Over the last week I’ve been moving house and finding myself in a new home has prompted me to learn about how to move beyond buying produce zero waste and become more self reliant in my sustainable lifestyle. This starts with learning about growing food in my current home, an apartment with no garden. Below are the top tips I’ve found for getting started with growing some of your own lil guys.
What to know before you grow
While each plant has different needs, here are five things to think about when growing fruit and veg indoors.
Many plants require at least six hours of sunlight a day, so a room in your apartment that receives a fairly constant amount of light during the day is your best bet, however if your apartment is really dark you can get growing lamps. These bulbs are available in most homeware shops and fit nearly any light fixture, but it’s worth doing some research depending on what you want to grow. Vegetables that produce fruit, such as tomatoes, peppers or cucumbers require much more light than herbs, root vegetables or salad greens, which can happily get the light they need from fluorescent lights no more than four inches above them. So basically, find out what’s going to be best for your setup and what you want to grow.
Soil quality is super important for providing your plants with the nutrition they need, and can cause the same problems as outdoor growing (such as off pH levels). Do a thorough test of the soil you want to use before planting your seeds, so you avoid problems in the future. Remember, this is totally the kind of thing you can ask about in a garden shop, so don’t worry about not being a soil expert.
It’s good to keep an eye on humidity levels where you’re growing in order to avoid rot, fungal infections or your plants drying out. If you live in a crazy humid climate, a little dehumidifier can go a long way (although maybe you already have one!). If you live in a really cold place heating systems can completely dry out the home, so you may want to think about a cool mist humidifier. Don’t get too worried though, my flat in London doesn’t require either of these, so they’re probably only worth thinking about if you live in a more extreme climate.
Air circulation in the home is really important for your health (read more on that here), but a breezy environment can help to fight off potential moulds and fungus, as well as keeping the moisture in the air evenly distributed. There are lots of easy options, like opening a window now and again, but if it’s absolutely necessary to buy something a small fan that rotates slowly is all you need.
Temperature is something that you want to keep an eye on fairly regularly. If temperatures dip too low during the night, then your plants could succumb to freezing temperatures. If you’re growing in your apartment then this takes care of itself, as you also don’t want to succumb to freezing temperatures, but if you use these tips for a different indoor space like a shed then keep an eye out.
Ideas for getting started
Like any lifestyle change, which you’re probably familiar with being here on this blog, trying to go huge straight away is very rarely the best way to do something. Consider starting with some plants that have high success rates for new growers such as lettuce, spinach or kale, with a couple of fluorescent bulbs. You don’t need to go crazy with buying special garden tools! Keep it simple and small.
While you can definitely grow healthy plants in pots and you don’t always need huge beds of soil, it’s important to plan for pot growing. You probably need more space than you think, especially if you’re wanting to grow fruit, so opt for larger pots. And if you want to be at your most efficient, opt for high yielding plants in pots: leafy greens like chard, peppers, or sweet potatoes (where the entire plant is edible, unlike potatoes whose leaves are toxic.) You can often find plant pots at larger charity shops for super cheap which you can fill with easily grown salad plants like spinach, romaine lettuce or rocket.
Growing herbs on your counter or windowsill takes away the need to buy dried spices for your pantry, as well as avoiding plastic packaging. You can use smaller containers that you find in charity shops (for example old teacups) to hold herbs such as oregano, basil or parsley, but make sure not to overwater as they won’t come with drainage. If you’re growing on a balcony, produce like chard, tomatoes and strawberries can all thrive if they can get a good amount of light, and depending on the season.
Growing from seeds
If you plan try growing from seeds plants such as lettuce, kale beans, peas, courgette and Swiss chard, all have a fairly high success rate. You can check out this article for more ideas on what grows well from seeds or young plants.
Growing from leftovers
If you don’t want to grow from seeds, there are plenty of things you can grow from leftovers of the food you’re already eating by using cuttings. This article tells you the best 19 foods you can grow at home with your food scraps (My life goal is to grow my own avocados)
If you have the space, and you love peas, it is possible to create a trellis indoors to grow peas year-round. If you have space limits you can also grow potatoes vertically with potato towers and bags. You can grow several pounds of potatoes in less than a few square feet of space, but you can make harvesting them a lot easier than digging through several hundred feet of outdoor space.
Don’t be disheartened
Ultimately, it may take a little time to find your growing rhythm and what works for you. Don’t be disheartened if your first growing attempt doesn’t work out! It’s totally normal. So start small, take it step by step and in time you’ll see results.