flick through this free guide!

 

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