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Published November 9, 2022 by Nicole Burke

5 Quick Tips for Gardening Indoors

Filed Under:
indoor gardening
herb garden
salad garden
gardening indoors

Indoor Garden Ideas

My first winter in Chicago was rough. I'd been spoiled by the year-round gardening in Houston, so to stay warm and happy up north, I knew I'd have to surround myself with as much green as possible. For me, that meant starting an indoor herb garden in a sunny, south-facing window, rinsing sprouts in my kitchen, and growing microgreens in my basement under grow lights.

Plants that we grow for the leaves (i.e., microgreens, herbs, and salad greens) are ideal to grow inside because you don't need a ton of space, sunlight, or gardening experience to keep them happy. Bonus: you always have something green to toss on your meals, even in the dead of winter. Another bonus: no weeding required!

Some of these indoor garden ideas will require a sunny spot near a window, while others can grow under artificial light (which means you can get creative where you place your indoor garden).

Follow these simple tips to create your own thriving indoor garden to get you through winter or to fill your home with more green.

indoor gardening

Tips for Growing Indoors This Season:

  1. Choose containers with good drainage holes
  2. Place a weed barrier cloth at the bottom of every container
  3. Use a good potting soil blend
  4. Give your plants plenty of space to spread out
  5. Grow plants with low light needs
herbs for indoor garden

Indoor Gardening Tip #1

Make Sure Your Container Has Good Drainage Holes

The planter, pot, or container that you select should be big enough to fit the root ball of the plant you'd like to grow (at least 6 inches deep for herbs and salad greens), and it should have at least one good-size drainage hole. Drainage is extremely important for growing plants indoors. I'd go so far as to say the surest way to kill a plant when gardening indoors is to overwater it in a container with poor drainage.

My favorite containers to use for indoor herb or salad gardens are stainless steel containers (which don't always come with drainage holes but can be made to drain better with a drill) and terra cotta pots (which help regulate the moisture level and typically come with a nice, big drainage hole).

Test your container by running water through it before planting up your favorite greens. Some gardeners have asked me about placing rocks in the bottom of pots instead of adding drainage holes; it might work if you're very sparing with water, but having clear drainage holes is the best way to keep your plants happy.

If you don't have a saucer for the bottom of your container, place it in your sink while you're watering and give the water plenty of time to drain out the bottom.

Here are a couple of my favorite containers for indoor gardening on Amazon.

indoor garden vegetables

Indoor Gardening Tip #2

Place Something at the Bottom of Your Indoor Gardening Container to Prevent Soil from Running Out

Before filling your container with soil, cut a small piece of landscape cloth or weed barrier cloth to fit inside the bottom of your container to keep the soil from washing out of the container every time you water. If you don't want to buy a whole roll of weed barrier cloth and if your container is small, you could alternatively use a coffee filter spread over the bottom.

Your future self will thank you for taking this extra step. As long as you use a porous material like weed barrier cloth, water will still be able to drain out of the bottom.

ideas for indoor garden

Indoor Gardening Tip #3

Use a Good Potting Soil Blend for Your Indoor Garden

Soil is one of the most important elements when it comes to gardening—both indoors and out!

Fill your container with a well-draining soil that's full of nutrients. Organic potting soil like this one or this one work well for indoor and outdoor veggies. Mix your soil with some compost to give your indoor greens a great start. I really like the organic mushroom compost from Espoma.

indoor garden supply

Indoor Gardening Tip #4

Give Your Indoor Plants Plenty of Space to Spread Out and Grow to Their Full Potential

Many of the plants you buy from the store come more than one to the pot in order to make them look fuller. It's actually best to separate them before planting them in your garden by gently tugging the roots apart.

herbs for indoor garden

Plant separated plants immediately because they're super fragile. Give them a nice watering in. Now, each little plant has space to grow to its full potential!

indoor garden herbs

Indoor Gardening Tip #5

Grow Plants with Low Light Needs

Plants that need to form flowers and then fruits require too much light to be grown indoors. Plants that only need to form leaves are ideal for growing indoors because they can survive and even thrive with four to six hours of light. And sprouts don't need light at all!

Herbs that don't need full sun and that can be grown indoors include basil, chives, lavender, lemon balm, marjoram, oregano, rosemary, sage, thyme, and mint.

Salad greens that will thrive on light from a window include lettuce plants, spinach, and arugula.

During the short days of winter, it might not be possible to give your plants the natural light they need in a windowsill (depending on the direction your window faces). An artificial source of light can help you maintain healthy plants indoors when sunlight is lacking. Look for a full-spectrum light. I like these clip-on LED lights from Amazon, or similar versions that can easily attach to a shelf or ledge and be maneuvered over your plants. There are also floor lamp versions for sale.

Look for lights with a timer or remote to simplify your life. You'll need these lights to stay on for 12 to 14 hours a day because artificial light is not the same as natural light.

You'll know your plants are not getting enough light if they start getting leggy (tall and spindly) and/or the new leaves seem stunted compared to older ones. It's unlikely your plants will receive too much light indoors, especially during winter, but if they are, you'll notice that the leaves look bleached or scorched by the sun or the plant wilts midday despite the soil being moist.

light for indoor garden

4 Ways to Bring the Garden Indoors

Sprouts: The Best Intro to Indoor Gardening for Beginners

Sprouts can be grown in as little as two to five days because we're only waiting on the seed to germinate and push out a tiny bit of growth (it may be tiny, but it's still super nutritious). Sprouts, as I said, can also be grown without any light at all. All you have to do to get them to grow is water them.

Sprouts can be grown in a jar, a special tray with draining holes, a strainer, or even just a damp paper towel. The seeds will need to be rinsed frequently and then drained well so that they grow without becoming moldy and yucky.

sprouts are indoor gardening for beginners plants

Microgreens: The Best Way to Grow a Wide Variety of Garden Vegetables Indoors

Microgreens can be grown in a sunny windowsill, but I've found the most success growing them with artificial lights. I actually grew microgreens in the basement of my home in Chicago so that I could have trays and trays full of nutritious greens in the winter.

One of the really cool things about growing microgreens is that you can grow plants that would traditionally take months and months to grow to their full size outdoors as miniature versions of themselves that—get this!—taste the same! That's right. A kale microgreen tastes like kale. A parsley microgreen tastes like parsley. You get the idea!

If you want to brag to your friends about all the veggies you're growing inside, try growing radishes, carrots, kohlrabi, broccoli, and cauliflower as microgreens.

Microgreens do need to be tended for a couple minutes each day, but they're super easy to grow and are my favorite indoor gardening project.

grow microgreens indoors
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Herbs: The Best Way to Have Delicious Flavors at Your Fingertips

If you've got perhaps an extra-wide window ledge, an available table to scoot next to a window, or a little sunroom, consider creating an herb garden planter to grow several types of herbs (or different varieties of your favorite herb) together. I like to move my herb planter outdoors during the summer months and bring it inside or pot up my favorite herbs during the winter.

Check out our steps for how to start an herb garden indoors.

herb container for indoor garden

Salad Greens: The Best Way to Fill Your Salad Bowl This Winter

If you plant a little salad garden now, you could be harvesting your own gourmet, homegrown salads in just three to four weeks. Like herbs, salad greens are cut-and-come-again, so you can continue to harvest from them for months if you take only the outer leaves and leave the middle of the plant to keep growing. Plus, since you're growing indoors, you won't have to worry about hungry pests munching on your salad leaves.

indoor lettuce garden

Learn all you'll need to grow your own organic garden salad for at least six months of the year. This course is available inside a Gardenary 365 membership, along with our most popular online gardening courses, including Microgreens, Herb Garden Guide, and more.

Thanks for Gardening Indoors with Me!

I hope these indoor garden ideas inspire you to plant some seeds and get growing no matter what the weather's like or how much outdoor space you have. Anyone can have a little garden indoors, even if it's sprouts in a jar! I promise, there will come a time when you're so thankful to see some green in your space and to toss some leaves onto your meals.

5 Quick Tips for Gardening Indoors

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