It’s quite possible to grow plants even if you don’t have any outdoor space. Some people call it indoor gardening and it’s fun, especially if you grow plants you can eat.
Microgreens and bean sprouts
Producing your own sprouts for salads, stir-fries and sandwiches is a doddle. They will sprout happily after being rinsed over a few days. You can sprout all kinds of seeds and beans (mung beans, alfalfa, chickpeas …) but stick to those available in health food shops or supermarkets. Don’t sprout seeds for sowing as they will probably have been treated with pesticides or other chemicals. More about sprouting here.
Have you ever grown mustard and cress on some damp folded kitchen towel? That’s the oh-so-fashionable microgreens, right there! Microgreens is just the hip word for plants harvested when they are very, very small and the taste is intense. Read all about how to grow them here, best in potting compost. Try coriander or fennel. (Don’t try parsnips as their seedlings are poisonous.)
Indoor gardening, in tune with the seasons
If you have a window sill in your flat or house, especially if it gets sun for some of the day, you can probably grow something to eat that's larger than microgreens or sprouts. Clean the glass so that as much light as possible comes through.
Herbs are a great choice for growing inside. Warmth-loving herbs like basil do well. And the herbs my local slugs and snails like - parsley, chives, tarragon and coriander - I grow inside.
Some plants like moisture. Try lemongrass if your bathroom is bright for some of the day – it will take advantage of the warmth and humidity.
Bigger plants are possible too. When I gardened in a first floor flat I grew green peppers and aubergines on a bright west-facing window sill, and nowadays I grow tomatoes and chilli peppers in the south-east facing garden room.
Potting compost includes nutrients but these run out after a few weeks. Feed your plants weekly in the growing season with plant food.
Growing hydroponically and with cultivation lights
Many of the salad vegetables you buy in the supermarket have been grown under cultivation lights, in an inert medium rather than soil, and fed with nutrients diluted in water (hydroponics). That’s how we have different types of lettuce, rocket and other salad vegetables available all the year round. Despite what the scientists and supermarkets say, I don’t think the taste is anything to write home about.
Some companies (including a well known Swedish furniture and meatball company) have noticed a gap in the market for something to meet our desire for year-round salad and our interest in grow-your-own. Based on the commercial model, they are now selling domestic kits for ‘indoor gardening’: frames, medium, seed, nutrients, lights. It’s an interesting business idea and could be fun, but I'm going to stick to gardening with the seasons.
If you have a window sill or two, give indoor gardening a go! Experiment, move things round, try again and enjoy!
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