Eat What You Sow
Edible gardening is rapidly gaining popularity, and for good reason. Sure, regular houseplants are great and all, but why not make the most out of your gardening endeavours and get some fresh fruits, veggies and herbs out of the deal? Nothing beats the bragging rights you’ve earned when you serve your friends a meal made from organic food grown in your very own home.
Benefits of Urban Food Gardening
Even if you don’t have a sprawling backyard to fill with vegetable plants, you can still create a pretty slick indoor garden using smaller container plants. The convenience an in-home garden brings to your cooking routine is pretty spectacular. You reap the benefits of garden-fresh organic food, skip the trips to the supermarket, and eliminate the frustration of big bushels of fresh herbs wilting in the fridge.
On top of the obvious convenience of having a produce section in your own home, edible gardening has tremendous health benefits. The nutrient content of fruits and vegetables reduces gradually the longer they’ve been picked off the plant, so by picking the exact amount you need right when you need it, you’re getting healthier food, with less waste as a result.
How To Start Vegetable Seeds
The best soil for starting seeds should mostly consist of peat, with a mix of perlite for good drainage. Pop it in some small cups or fill up an old paper egg carton. Before planting your seeds, be sure to read the instructions on the back of the seed pack, because some need to be chilled, soaked in water or scratched before you go ahead with germinating. It’s a good idea to put two seeds in each container, so once they sprout you can pluck out the weaker of the two. Find a sunny spot by a window and set up your seedlings. Some seedlings need a little extra humidity, so placing a dome over the cup should help trap in moisture.
If you’re planning on transplanting your seedlings outdoors, take note of the frost date in your area and plan accordingly. Here in Edmonton we’re usually looking at an early March frost date. If you wait too long to germinate your seeds, your summer harvest won’t be too impressive with such a limited growing season. Starting seeds indoors too early in the season sets your plants up for failure, because they just won’t get enough light when the days are much shorter. Even if you use a supplementary growing light, this could cause your plant to start flowering too early, when ideally you want your plant to begin flowering after you’ve transplanted it to ensure the best possible yield.
If you plan on keeping your plants indoors, make sure you’ve got a sunny window, preferably South or West facing, to set up your indoor garden by. If your home is particularly dry, it wouldn’t hurt to pick up a humidifier, because many plants like lettuce and cucumber prefer the air to be a bit more moist.
Indoor Vegetable Gardening Tips
While not every fruit or vegetable is keen on growing indoors, there are more than enough viable options out there to make for a tricked-out kitchen garden. Herbs are always a great starting point— they don’t take up too much space, they’re easy to care for, and they make a huge impact on the quality of your cooking. If surface area is limited in your kitchen, try installing a hanging herb garden in your window— it’s like edible art, perfectly backlit by the sun.
Now, herbs aren’t exactly the foundation of a meal, so if you’d like to grow something a little more substantial size-wise, try your hand at growing some of these edible plants that fare well in indoor containers:
Lettuce Greens: We all could stand to eat a few more salads now and then, so growing lettuce at home is a great option if you’re looking for a quick convenient meal that doesn’t break the bank. If salads aren’t your thing, blend lettuce greens into a yoghurt and berry smoothie, and you’ll barely taste the difference.
Arugula:Whoever said salads were boring obviously has never encountered arugula, because this flavorful leafy green has serious attitude. Balance out the spiciness with something sweet, like a honey-lemon vinaigrette with sliced beets and goat cheese. It also makes a great topping for burgers and creamy pastas. If you’re the impatient results-oriented type, you’ll love arugula, because this plant doesn’t waste any time, and reaches maturity in around a month and a half.
Lemons: Pick up a dwarf lemon tree for your kitchen, and the hipsters and artsy types in your life will be swooning. Has anyone else noticed lemon motifs popping up everywhere right now? While this option may take a lot longer to produce food than the typical indoor gardening project, the payoff is so worth it. Dinner, dessert, tea time, and cocktail hour will be extra snazzy with a twist of lemon from your very own tree.
Strawberries: These tasty fruits grow quite well in containers, but you just need to make sure they’re getting tons of light and good soil drainage. If necessary, a little grow light should help it along. Keep it on for about 14 hours per day, and you’ll be in business in no time.
Tomatoes: While tomatoes can be a bit trickier to pull off indoors, it’s certainly not an impossible feat. They need about 8 hours of direct sunlight per day, so it’s probably in your best interests to grab a grow light. Small upright varieties of tomatoes like Red Robins and Florida Petites will do best (leave the jumbo beefeater tomatoes for growing outdoors).
Have fun putting together your own kitchen garden, and don’t be afraid to take risks and experiment with new fruits and veggies you haven’t tried before. What’s the worst that could happen? Nothing wrong with a little trial and error, it’s all part of the learning experience. You’ll love having so many fresh ingredients on hand, and it’ll make for some of the most spectacular farm to table recipes you’ve ever tried (or in this case, windowsill to table).