8 Edibles You Can Grow Indoors

Yes you can.

I had my first taste of garden envy when I downsized from a three-bedroom house to a 555-square foot apartment.

Sean-Kelley_Bucktown-Rooftop_Deck

Sean-Kelley_Bucktown-Rooftop_Deck

I went from a backyard to a balcony. This image is actually too generous.

 

From: Sean Kelley

Photo by: Sean Kelley

Sean Kelley

I went from a backyard to a balcony. This image is actually too generous.

 

At the old house, our landlords had planted fennel, rosemary and sage that seemed to thrive all on its own. Our dog always smelled like rosemary. We grew herbs on the front porch. I once dumped a neglected strawberry plant on the side of the house and was shocked to find berries the following spring.

Apartment life has been a lesson in patience. I spent my first spring carefully observing how much light my apartment got, and finally took the plunge on a ‘Sungold’ cherry tomato plant. I figured if I could grow tomatoes, I could grow practically anything. I was rewarded with a few sweet fruits that opened the door to herbs, peppers, strawberries and flowers I originally thought wouldn’t be possible.

“Just have a go,” says Zia Allaway, author of Indoor Edible Garden, a manifesto of all the ways you can grow food indoors or in small outdoor spaces. “A book like this gives them lots of ideas of what they can grow, even if they have no experience.”

I know what you’re thinking: Sure, you can grow herbs and maybe lettuce indoors, but that’s it.

Cocktail Garden Bar Cart

Cocktail Garden Bar Cart

It's a bar and a garden — what's not to love? Cucamelons and 'Toscana' strawberries cascade from planters on the bar cart's handles. Shade-tolerant mint grows in a container on the bottom shelf. Hyssop — an aromatic herb with beautiful purple flowers — tops the whole thing off.

Photo by: Dorling Kindersley: Will Heap; Images and text of Indoor Edible Garden reprinted by permission of DK, a division of Penguin Random House LLC ©2017 by Zia Allaway

Dorling Kindersley: Will Heap; Images and text of Indoor Edible Garden reprinted by permission of DK, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, 2017 by Zia Allaway

It's a bar and a garden — what's not to love? Cucamelons and 'Toscana' strawberries cascade from planters on the bar cart's handles. Shade-tolerant mint grows in a container on the bottom shelf. Hyssop — an aromatic herb with beautiful purple flowers — tops the whole thing off.

Think again. While downsizing is more of a “trend” here in the United States, Zia says in the United Kingdom small spaces are commonplace, and many lack outdoor spaces entirely. 

“I try to give people the confidence to grow both edible and ornamental plants, which many people think is more difficult than it really is,” she says. “A little chili plant will produce lots of fruit on a sunny windowsill, and lettuce is very easy to grow in a shadier room – both also look like beautiful house plants, so you get the best of both worlds.”

The main two things to watch for in an indoor garden are light and water. Taking cues from plant hardiness maps, Indoor Edible Garden divides the home into 8 growing zones based on natural light, then provides suitable plants for each zone. “Then simply keep them watered and fed,” she says.

Convinced yet? Try these edibles, plus get more growing tips from Zia:

Microgreen Cupcake Stand Planter

Microgreen Cupcake Stand Planter

Here's the perfect kitchen garden for a baking enthusiast: Zia Allaway planted microgreens in silicone cupcake liners, then arranged them on a cupcake stand to create this cute (and tasty) come-and-cut-again garden.

Photo by: Dorling Kindersley: Will Heap; Images and text of Indoor Edible Garden reprinted by permission of DK, a division of Penguin Random House LLC ©2017 by Zia Allaway

Dorling Kindersley: Will Heap; Images and text of Indoor Edible Garden reprinted by permission of DK, a division of Penguin Random House LLC, 2017 by Zia Allaway

Microgreens

Our favorite project in Indoor Edible Garden (and Zia’s too!) is this adorable cupcake stand garden.

“The microgreens grew really well in these tiny cases, and they were ready to harvest in just a couple of weeks,” she says. “The flavors were lovely too, and great for adding to salads and sandwiches”

Microgreens just need a warm, sunny window – they can thrive with four hours of sunlight. You can make a planter with pretty much anything you have lying around – plastic or foil food containers are a great low-cost option. Press your seeds of choice into moist potting soil, then use a spray bottle or mister to keep them moist. Seeds usually sprout in about a week.

Black Metal Mounts and Ceramic Pots for Indoor Herb Garden in Bright, White Kitchen

Black Metal Mounts and Ceramic Pots for Indoor Herb Garden in Bright, White Kitchen

This kitchen features an indoor herb garden designed by Reckless Iron Works, as seen on HGTV Fixer Upper. A white brick wall and white granite countertop creates a bright backdrop allowing the pot color and greenery to pop. Wood cutting boards and ceramic cookie jars are functional and decorative.

From: Fixer Upper

Herbs

Fresh herbs can transform any dish, and you’ll love the color and fragrance they bring to your home, too. If your space is low on light, start with mint – it’s typically the least fussy and doesn’t mind the shade.

13 Herbs to Grow Indoors

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Lemon Balm

Grow lemon balm plants for a single year for best flavor. Plant it indoors in the fall, grow indoors through winter, then you can plant it outside for spring and summer.

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Chives

Chives grow almost anywhere. Harvest them at the base (like cutting grass), no more than one third of the bunch at a time.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Mint

Growing mint indoors may be the best plan for most of us. Containerizing mint keeps it from growing all over the yard and garden. All varieties are suitable for indoors.

Photo By: Image courtesy of Felicia Feaster

Parsley

If you choose to start parsley from seed, soak it in warm water to crack the seed coat before sowing it.

©2013, Image courtesy of Ben Rollins

Basil

Use the smaller globe types of basil for indoor growing. Many of the larger types are too large and will cause space problems.

Bay Laurel

Also known as bay leaf. This shrub can get quite large if left unpruned. It works well indoors through the cold months, but performs best if kept outdoors in warm weather.

©2008, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Cilantro

Cilantro is short-lived by its nature. Start a succession of seedlings at two or three week intervals to keep a supply going all the time.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Thyme

Thyme is adaptable to pots as small as four to six inches. Simply repot it from a nursery plant, or divide a larger plant that has grown outdoors. Like rosemary and sage, it is easy to propagate from cuttings as well.

©2012, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Lemongrass

Lemongrass can be grown from seed, purchased as a starter plant, or propagated in water from the fresh herb in the grocery store.

Photo By: Image courtesy of lovelygreens.com

Oregano

Oregno is easy to propagate from cuttings or by division. Take a few cuttings at the end of summer and root out in a cup of water. Fresh oregano is much milder than dried. Use it at the end of the cooking process so that its flavor is not lost.

Rosemary

Take cuttings of outdoor rosemary at the end of summer to grow indoors through winter. Start with a four inch cutting from a branch tip, strip the lower foliage and stick it into potting soil. Cover with plastic to retain humidity as it roots.

©2009, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Sage

Buy a starter plant or start it from cuttings off an established plant. Simply snip off the growing tips from a plant outdoors and stick them in a pot with good potting soil. Keep the cutting moist and it will root in a few weeks.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Kaffir Lime

Kaffir lime is another woody plant used for its foliage. As with bay laurel, give it outdoor time in the summer if possible.

Photo By: Courtesy of Four Winds Growers

Harvest Edible Flowers for Summer Salads

Harvest Edible Flowers for Summer Salads

A favorite edible bloom, nasturtiums, are a lovely, colorful addition to any vegetable garden or summer border. Both the leaves and flowers of the nasturtium plant are edible. The leaves have a peppery flavor and can be tossed into salads.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Edible Flowers

Your favorite flowers can also be your favorite food! Marigolds, nasturtium, violets, pansies, violas and even orchids (Dendrobiums) can all be tossed into salads, used to garnish drinks and more.

Ornamental Peppers

Ornamental Peppers

Ornamental peppers are popular holiday plants with colorful, decorative fruits. Give your plant a cool spot that gets lots of bright light, and water as needed to keep the soil from drying out. Some ornamental peppers have been treated with chemicals, and others just aren't good for eating, so enjoy the fruits only as ornamentals. Don't consume them or let children or pets come in contact with them. Annual ornamental peppers can stay in their pots or be transplanted into the garden after all danger of frost has passed. They'll grow until the first hard frost. This variety is 'NuMex Easter.'

Photo by: National Garden Bureau

National Garden Bureau

Chile Peppers

Spice chasers will love growing chiles on their windowsill or patio. This one has been tested by yours truly, and small ornamental varieties work best here – a potted Thai hot pepper plant seemed to grow endlessly and were fun to offer to adventurous guests.

Ruby Ann Strawberry

Ruby Ann Strawberry

Ruby flowers fade to form juicy berries on Ruby Ann strawberry. This ornamental strawberry makes a beautiful edible hanging basket.

Photo by: National Garden Bureau at NGB.org

National Garden Bureau at NGB.org

Strawberries

Strawberries are resilient. I’ve been growing ‘Toscana’ strawberries in containers for years, and there’s been more than one occasion where I thought the plant was dead only to see it spring back to life come spring.

Try growing them in a window box or basket. Stick with it – even in large gardens, strawberries typically aren’t very productive in their first year. Like you might deadhead a flower, harvest the berries often to encourage more growth.

Meyer Lemons

Meyer Lemons

Not every garden property can boast an orangerie, but the exquisite Millwood, Virginia home of Elizabeth Locke features not only an orangerie for her citrus plants and indoor pool, but an ice house, conservancy, parterre gardens, a chicken coop, edible gardens and a black walnut tree that is one of the largest in the Commonwealth.

Citrus Fruits

One of the best gifts I ever received was a potted lemon tree from my mentor. The tree’s thorns were becoming a growing concern for her young daughter.

Citrus trees can make beautiful, productive houseplants with the right conditions. Even my mentor was shocked with how productive the tree had been.

Zia warns to make sure the plants have a cooling period in winter to fruit well – this can be resolved by placing the plant somewhere like a (bright) unheated garage or sunroom. Let the trees spend the summer outside, if possible.

Hanging Cucumber Garden

Hanging Cucumber Garden

Grow veggies where ever you can. Even hanging over the backyard fence.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Ben Rollins

Image courtesy of Ben Rollins

Cucumbers

Mexican Sour Gherkin

Mexican Sour Gherkin

Marketed as a cucumber, this little jewel isn’t even a cuke cousin, but it makes fabulous pickles. You’ll find it listed as a staple in botanical cocktails, salads and stir fries. The flavor is a fresh watery burst with lemony tones. No need to peel—just pop ‘em into your mouth whole. Grow on a trellis, and the tiny fruits won’t weigh the vine down.

Photo by: Image courtesy of Johnny's Selected Seeds

Image courtesy of Johnny's Selected Seeds

I was pleasantly surprised to see a handful of cucumber projects in Indoor Edible Garden. One of the projects involves adding casters to a trellis-planter combo to ensure the plant receives light on all sides.

Zia also tried her hand at growing cucamelons (Melothria scabra) – a Mexican cousin of the cucumber that took the internet by storm last summer thanks to its tangy fruits that look like miniature watermelons.

Tumbling Tom Yellow Perfect for Hanging Basket

Tumbling Tom Yellow Perfect for Hanging Basket

The large trusses of sweet, cherry-sized fruit of the 'Tumbling Tom Yellow' look great cascading over the sides of a hanging basket. Fruits can be picked all summer long.

©2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

2011, Dorling Kindersley Limited

Tomatoes

Yes, your favorite summer fruit can be grown indoors, too. Cherry tomatoes can be grown in hanging baskets and there are now many varieties being breed specifically for growing on patios and in small spaces.

Give indoor tomatoes as much light and warmth as possible, keep them well-watered and make sure to read the plant tag to know when to fertilize.

More Small-Space Garden Ideas

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Galvanized Buckets

Scented plants add an element of nostalgia to a garden patio filled with containers of various sizes.

Photo By: GAP Photos

Go Tall

Cover a wall or create a barrier with a tiered planter.

Photo By: J S Sira

Stair Garden

A double staircase is built into a steep hillside: one set of stairs is for people and pets, the other side is for herbs and plants.

Photo By: Jamie Rector

No Ho-Hum Drum

A metal drum makes a sturdy home for this pretty Japanese maple.

Basket Garden

A small space doesn't mean you can't have a fruitful (or veggie-ful) garden.

Variety of Vessels

A mixture of flowerpots, planter boxes and old cookware makes for an interesting container garden.

Add Personality to a Plain Wall

Line a plain wall with flowerpots of different heights and sizes. Use a trellis to add even more height.

Photo By: Photographer Brian North 01582 767689

Vertical Garden

A gravel pathway is walled off with pockets full of herbs.

Clean Lines

To add texture and color, frame a driveway or sidewalk with matching planters filled with spiky greens.

Patio Accessories

A small sitting area is given interest with a variety of trees and annuals all handsomely potted.

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