Main Indoor kitchen gardening : turn your home into a year-round vegetable garden: microgreens - sprouts..

Indoor kitchen gardening : turn your home into a year-round vegetable garden: microgreens - sprouts - herbs - mushrooms - tomatoes, peppers & more

It takes just a few dollars and a few days for you to start enjoying fresh, healthy produce grown indoors in your own home. Imagine serving a home-cooked meal highlighted with beet, arugula, and broccoli microgreens grown right in your kitchen, accompanied by sautéed winecap mushrooms grown in a box of sawdust in your basement. If you have never tasted microgreens, all you really need to do is envision all the flavor of an entire vegetable plant concentrated into a single tantalizing seedling.
If you respond to the notion of nourishing your guests with amazing, fresh, organic produce that youve grown in your own house, condo, apartment, basement, or sunny downtown office, then youll love exploring the expansive new world of growing and eating that can be discovered with the help of Indoor Kitchen Gardening. Inside, author and Bossy Acres CSA co-owner Elizabeth Millard teaches you how to grow microgreens, sprouts, herbs, mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers, and more-- all inside your own home, where you wont have to worry about seasonal changes or weather conditions. Filled with mouthwatering photography and more than 200 pages of Do-It-Yourself in-home gardening information and projects, Indoor Kitchen Gardening is your gateway to this exciting new growing method--not just for garnishes or relishes, but wholesome, nutritious, organic edibles that will satisfy your appetite as much as your palate.
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i NdOOr

K i tC hE N

Gar dE Ni NG
ElizabEth Millard


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First published in 2014 by Cool Springs Press, a member of the Quarto Publishing
Group USA Inc., 400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401
© 2014 Cool Springs Press
All rights reserved. With the exception of quoting brief passages for the purposes of
review, no part of this publication may be reproduced without prior written permission from the Publisher.
The information in this book is true and complete to the best of our knowledge.
All recommendations are made without any guarantee on the part of the author or
Publisher, who also disclaims any liability incurred in connection with the use of this
data or specific details.
Cool Springs Press titles are also available at discounts in bulk quantity for industrial
or sales-promotional use. For details write to Special Sales Manager at Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc., 400 First Avenue North, Suite 400, Minneapolis, MN 55401
USA. To find out more about our books, visit us online at
Digital edition: 978-1-59186-593-3
Softcover edition: 978-1-61058-981-9
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Millard, Elizabeth.
Indoor kitchen gardening : turn your home into a year-round vegetable garden:
microgreens - sprouts - herbs - mushrooms - tomatoes, peppers & more / Elizabeth
pages cm
Includes index.
ISBN 978-1-59186-593-3 (softcover)
1. Vegetable gardening. 2. Indoor gardening. I. Title.
SB324.5.M54 2014
Acquisitions Editor: Mark Johanson
Design Manager: Brad Springer
Layout: Mayfly Design
Interior Design: Rob Johnson
Front Cover Design: Rob Johnson
Photography: Crystal Liepa
Printed in China
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

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age: 2


6 Introduction
14 Growing Edibles Indoors
Thinking Ahead / 16
Find Your Space / 18
Getting Started / 26
Common Problems / 52
Attitude / 58

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Contents (continued)

60 Microgreens, Shoots, Herbs,

Wheatgrass, Sprouts, and Mushrooms
Microgreens / 62
Pea Shoots, Sunflower Shoots, and
Popcorn Shoots / 84
Herbs / 102
Wheatgrass & Pet Grass / 116
Sprouts / 130
Mushrooms / 140

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age: 4

Contents (continued)

150 Radishes, Carrots, Tomatoes, and
Other Crops

Lettuces / 154
Radishes / 162
Carrots / 168
Kale & Chard / 174
Spinach / 180
Beets / 188
Hot Peppers / 194
Potatoes / 202
Tomatoes / 210
Vary Your Crop Mix / 219
Now Go Inside and Play / 220

220 Conclusion
221 Resources
223 Index

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age: 6



rowing up in Minnesota, my

time digging, weeding, or talking about

schools always seemed located

compost. The concept of growing food

across from cornfields and

was about as foreign to me as algebra

farm stands, but wearily gazing outside
during math class was about as close

(which I also believed I’d never use).
After a few decades in the business

as I got to agriculture. Although my

world, that sense of disconnection

great-grandparents and grandparents

to my food remained, although I’d

were farmers, I grew up in the suburbs,

expanded into cooking more meals and

a land of uniform lawns and frozen

using more than one spice at a time.

vegetables, and although I deeply

It wasn’t until I was in my early 40s,

appreciated lazing around in trees and

though, that I actually grew anything

watching bees in the neighbor’s garden,

more than an appetite.

I never imagined I’d be spending any

Elizabeth (Bossy E) and Karla (Bossy K) in a rare moment of relaxation at their Community Supported
Agriculture (CSA) farm, Bossy Acres, in Minnesota.

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When people ask how I got into

Before we first managed to get into

farming, I like to say that I dated my way

our farmland, though, we began by

into it. I met my future partner, Karla

growing a wealth of crops inside. Winter

Pankow, during a Habitat for Humanity

in Minnesota is notorious for wearing

build in Zambia, Africa, and we joke

optimists down to a brittle nub, but

that our relationship started while we

the more experimentation we did with

had dirt-encrusted hands, so why not

microgreens, pea shoots, radishes, and

continue the tradition from there? The

other tasty vegetables, the more we felt

beautiful simplicity of living there—

like we were extending summer into

albeit for only a few weeks—stayed

our house. As the snow buried the cars

with both of us, and we realized that

outside, we harvested wave after wave of

we yearned to create a life focused on

tiny, delicious greens that kept us busy

sustainability, abundance, gratitude, and

until we could find some fields to till—

plenty of dirt. By launching a farm, Bossy

or at least break into the raised beds in

Acres, we’re off to an excellent start.

our backyard garden in Minneapolis.

Microgreens and other indoor edibles do more than simply feed the body. They add color and texture to the
interior of your home, and watching them grow is an exciting adventure for kids and adults alike.



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age: 8

The experience went against

and broccoli, even beets and mush-

everything I’d believed for most of my

rooms—with the right mix of light,

life: that indoor vegetable growing was

airflow, water, and attention, all can

for experts who possessed deeply green

flourish as easily as houseplants.

thumbs, and that anything edible raised

In this book, you’ll learn the basics

inside a house had to be grown in some

of indoor growing, get tips on specific

extensive, costly system. Most of all, I

“crops,” and troubleshoot some com-

thought having a little two-bedroom

mon indoor growing issues so that you

bungalow in the city was a huge draw-

can easily get started on the leafy, deli-

back because I didn’t have an expansive

cious path of in-home gardening. Start-

kitchen with tons of natural light, or a

ing with planning your space, and find-

finished basement with space for rows

ing the right area in your home (usually

upon rows of grow lights.

the kitchen, but not always), you can

Fortunately, through several sea-

transition to planting, soil conservation,

sons of indoor growing, I came to see

water usage, airflow management, and

that there are plenty of options when

all those other zesty strategies that go

it comes to in-home “farming.” Nutri-

into being an in-home gardener.

ent-rich microgreens, sprouted alfalfa

Bossy Acres, the Community Supported Agriculture farm operated by Elizabeth and Karla, relies heavily on
volunteer field work from CSA members who enjoy getting their hands dirty.

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Also included are some ideas on
preparing your hard-earned bounty.
For several years, I focused so much
on growing vegetables that I neglected
educating myself on how to actually eat
them. Yet, it’s hugely important to make
food prep into a part of any gardening
strategy. That’s why I’m just as likely to
be pickling, fermenting, and chopping
as I am weeding, transplanting, and
harvesting. There are certainly times
where I plant a certain type of vegetable
or fruit just to see if it can be done (I’m
looking at you, artichokes), but at the
same time, I make sure to be prepared if
my ambitious schemes end up working.
A jar full of a blend of spicy microgreens is
weighed and prepared to be sent out for sale at a
local farmer’s market.

A kitchen-window herb garden with good light can yield plants nearly as big as if they were grown outdoors.



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Even if your in-home garden is just one plant, seeing a beautiful edible like Swiss chard thriving in your
kitchen will give you the confidence to expand and try more new plants in new places.

In short, Indoor Kitchen Gardening
is about creating a sense of play and
nourishment. There’s a certain thrill

so indoor gardening feels more like a
fun journey than a daunting task.
It doesn’t matter if you’re crammed

that comes with seeing seeds begin to

into an urban apartment with one fern

pop into their first leaves, and if you’re

balanced on the fire escape or pon-

wearing your pajamas at the time, that

dering how to use a lovely greenhouse

excitement can feel doubled. Although

space in your new farmhouse, anyone

there are some challenging projects

can use these simple tricks and tech-

wedged into these pages, much of the

niques to develop garden abundance.

book is devoted to easy growing practices,

Let the adventure begin.

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Windowsills are built for potted herbs, which make a delightful accompaniment to your favorite pottery
and containers.

A few pots of edibles around the house can add up to a significant garden. Here, celery and red sail lettuce
share a bench.



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A bit of tough-to-reach countertop can be put to use in the highly productive task of supporting your
in-home garden. Depending on your conditions, you may not even need to supply supplemental light, heat
or ventilation at all.

(ABOVE) A tray full of radishes is ready to be harvested at just a couple inches tall. The development
of the second leaf pair is a good sign that most
micros are harvestable. (RIGHT) Any spot in your
house where you have had success growing typical
houseplants is a good candidate for growing edibles.
Some good sunlight is a key ingredient for most
plant species—edible or not.

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Edibles Indoors


iving in the Midwest, I’ve often dreamed of growing tropical fruits in my
dining room, imagining a stretch of mangoes and papayas juxtaposed
against the snow-sliding-sideways view of a February afternoon. The

kitchen would become a tangle of vines, lush with colorful blooms and quirky vegetables, and I’d be able to pick my breakfast while the morning coffee brews.
Theoretically, with the right conditions, I should be able to achieve at least a
fraction of that daydream. For example, it’s likely that I could grow a dwarf Calamondin orange tree, which is reputed to be hearty to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, or opt
for an avocado tree sprouted from a pit, waiting
the four to six years it takes for the new plant to
bear its own fruit.
I did attempt to achieve the somewhat impossible once, trying to grow my own loofah plant,
even though I knew Minnesota is far out of the
loofah’s zone. I managed to get it about 5 feet tall,
with luscious, broad leaves and plenty of potential,
but it never fruited, only kept spinning its tendrils
around curtain rods and houseplants. When the
project resulted in more pruning than loofah har-

vesting, I came to an important realization: indoor
growing is a pursuit that can be zesty and ambitious, but when it begins to feel like an overwhelming chore, it might be time to scale back. Most of
all, I determined that indoor growing is best when
it starts with a plan.

Turning your home into an orangery
with fresh oranges and lemons
growing in abundance is a lovely
dream, but you’ll have better luck if
you start with a more practical plan
and build on your successes.


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t’s ridiculously easy to become

how I’m going to use that vegetable or

overcommitted and enthusiastic,

herb in the future, I’ve been able to

especially when perusing seed

stay on top of my projects and very little

catalogs. Some of the dreariest parts of

goes to waste. I may not have tropical

gardening—weeds, rabbits, squirrels,

fruits crawling toward the ceiling, but I

more weeds, birds, and did I mention

don’t have guilt pangs from overgrown

weeds?—are eliminated with a kitchen

plants that have to be carted grudgingly

counter brimming with herbs, micro-

out to the compost pile, either.

greens, lettuces, and edible flowers. So,

Similarly, it helps to have a strong

some people tend to jump in and place

sense of timing. Understanding when

a seed order that wouldn’t be out of

certain plants will mature and planning

place for a five-acre hobby farm.

accordingly can be helpful for staying

Before hitting “send” on that order,
though, take a moment to think about

without feeling like you’re now a green-

what you really want to grow, and what

house manager.

it will add to your current growing mix
(if you have one going).

Once you have a plan in place—
even if it’s a rough idea of what you

Creating a plan might seem like it


on top of multiple growing projects

want to grow—then it’s easier to take a

would take the fun out of the adventure

look at other factors like space, light-

of indoor growing, but I’ve found that

ing, containers, etc., with a view toward

the opposite is true. By understanding

creating the best conditions for your

why I’m planting a specific “crop” and

indoor growing adventures.

growing edibles indoors

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What’s Your Plan?
For those just starting on the indoor growing

ƒ What’s your vacation schedule like? A “quick

path, it’s much easier to choose projects/plants

trip” or holiday plans have derailed many of

based on a few basic questions:

my indoor growing projects in the past. As
much as i appreciate the kindness of friends

ƒ What do you hope to gain? if you want a

who offer to water and prune, i’ve found it’s

crop of year-round herbs that keep your

better for me if i add vacation time into my

meals spicy and seasoned, think about

growing plan and take a break during those

which herbs you might use the most, and

times. this seems to be especially prudent

focus on those. if you’re looking to boost

when i’m growing a wide array of vegeta-

the nutritional profile of your dishes and

bles. no housesitter wants an elaborate

add flavor, consider microgreens, pea

30-item list of instructions about how to deal

shoots, or other nutritionally dense plants

with baby carrots, lettuces, microgreens,

that take up minimum room and deliver

and mushroom bags while i’m ordering

abundant health benefits.

another beer from the cabana server.

ƒ How ambitious do you want to be? certain

ƒ Are you looking for indoor-only growing,

plants like tomatoes, mushrooms, and

or transfers between the kitchen and

potatoes aren’t always easy to grow inside,

outdoor garden? Many gardeners extend

but it can be done. As long as you’re

their growing seasons by bringing some

taking on projects like that with a sense

plants inside when the weather begins to

of play and excitement, then full speed

cool. Herbs, in particular, are a favorite

ahead, fellow grower. but if you’ve never

for this transfer since many can thrive fine

grown so much as a cactus inside and sud-

indoors over the winter, and then go back

denly want to make the leap to indoor to-

out in the garden in the spring. if this is

matoes, you might want to add a few more

your goal, then that’s great, but you’ll need

baby steps into your plan. For instance,

to tweak your planting mix accordingly.

start with a reasonably sized container of

there are certain plants—like cilantro, for

herbs and once you’ve mastered the art

example—that simply don’t do very well in

of watering, pest control, and succession

making the transition. so, when choosing

planting, move on to swooning over those

what to grow in your indoor space, do

heirloom tomato seed descriptions.

some research on what does best going
from outdoors to indoors.

growing edibles indoors

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F I N D YO u R


lthough this book is called

kitchen window in the middle of sum-

Indoor Kitchen Gardening, there

mer allows them to thrive, but placing

are many instances where a

them in a basement or cool attic space

kitchen isn’t the ideal spot in the house

requires an exhausting amount of

for vegetable or herb growth. Also,

control measures to make sure they’re

the kitchen might be perfect during a

happy. In other words, it’s likely that

certain time of year, especially during

your home has the right spot for what-

cooler months when plants can use

ever you have in mind; you just have to

the ambient heat of that room, but less

find out where that space might be.

suited for growing in other seasons.
For example, I’ve found that my
trays of microgreens do very well in the
kitchen during the autumn, when temperatures begin edging toward frost, but
suffer in that room during the summer
because the south-facing windows heat
up the space too much. In those warmer
months, the micros thrive in the basement, where I can control the light and
air more easily, and avoid the humidity
that makes growing more challenging.
Tomatoes and peppers, however,
love the heat. Putting them by a large

A quiet cornet in a living room can be used as a
garden or nursery. Here, seedlings are coaxed along
under an LED light until they are strong enough
to be transplanted into bigger containers and scattered throughout the house.

growing edibles indoors

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You wouldn’t want to put a recliner or a desk in the small space between these doors, but a shallow shelf
filled with garden plants fits the space very nicely.

(ABOVE) A healthy tray of microgreens or shoots
can do a lot to improve the view of a window
that looks out on a dreary area, such as a garage.
(RIGHT) Basements typically offer a wealth of
utility space for raising your indoor crops. All that’s
needed is a decent grow light and perhaps some
supplemental heat.

growing edibles indoors

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You can’t do better than natural sunshine when it comes to providing a light source for starting and
growing your edible indoor garden plants. But do be aware that too much sunlight will damage some more
delicate plants.


a window that has an awning outside

For many indoor growers, some form of

that blocks the sun during the middle

artificial light will come into play (more

of the day, or placing plants on a shelf

on that later), but for maximum effi-

that gets indirect sunlight. Most likely, if

ciency and sustainability, utilize natural

you’ve noticed good results with existing

light as much as possible.

houseplants, you’ve found some good

As a general rule, south-facing win-

spots already, but keep in mind that

dows are preferred because they allow

vegetables, herbs, and fruits need extra

for abundant light, but depending on

care like airflow and pest management.

where you’re located in the country, this

Choosing a spot with natural light

could be a benefit or a drawback. Light

isn’t mandatory, but it does cut down

streams in, but heat does, too. Placing

on the amount of work you’d have to

some plants in direct sunlight during

put in for creating an all-artificial-light

the hottest part of a summer day, espe-

system. In my own grow space, I use

cially without proper airflow, can cook

sunlight as much as I can, by lining up

them instead of bolstering growth.

plants on a window-level shelf in my

When selecting a site for growing,

south-facing kitchen and dining room,

look for one that allows for natural

and then supplement with artificial

light, but can also be shaded in some

lights in the winter.

way. This might be as easy as picking

growing edibles indoors

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Unlike many houseplants,
indoor edibles need some
type of airflow in order
to grow properly. When
I first started growing, I
didn’t realize the importance of this factor, and
quickly saw the results
of my knowledge gap:
molding seeds, struggling
starts, no germination,
and bugs that seemed to
come out of nowhere.
Air circulation helps
to mimic outdoor conditions, helping plants to
grow in a robust way while
minimizing the risk of
bacterial issues and pest
problems. In my space,
I’m fortunate enough to
have a cross breeze from

A small desk fan can create enough ventilation for a few potted plants.

windows on two sides of
my kitchen, but I still utilize

it’s especially important to create better

small fans for days when there isn’t

airflow. Check out the air circulation

much wind.

section later in this chapter for more

In areas like basements or attics,
which can get stagnant pretty quickly,

in-depth strategies once you’ve chosen
your primary growing space.

growing edibles indoors

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While microgreens and shoots are planted
very densely, herbs and veggies that
are grown to full maturity require space
between containers to allow for airflow
and to give them access to direct and
indirect light.

Room to Grow

indoor plants benefit from at least

Here’s some bad news: you can’t grow

some breathing room. Herbs and many

twenty different kinds of herbs on a

types of vegetables can be cozy, but they

three-foot space in a kitchen. Believe

shouldn’t be crowded.

me, I wish someone had told me that a

When picking your growing spot
and making a plan, create a rough

few years ago.
Like plants out in a field or in an

sketch of where each pot or container

outdoor raised bed, indoor plants need

will go, to give yourself a visual repre-

space apart from each other to stretch

sentation of your indoor garden. When

out. With the exception of microgreens

it begins to feel like a game of Tetris,

and shoots, which are harvested during

consider scaling back on the number

the first stage of growth and don’t

of plants, in favor of giving the top con-

need ample room to expand, most

tenders a better shot at growth.


growing edibles indoors

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To contain mess and water runoff, many indoor farmers move their plants to the sink area for watering
and then return them.

If you plant your in-home garden

citrus trees, for example, can thrive in a

near a water source, such as the kitchen

bathroom as long as there’s enough air

sink, you’ll have the option of bringing

circulation and some natural light.

the plants to water. The main reason

When considering the bathroom

this is preferable is that it eliminates

as a growing area, though, there are

the risk of spilling water all around the

several notes of caution. One comes

plants set up throughout the home.

from my plumber, who’s also an avid
gardener: Don’t soak plants in the bath-


tub of old houses, unless you want to be

Thanks to the breadth of container

asked why you have vermiculite in your

types available, water and drainage isn’t

drains. Also, bathrooms tend to have

usually a major issue, but it should be

the lowest level of light in the house, so

considered with plants like microgreens,

some form of artificial light might be

which have very specific watering


needs. Locating those type of plants in

Finally, think about all the product

a kitchen usually makes the most sense,

types you use in the bathrooms: spray-

since it’s a few steps from a sink, where

on deodorant, hair spray, perfume

plants can be placed to drain or soak.

and cologne, talcum powder, and so

Another popular spot for just that

on. Everything that goes airborne will

reason is the bathroom, where the

affect the plants you keep in that room,

humidity levels can boost the health

and while that might be fine for house-

of some types of plants, usually those

plants, keep in mind that you’ll be con-

that grow in more humid zones. Dwarf

suming the edible plants at some point.
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do is shut the basement door or move

Much like air circulation, humidity

pots onto a counter instead of the floor.

control is crucial when dealing with

For other indoor growers with more

indoor growing. In some situations, like

wily pets like cats, the strategies may

seed sprouting, abundant humidity can

have to be more elaborate. I’ve seen a

be very beneficial, but in others, such as

number of anti-kitty systems cobbled

pea shoot growing, it can make once-ro-

together by other indoor growers, and

bust stems droop and fade.

they can be impressive. Wire screens,

Because of this, you may want to

large rocks, plastic mesh, repurposed

choose one spot in the house for seed

bookshelves: suddenly, a once-simple

starts—the bathroom, for example, or

indoor growth space looks like a kid’s

a sunny porch—and another for the

fort in the woods.

majority of growing. This two-location

When choosing a space in the

approach allows you to develop a green-

house, it’s helpful to find a room that

house space that can be better pro-

can be sectioned off easily, without

tected against pests, bacteria, and other

scrap lumber becoming involved. This

issues that might affect tender seed-

might be a kitchen where a swinging

lings. It’s not always necessary to pick a

door is shut during the day, or a guest

greenhouse area that’s hot and humid,

room that’s already off-limits to pets.

but being able to control humidity in

In terms of true pests, this is far

the area, either through plastic sheet-

trickier. The aroma of fresh seeds can

ing or individual domed lids for pots,

be compelling for critters like mice,

can be helpful for making sure that

and even houses that never had mouse

plants get the best start possible.

problems before might be breached
because of the new buffet you’re creat-

Pets & Pests

ing. In the homes where I’ve lived, I’ve

Sometimes, these can be the same

found that this is a problem mainly in

thing. Although indoor systems ben-

unfinished basement spaces, and often

efit from being protected by outdoor

during the colder months. Because of

critters like squirrels, rabbits, and

this issue, I don’t grow in that type of

chipmunks, one cat can become a

area between September and April as

mini-Godzilla to a burgeoning kitchen

a general rule. If that’s the only space

garden’s Tokyo.

available, I mouse-proof all areas of the

In our house, which is ruled unconditionally by two dogs, all we need to

gardening area with as much creativity
and kindness as I can muster. Fortu-

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If it’s green and growing, the chances are pretty good that cats and other pets will want a nibble or two.

nately, I haven’t seen a problem in any
upstairs spaces like a kitchen or dining
room, perhaps because the dogs are
overly enthusiastic about seeing small
creatures as new best friends.
There will be more, much more,
about handling pests and insects in
other parts of the book, but for now,
it’s best to try and choose a space that
seems protected already. That can go
a long way toward preventing anything
other than you from eating your garden produce.

A custom-made cage of poultry netting (otherwise
known as chicken wire) can be fashioned around
plants and containers to provide a layer of protection from curious pets. This may help, but on the
downside, most pets are persistent enough to defeat
this strategy and the cage definitely detracts from
the loveliness of your indoor garden. Controlling
access to the room or perhaps a few sessions at
obedience school are better long-term solutions.
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One of the greatest advantages to small-scale, in-home gardening is that many of the items you need to
get started can be found lying around in most homes, looking for something to do.

Shape is an important consideration when choosing containers. Oblong and rectangular ones are quite useful.


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ow that you’ve chosen a few
prime spots in your house,
it’s time to create an optimal

growing area that will be so amazing
it will triple your dinner party invitee
list, just so you can show it off in a
faux-casual manner. “Oh, this space in
the kitchen? Yes, I just thought I might
grow some salad mix and herbs for tonight’s dinner . . . you don’t do that too?”
While practicing your humbleyet-talented gardener expression, here’s
what you should pick up to create a
workable, efficient growing space that
will lead to potluck ingredients galore:
containers, soil, shelving, lights, fans/
air, and of course, seeds or transplants.
Let’s break it all down.
Even though you can repurpose about anything
you can imagine as a planting container, there is
something to be said for the utility of purchased
items made for planting compared to an old rubber
boot. Plastic plant trays with drainage panels are
not expensive.

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attempting to grow deep-rooted plants

The breadth of container options is

like asparagus or artichokes (both of

limitless; I’ve seen indoor vegetables

which have roots that extend at least 2

grown in children’s old sand buckets,

feet down), it’s helpful to think about

retired purses, worn-out boots, tackle

how much room you really need.

boxes, partially broken drawers, wicker

For microgreens, for example,

baskets, even a rolling luggage bag that

harvest is done so early in the plant’s

lost its top. Repurposing unused items

growth stage that roots barely need any

that are just taking up space in the base-

depth. In fact, some people grow them

ment is a fun idea, and it works well for

without soil at all, on algae-infused mats

certain kind of projects, but there are a

that provide nutrients and support

few items to keep in mind when digging

growth up to a few inches in height.

through the junk room:

As a fun kid’s project, you could grow
microgreens in a bottlecap, or a teacup

Root depth

saucer, anything that can be gently wa-

Every vegetable, fruit, or herb will have

tered and tended for about a week.

a certain root depth that it needs. Even
though it’s likely that you won’t be

Most of the other candidates for
indoor growing, though, do need some

It may not be the ideal container for microgreens, but it sure is cute. The wisp of micros growing in this
bottlecap demonstrate one thing quite clearly: you can grow microgreens in just about anything.


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room for the roots to expand properly. For most vegetables, most of the
root mass is within the top 6 inches of
soil, so choose a container that can be
aerated properly—no small-mouth jars,
for instance, or other items that prompt
soil compaction—and are reasonably
sized for the project. You could choose
a large, deep pot for small carrots, for
example, but you’d end up using far
more soil than you need.

Commercial growing trays normally have drainage
slots, which is important for growing indoors. But
of course you must set the planting tray into a liner
tray to keep the water from running everywhere.

So, choosing a container should
have a sense of economy about it:

vegetables, especially if they’re suffer-

Pick one that gives you room for root

ing from overwatering issues or leaf

growth, but doesn’t lead to soil waste.

problems, “bottom watering” in this way
is particularly helpful. Also, very dense


plantings, such as a heavily planted pea

Most likely, you already have plenty on

shoot tray, benefit from this strategy.

hand if looking for repurposed op-

The roots can reach the moisture that

tions, but if you’re shopping around at

they need without adverse effects on

garden stores, consider containers that

the upper plant.
There are some plants that

allow for drainage.
These containers have either a

don’t need this kind of care (usually

single hole in the bottom of the pot,

drought-resistant houseplants) but the

or several small slits that stretch along

majority of vegetables, shoots, herbs and

the expanse of a tray or pot. Although I

other edibles benefit greatly from the aer-

love the idea of repurposed containers,

ation that comes as a result of drainage.

and I have a stack of potential candi-

That’s not to say that you can’t take

dates in my basement, I usually opt for

that antique lunchbox from middle

rectangular trays with drainage slits.

school and turn it into a charming

Not only do these types of con-

indoor gardening option—however,

tainers let me accidentally overwater

if plants seem to be struggling in that

without too much risk of mold, they

container due to root rot, then it may

also allow me to water a plant by setting

be time to go with better drainage

the whole tray or pot into a sink filled


with a few inches of water. For certain
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then, I would be reluctant to utilize that

Many repurposed items are fine in

container unless it was my only option.

terms of their material—old rubber

Any kind of container that seems

boots keep the moisture in the soil,

suspect to me in terms of potentially

metal children’s wagons make a nice

toxic substances gets scratched off my

mobile container, etc.—and many can

list. It may seem like farm chic to plant

be modified for drainage by drilling a

in a rusty wheelbarrow, for instance,

few holes in the bottom.

and it would be fine for non-edible

One note of caution, though: keep

plants, but I’m hesitant to expose the

in mind that you’ll be eating whatever

plant to rust, old chemicals, and other

grows in these containers, so if you’re

dangers because those issues may affect

utilizing a cool, retro oil can, you’ll

plant growth, but most importantly,

have to be diligent in removing all

those chemicals would be on my dinner

traces of the oil before you plant. Even

plate, albeit in a small amount.

Plastic and terra cotta pots are two of the most readily available types. Each has its pluses and minuses
when it comes to growing edibles indoors.


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Container Types
some containers are more porous than others.

a huge issue for indoor growing, but if

terra cotta pots, for example, draw moisture

you’re storing them in a garage when

from the soil, so they require more frequent

they’re not in use, be sure to empty the

watering. Here are some other benefits and

soil from them first. A more serious issue is

challenges of common container types:

that clay pots retain heat very effectively,

ƒ Plastic: For most of my growing, i lean to-

which is great if you have plants that love

ward plastic even though it’s not the most

heat (like peppers or eggplant), but for

attractive or durable solution. these types

those that are less fond of long periods of

of trays and pots are my preference be-

heat, the plant roots can get burned. in

cause they’re lightweight, stackable when

general, though, these types of pots are

not in use, generally quite cheap (or free,

visually appealing, fairly inexpensive, and

if you know a bunch of gardeners who are
constantly trying to downsize), and easily

have good drainage.
ƒ Wood: For many indoor growing spaces,

modified with additional drainage holes.

wood is a nice choice because these

that said, they are still a petroleum-based

containers can look amazing, especially

product, so they’re not the most environ-

with weathered wood (achieved by

mentally friendly option available. i try to

exposing it to actual weather, so throw a

minimize my non-green impact by reusing

new containers outside for a few months).

them as much as possible, though.

but wood can also be problematic when

ƒ Polystyrene: Although i don’t use many

it comes to food safety—some containers

white polystyrene foam boxes myself, i’ve

are treated with very harsh chemicals to

seen numerous examples of successful

keep the wood from molding or rotting,

growing with these. the trick is to find

and those toxins can leach into your

food-grade containers, but if you live

edibles. older containers in particular

in an area with any kind of supermarket

may have been treated with chemicals

diversity, it just takes a few phone calls

that leach arsenic into the soil. A good

to gather a nice collection. Most grocers,

solution that i employ often is to put

and all fishmongers, use these boxes but

another pot inside the wooden planter,

they have very limited re-use, so you’d be

especially if the leaves will drape over the

keeping them out of landfills. the foam

side to hide the gap between planter and

provides excellent insulation, and it’s easy

pot. it’s possible to seal the container with

to drill drainage holes in the bottom.

a good food-grade choice as well, such as

the appearance is a drawback, but many

a mineral oil and beeswax combination,

people paint them so they look less like a

or a soy sealer (brands include soyseal or

styrofoam cooler.

soyguard). Just be sure to avoid any con-

ƒ Stone: Most of these containers will likely

ventional wood sealers, because they’re

be outside, since the largest drawback is

chock full of chemicals that don’t play well

weight. smaller stone pots, though, can

with edibles.

be a good option because they have a

basically, there’s no single, perfect container

nice amount of heat insulation and are

type that works fantastically well for indoor

definitely very durable.

vegetable and herb growing. instead, choose

ƒ Terra cotta/Clay: in addition to being

a container mix based on what’s safe for edible

more porous, these pots can be prone

plants, attractive in your kitchen or other grow-

to cracking when soil freezes. that’s not

ing space, and easily watered.

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bone meal

Many indoor growing media blends contain no soil or compost. A suitable media can be made from a blend
of peat, coir, vermiculate, bark, and bonemeal.


Very well-prepared soil that’s geared

Among the many variables that come

toward indoor growing isn’t a scam, and

with in-home growing, the importance

it’s not optional. Homes and apart-

of your soil mix can’t be overempha-

ments tend to be drier than the out-

sized. Seriously, your soil can make all

doors, and putting plants in a container

the difference between healthy, vibrant,

gives them less room and fewer nutri-

nutrient-dense vegetables and sickly,

ents than they’d have outside, even in

non-germinating, pale plants.

a raised bed. Because of that, you need

When I first started indoor growing, I thought: dirt is dirt, right? I can
just go in my backyard, get a shovel full

soil that’s well aerated, yet able to retain
enough moisture to foster growth.
If you use soil from the outdoors—

of the stuff, and I’m on my way. Forget

even lovingly mixed with compost—

the trip to the garden store and those

drainage and aeration are almost always

fancy bags of soil—vegetables grow in

impacted, leading to poor growth, if

dirt outside all the time, so obviously

you’re lucky enough to get any growth

those soil mixes are a scam. This was

at all. Often, garden soil is higher in

followed about a week later by an ex-

nitrogen as well, which is fabulous for

clamation of: hey, where did all these

an outdoor garden, but when packed

bugs come from? And about a month

into a small space, it acts like a welding

later by: hmm, I wonder why nothing

torch to your plant’s roots.

is growing?

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Also, bugs. I think I could grow
plants in a sealed room, ventilated with
the purest filtered air, and handled only
by volunteers in HAZMAT suits, and I
would still get bugs if I used garden soil.
That’s because the insects are already in
the dirt, so it doesn’t matter what kind
of pristine conditions you set up in your
house, you’re still giving them a free
taxi ride to an all-day seedling buffet.
With those caveats, though, it’s
true that some people can pull it off.
My partner, Karla, seems to be able to
grow anything anywhere, and I believe she could nurse along a mango
tree successfully through a Minnesota
winter. She has the touch. But, because
I don’t, I tend to be more deliberate in
how I set up my space for growing and
with that in mind (in case you tend to

Vermiculite is a mica rock that is ground and then
heated up until it explodes like popcorn. It has no
nutritional value for plants, but it prevents the
growing media from compacting.

be one of those people, too), here are
some tips for choosing good soil:
ture retention, and assist germinaƒ Some of the best options for indoor

tion. You’d look for horticultural

growing don’t contain soil at all,

vermiculite, as opposed to other

but are instead a combination of

types that are used for shipping

materials like peat, bone meal, coir

chemicals or enriching concrete.

fiber (ground up coconut hulls),

Many potting soils already have

bark, and vermiculite.

vermiculite added, however, and

ƒ That last item can be particularly

you can tell by the distinctive white,

useful—vermiculite is a silicate

chalky flecks distributed through-

that’s fluffy and pebble-shaped. It

out the mix. If you’re whipping up

helps to promote fast root growth,

your own mix, consider blending

anchor young roots, boost mois-

compost and vermiculite.

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Organic Growing
this seems like a good point to climb atop my

recently, i went against my own eco-friendly

soapbox about organics. i love the view from

policies because i was in a planting emergency

up here. simply put, we farm organically, and

(they really do happen!) and needed potting

we believe deeply in creating a sustainable ag-

mix quickly. i opted for a stop at a big box

riculture system, and that extends just as much

retailer and got a suspiciously cheap mix that

to the cilantro growing on my kitchen counter

was labeled organic. inside, i found a mix that

as it does to the heirloom tomatoes out in our

was quite heavy and contained bits of candy

fields. so, i do my research on planting mixes,

wrappers, small wires, glass beads, and other

and i buy from locally owned greenhouses. Most

weird garbage.

of the time, this means that i pay more for my

since i was in a jam, i used it anyway, and i

potting mix, but also that i feel better about

shouldn’t have bothered. the mix was so dense

what it contains.

that it turned my trays into mud blocks that

i’m always keenly aware that what i grow

wouldn’t drain, and nothing germinated. when i

will end up in my body, and a few extra dollars

dumped them out, the blocks had solidified into

upfront is worth it to me to know that i’m getting

nearly unbreakable bricks of soil. Perhaps if i was

as close to chemical-and-toxin-free as possible.

building a mud house on the frontier, this would

Just because something is labeled as
“organic,” though, doesn’t make it natural and

have been a valuable moment, but otherwise, it
was a waste of time, money, and effort.


Choose a potting mix that is


and if it seems like any of my plants

specifically for indoor vegetable and

are struggling or slow in germinating,

herb growing. These are put together

then I might turn to fertilizer like bone

in a way that fosters better drainage,

meal or fish meal, which are both great

and most of all, contains only a small

at maintaining proper soil chemistry

amount of fertilizers. This is important,

without burning the young seedlings.

because too much fertilizer can burn

Compost and fertilizer tends to work

a plant’s roots, especially in smaller

well together, because each supplies

containers. I tend to use a com-

nutrients, especially during the early

post-and-vermiculite blend for growing,

stages of plant growth.

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Bossy E’s Best Indoor Growing Medium

Step One: measure out about 7 to 8 cups
of indoor potting soil or compost mix, and
about 2 cups of vermiculite.

Step Two: blend the dry ingredients thoroughly with your hands.

Step Three: add water; depending on how dry
the soil is, you’ll probably need at least 2 to
3 cups of water, but add it gradually and mix
it in until you can squeeze a handful and
have a few drops (not a stream) dribble out.

Step Four: test the consistency of the
growing medium. It should clump together
without too much pressure, but fall apart
once you let go of it.

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You don’t have to make your living room or kitchen
feel like a commercial greenhouse to grow edibles
indoors. Tasteful wall shelving that’s integrated
into your room décor does the job, too.

Coated wire shelving is inexpensive, durable and
adjustable. It also allows good airflow.

Of all the parts of a growing strat-

system from scratch, though, here are

egy, shelving usually has the most

some recommendations as a guide:

do-it-yourself appearance. I’ve seen
“shelves” cobbled together from old

ƒ Consider metal, industrial-style shelv-

screen doors, repurposed planks of

ing. This type of unit is usually

wood on top of cinder blocks (making

sturdy, able to be configured easily,

me recall my early days of college liv-

and best of all, has a nice degree

ing), and bookshelves that have plants

of openness in the back and sides.

on top and slightly water-warped novels

Also, steel shelves have an open

on the bottom.

slat design for each shelf, which

Basically, it doesn’t matter too

helps to increase airflow. Especially

much what you use, as long as it will

handy, these open slats let you

support the weight of your plants

hang lights fairly quickly without

and you don’t mind getting it wet if

the kind of drilling or clever DIY

you need to mist the plants or to put

effort you’d need for standard

just-watered pots or trays on the shelves.

wooden bookshelves.

I’ve repurposed a wide range of

ƒ Don’t put plants on shelves that you

shelving options, from countertop spice

love. This sounds like odd advice,

racks to old nightstands, and it’s fun

but believe me, any surface will

to root around in the basement and

get dirty and wet very quickly.

see unused furniture with new, savvy

Even when you think you can be

gardener vision. If putting together a

extremely careful in keeping the


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bottom of the pots and trays dry,
you can still get water stains on
wood shelves.
ƒ Think about your lighting options
when buying shelves. We’ll dive into
lights in the next section, but for
now, all you have to remember is
that a standard-sized shop light is 4
feet long. If you buy an industrialtype shelving unit that’s 48 inches
across, and has the open slat design

Take the edible landscape idea indoors by combining
your edibles with houseplants and even cut flowers
in your existing shelving and display furnishings.

for hanging those shop lights, you’ll
feel like a pro. At least, that’s how I
felt after years of weird systems that

In general, find a shelving sys-

I patched together, many of them

tem that allows for a nice amount of

featuring shop lights hanging way

light (natural or artificial), gives the

past a shelf’s edge.

plants room to spread out a little, and

ƒ Go for adjustable shelving. Being

offers enough space for proper air-

able to change the height of your

flow around the plant. As mentioned

shelves is very useful, because

previously, lack of airflow is one of

plants need different levels of light.

the biggest causes of nasty issues like

It’s possible (and recommended)

mold and disease, so keep it in mind as

to use the chains that come with

you’re creating your shelving setup.

shop lights to adjust height of

Also, if you’re just starting out,

lights, but it’s also a nice option

be aware that you may have to move

if you can reconfigure shelves as

your shelves if your chosen space turns

well. This comes in handy, too,

out to be less than ideal. A spot that

when using one of the shelves as a

seems like it would be perfect may end

storage area for tools, extra pots,

up being too close to the window, or

a watering can, and other growing

not situated near an electrical outlet

supplies. Quick note on storage: if

for your shop lights, or too cold and

you’ll be keeping your seeds on this

damp. Being flexible about placement

shelf, make sure to store them in

(here’s where the wheeled shelf comes

a sealable plastic bin, to lessen the

in handy) is all part of the adventure

temptation to pests.

when it comes to indoor growing.

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buy several at a time if you’re going to
create a shelving unit filled with plants.
Otherwise, you can probably get one,
with bulb, for under $30 and usually for
much less. Thanks to buying bulbs in a
bulk contractor pack (also at the hardware store) and a sale on the fixtures,
I paid about $10 for each of my lights.
That’s quite a difference from the LED
A plug-in shop light with a full-spectrum fluorescent bulb makes a perfect light source for indoor
gardening. Look for one that has hanging chains
for easy lowering and raising.

grow light systems, where a single bulb
can be $60.
You may already have proper
lighting if you’re planning on growing


vegetables, herbs, and fruits in your

When I teach classes about growing

kitchen. Most under-the-counter fluo-

vegetables, microgreens, and herbs

rescent lighting works well for fostering

indoors, the question of lighting always

growth, and all you’d need is some type

comes up first, no matter how early

of small block or shelf that brings the

I put it into my talk. At this point, I

plants closer to that light. I have this

should probably just issue a note of

type of lighting in my kitchen, and I

assurance before the introduction: “I

like to grow herbs in smaller pots so

promise, you don’t need special, expen-

that I can use a little shelf that used to

sive grow lights that are hard to find

hold dried spices.

and burn out easily. Really. I promise.”
In fact, all you need are full-spec-

Beyond that basic setup, there are
other lighting options if you have spe-

trum fluorescent bulbs, similar to what

cific growing needs—sometimes, plants

you see in office buildings. They can be

need a boost in some way, and that’s

put into standard metal light fixtures

when you can try playing around with

that have one bulb in them, and feature

lighting options.

small chains on either end for easy
placement into a shelving setup.
These are found in any hardware

For example, if a plant seems to
be spindly or too leggy, you can give it
a burst of red or orange light, which

store and are called various names like

stimulates growth and flowering. If the

utility lighting or shop lighting. Oc-

plants are too short or stocky, you can

casionally, they go on sale, and this is

use blue or green light to regulate plant

when you should pounce on them and

growth or foliage.


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Here’s a quick guide to your options:



ƒ Used most for low-light,

ƒ Two to three times more light

heat-loving houseplants like

than incandescent bulbs for

ferns or vines

the same amount of energy
ƒ Least expensive option

Only about 10 percent of their

ƒ Tends to be the most available,

energy used for light, with the rest

especially if you’re consider-

used for heat, so they tend to be

ing using existing under-the-

inappropriate for indoor edibles

counter kitchen lighting or

since they “cook” the plant.

shop lights
ƒ Life span of 16,000 to 20,000
ƒ When buying these, most standard is a T12 bulb

A hanging trouble light with an incandescent
bulb emits more heat than light, which isn’t
necessarily a bad thing for growing plants.

Full-Spectrum Fluorescents
ƒ Best replicates the natural solar
ƒ Life span of 24,000 hours
ƒ Good choice for year-round
ƒ When buying these, look for T8

Fluorescent tubes are efficient and available
in full-spectrum light models that are
intended to replicate natural light as closely
as possible. The standard T12 style bulb, like
the one above, is by far the most common,
but this style is gradually being phased out
in favor of more efficient, narrower tubes
that operate with an electronic ballast. The
T12 works with a magnetic ballast.

or T5 bulbs

Full-spectrum fluorescent lighting most
often is found with thinner T8 style bulbs
like the one above.
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High Intensity Discharge

Light-Emitting Diode (LED)
ƒ More expensive than

ƒ More expensive than fluorescents, but twice as efficient
ƒ Can get bulbs that are only red/

ƒ Some bulbs don’t require
special fixtures, since they’re

orange (called MH bulbs) or only

already placed inside panels

blue/green (called HPS bulbs)

that can be plugged in.

so you can tweak your growing

ƒ Tend to be more appropriate
for commercial use

ƒ Color of the lights distorts the
appearance of plants and grow

The newest grow light technology

space; a minor consideration,

is plasma, which purports to be as close

but some gardeners are put

to real sunlight as possible. However,

off by the tendency of HID

I haven’t seen one of these systems

lights to make everyone look

for under $1,500, so for now, if I want


my plants to have more sunlight, I’ll
just shove them closer to the window.

HID bulbs fit into standard sockets, such as this hanging trouble light. Because the bulbs are filled with an
inert gas they operate very efficiently.


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In general, I prefer the full-spectrum
fluorescents because they’re affordable

Turn It Off

and available, but if you want to try

nerdy gardening facts: plants measure

an HID or an LED system, then by all

the duration of light and dark through a

means, go for it.

pigment called phytochrome, and their

One important note when it comes

response to the relative length of a day is
called photoperiodism. this response is

to lighting: just like people, plants need

vitally important for growth, seed germi-

a night as well as a day. Some growers

nation, and vegetable or fruit formation.

have tried to boost growth by keeping
the lights on at all times, but I’ve found

so, no matter what type of light source
you’re using, be sure to switch it off at
night so the plants get their rest.

this creates unnecessary stress on the
plants because they don’t have time to
“sleep.” You wouldn’t water them with

keep the lights on longer in the eve-

Red Bull, so why would you keep them

ning, but I’ll be sure to turn them off

sleep deprived? A better strategy, I’ve

before I go to bed.

found, is to turn the lights on in the
morning and turn them off about the
same time as sunset; in the winter, I’ll

LED lights are extremely energy efficient and come in an ever-expanding range of sizes and configurations.
While any light will do to some extent, you’ll get best results from an LED grow light that is designed to
emit the complete spectrum of light wavelengths that plants require.
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extremely hot or bitingly cold, simply
opening the window for a few hours per
day can yield enormous benefits.
When plants are in a more enclosed area without a window, it can be
trickier to adjust airflow, but certainly
not impossible. For vegetables grown
in our basement, for example, I set up
two box fans and arranged them so
the airstreams would cross, set on low.
This made the seedlings waver in the
“wind,” but not get mowed down by the
For vegetables grown in our basement I set up
two box fans and arranged them so the airstreams
would cross, set on low.

strength of the breeze. The circulation
is crucial, because plants don’t do well
if air is directed in a solid stream in one
direction. That would be like taking a


hairdryer, putting it on the coolest set-

When crops are outside, they get a
little blown around by the wind, and

ting, and aiming it at your seedlings.
In another room, where there was

this is crucial for more than taking

a window on either side but I didn’t

pretty farm pictures of swaying corn

put the plants close enough to benefit

and sunflowers. That airflow assists with

from opening them, I put a fan in each

temperature control, humidity, disease

window—one angled toward outside,

resistance, and oxygen intake. Plants

and one angled into the room. This sets

grow stronger from being “stressed” by

up a simple intake and exhaust system,

the wind, and they end up more robust

where fresh air came in regularly and

as a result.

stale air vented out the other side.

Growing plants indoors, you need

In order to break up the airflow and

to find a way to replicate natural condi-

create cross-ventilation, I set up a small

tions—similar to setting up an artificial

oscillating desk fan above the plants, at

day for your vegetables and herbs, you

the same level as the intake fan.

also need to create an artificial wind.
Fortunately, you can do it on the cheap.
If your plants are near a window
and the temperature outside isn’t


If you already have plants in place
and are starting to notice any fungal
issues or disease problems (like mold),
and you’ve worked to make sure you’re

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A small desk fan, like this retro-style, oscillating model, is sufficient to provide a light breeze to help keep
a small grouping of edibles healthy. Generally, the more your growing conditions mimic the outdoors, the
better your plants will do.

not overwatering, chances are good

which can happen in an area like a

that airflow will be able to help. Buy a

basement—it’s fine to leave them on at

few cheap oscillating fans or box fans

all times.

and set them up so that you can get

In general, the idea is to mimic the

some ventilation in your growing area

low levels of wind that a plant would get

during the day, about the same length

while outside. This can help reduce in-

of time as you have the lights on. If

cidence of disease, and make vegetables

the air seems very stagnant, though—

and herbs heartier.

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A sampling of seeds for indoor kitchen gardening includes seeds for growing microgreens as well as
sprouting and growing shoots and vegetables.


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when the only sound seems to be wind

Every winter, it seems that the seed

and snowplows, the seed catalogs provide

catalogs arrive at roughly the same time,

a delicious glimpse of abundance.

leading to a pile of reading material that

They’re also hugely helpful for

always makes me geek out with happi-

indoor growing as well, because beyond

ness. I pore over each description, look

the luscious descriptions, these cata-

longingly at the heirloom varieties, and

logs—both in print and online—provide

make my (often overly ambitious) plans

a wealth of information that can be used

for the summer. During a part of the year

to plan a better indoor garden strategy.

Important Information on Buying Seeds
this is what you need to know when choosing

mandatory to check those levels in order

seed varieties:

to have a good growing strategy. However,

ƒ Light requirements: similar to houseplants,

do pay attention to what type of soil works

it’s useful to know the level of light an ed-

best—loose, well-drained soils are usually

ible might require. For example, beets do

recommended for container gardening—

well with full sun every day, but chard can

and whether you need to use any type of

thrive with some occasional light shade.

fertilizer. since nutrient requirements vary

ƒ Seeding depth: this is usually more
important when you’re seeding outdoors,
but is still worth knowing if you’re planting
inside so that you don’t push the seed too

widely according to plants, we’ll delve
into fertilizer needs later in the book when
discussing specific crop varieties.
ƒ Plant management: some seed companies

far into the pot and lessen your chances

do a fantastic job of providing tips on

of germination.

pests, diseases, harvesting, and even stor-

ƒ Plant spacing: Again, this information is

age. reading through these descriptions

better suited to row gardening or farm-

can feel like a college agriculture course

ing, but if you’re putting multiple edibles

sometimes, and i’ve walked away from

in one pot (such as lettuces or herbs), it’s

a seed catalog reading session knowing

good to know so that you don’t crowd

about things like pirate bugs (not as ador-

out the plants before they’ve had a

able as they sound).
ƒ Container gardening suitable: because

chance to establish.
ƒ Days to maturity: this is one of the most

of the rising interest in indoor growing

crucial pieces of info for me, because it

and container gardening outside, seed

can help me gauge when i can expect to

companies have started putting some

harvest. even with plants that regenerate,

great information on their websites. High

like herbs, i like to have a sense of the

Mowing organic seeds, for instance, has a

timeframe from seeding to harvest.

nice online section about the topic, includ-

ƒ Soil and fertilization needs: Many seed

ing suggested varieties, tips on growing,

companies will provide acidity level

and a “seed collection” of 10 packets that

information, which is great if you love to

tend to do well in containers.

dig into the science of growing, but it’s not

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A quick note on organics here: because

need. There have been many times that

we own a farm that’s been certified

helpful family members have given me

organic, we must buy organic seed,

seeds from who-knows-where and they

since that’s part of the certification

hand them over in little plastic bags.

process. Beyond that, I’m a fan of

“These are hot peppers,” one of them

organic growing, so even if we didn’t

will say. “They’re really good. I think.

have to use those type of seeds for Bossy

They might be sweet peppers, though.”

Acres, I’d still buy them. I believe that

That’s the extent of the information I

organic practices lead to more sus-

receive—they don’t know the variety,

tainability, healthier soils, and a better

growing timeframe, potential root

agricultural system in general. Because

depth, or anything else that helps me

of that, I think organic seeds are worth

make a decision in how I grow the

the extra cost that’s usually involved in

plant. So, I usually just end up putting

purchasing the seeds. You might opt for

them in my backyard’s raised beds, in a

inexpensive, non-organic seeds instead,

grab-bag experimental area that doesn’t

and that’s cool, no judgment.

get much devotion or tending. Some-

I’d just advise you to make sure
your seeds are coming from an estab-

times it works out, most times it doesn’t.
Another consideration in choosing

lished source, where you can get the

seeds is whether to opt for heirloom va-

type of growing information that you

rieties, even though some growers have

Just about any of the seeds you’ll use indoors are available as organic or conventional (non-organic). Both
work, and while conventional are cheaper and easier to find, choosing organic seeds is a great way to
support organic growing practices by voting with your wallet.


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found that heirlooms may be less consistent in terms of yield. Still, they’re fun
for me, because it feels like I’m continuing a tradition and keeping plant variety
going. Heirlooms are plants that aren’t
grown in commercial-scale agriculture,
and hail from previous generations. For
example, there are only a few potato varieties grown on large-scale farms, which
makes it enjoyable for me to choose
lesser-grown varieties that might “die
out” if it weren’t for dedicated growers
who keep them going.
Keep in mind that not all heirloom
seeds are organic, but if you want both
heirloom and organic, there are many
options. Take a look in the Resources

A small plastic file box makes a great storage container for seed packets. Keep the box in a cool, dry
area away from direct sunlight.

section of the book for a short list of seed
providers that I’ve found dependable.

Another handy tip: jot down notes

Basically, seeds are everywhere if you

right on the seed packet, including

start looking for them; once, I saw a seed

when the seeds were purchased. I use

rack in the gas station of a small town.

the packets for observations as well,

No matter where you obtain your

noting what might be fast growing or

seeds, be sure to store them properly, in

whether a variety proved to be partic-

a plastic bin with a secure top. This will

ularly good for one of my vegetable

prevent numerous pest issues, and help

fermentation projects. It’s very easy for

to prolong the life of your seeds. For best

me to lose track of notebooks, even

results, use the seeds within a year or so,

when I try to store them with my grow-

and sooner if possible. The older seeds

ing supplies. But because I keep my

get, the less likely they are to germinate.

empty seed packets in the same bin as

Sometimes, when I’ve had seeds around

my other seeds, I know where they are,

for a while, I create an “anything goes”

and that one small packet will be rife

microgreens mix, since I’ll harvest at

with information, from both the seed

the first stage of growth anyway. If I want

company and my own experience.

actual vegetables, though, I go with fresh
seeds whenever possible.
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to an outdoor space, you need to make

Although there’s a certain thrill with

that shift gradual so that the plant has

growing from seed—seeing the ger-

time to adjust, and the same consider-

mination and that first little pop of

ation is helpful for bringing the plant

a plant start never gets old for me—

in the other direction. Re-pot outside,

transplants might be more useful for

if possible, or in a cooler space like a

some indoor growing. Particularly if

garage. Water well, and then plan on

you’ve had difficulty starting from seed

leaving the plant in a transitional area

before, or you just want a jumpstart on

for a few days—garage, porch, enclosed

your growing plan, transplants from a

deck, anyplace where the temperature

reliable source are a nice way to build

is slightly warmer than outside. If avail-

your garden quickly.

able, make one more transfer before

In some cases, especially for herbs,
it makes sense to transfer the plants

bringing the plant inside.
For example, if I were to re-pot

from an outdoor garden into your

an herb from outside, I’d put it in the

indoor growing mix. If you have some

garage first with the windows open for

robust rosemary outside, for example,

better airflow, then after a few days I’d

there’s no need to start rosemary inside

transfer the plant to my enclosed porch,

from seed since you can just take a

near one of the open windows in there.

cutting off that plant or dig it up com-

Finally, I’d bring the plant inside after

pletely and plunk it into an indoor pot.

a week to 10 days, making sure to water

When bringing a plant from

thoroughly in order to aid the transi-

outside to inside, make sure to knock

tion. Like many people, plants don’t re-

as much garden soil off the roots as

spond well to sudden changes, so taking

possible, without damaging the plant.

a gentle approach is always helpful.

Even if the plant has thrived in this soil

If using transplants from a garden

for months, there’s risk of transferring

store or farmers’ market, then it’s fine

insects or disease that can affect other

to bring them directly inside. The

parts of your indoor garden. Also, out-

plants have already had a chance to be

door soil doesn’t drain well when used

in an environment that’s cozier than

in pots or planters, so use a potting

outside in the ground, and they’re pre-

mix instead.

pared for indoor growing.

Another consideration is the transi-

Whether your transplants come

tion temperature. Whenever you move

from a store or your own outdoor

a plant from an indoor environment

space, also be sure to pot them up in a


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Transplanting a new seedling from a nursery can be done simply by setting it into your container and
filling around the roots with growing medium. If you are transplanting a small plant or seedling that
you’ve grown outdoors, remove as much soil as you can from the root system to minimize the chance of
introducing disease.

container that’s free of disease. Using a

because it never thrives, for example,

new pot or tray works for this, but you

or seems to always have disease prob-

can utilize what you have on hand as

lems, it’s best to recycle that container

long as you make sure that the contain-

as well—even if the plant is gone, the

er’s previous tenant didn’t have any

disease can linger, so it’s better (and

issues. If you’re throwing out a plant

more economical) to be safe.

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Miscellaneous Growing

ƒ Automatic light timers. If you don’t
want to worry about turning lights

Even when you’re working to keep costs

on and off during a specific time-

in line, it seems there’s always just one

frame, these timers are very useful,

more thing to buy at the garden center.

and they’re often fairly inexpensive.

Maybe you want to try some coconut

I use them when I’m going away for

coir to mix into your soil to improve

a weekend, or if I’ll be busy for a

drainage, or you’re loving those glass

stretch of time and want to reduce

watering bulbs that can be stuck into a

my indoor garden maintenance.

pot and left for days. When I’m trying

ƒ Heat mats. Also called germination

to stick to a budget, I try to avoid going

mats, these are designed to be

to the garden center for anything

placed underneath plants so that

because I feel like one of the kids who

roots stay warm in cooler areas

saw Willy Wonka’s candy garden for the

like basements or drafty corners.

first time.

They’re usually rectangular, and

In order to properly outfit your little

don’t have temperature settings;

growing space, though, you do need a

you just roll them out, plug them

few supplies, and these come in handy:

in, put your pots or trays on top
and you’re good to go. The low
temperature won’t burn your plants
(unlike, say, a heating pad would)
and they do help during the winter
months, I’ve found. Also, if your
plants seem slow to germinate,
using one of these can provide a

Timers are plugged in to your receptacles and
programmed to turn lights on and off (you plug the
light into an outlet on the timer body).


Heat mats are placed beneath planting trays to
warm the plant roots and to speed up germination
in cooler weather.

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boost. One caveat: they’re usually

rubber bands, etc. Also, these bins

not cheap, so if you see one on sale,

will be handy for organizing seeds;

snap it up.

I tend to use several containers

ƒ Plastic mister bottle. These are ex-

so I can sort seeds according to

tremely useful, and only cost a few

usage (pea shoot seeds in one bin,

dollars. They can be utilized for an

microgreens seed in another, and

array of growing-related tasks, like

so on). I really wish that the rest of

spritzing fish emulsion on toma-

my house was as organized as my

toes, or spraying a soapy solution

indoor gardening space.

on aphid-ravaged plants. During
certain times of year, my growing
space feels a little drier than other
times, so I often mist water over all
the plants at least once per day.
ƒ Small plastic bins/totes. Usually, I can
get these for just a few bucks from
places like Target, Family Dollar,
or IKEA. Whenever there’s a sale, I
must look like a professional organizer, because I load up on them,
especially ones that are about the
size of a shoebox. Put everything
in these that you need: scissors,
twine, Sharpies, pens, light timers,
Mister bottles come in many forms, from very
cheap to professional grade. It’s worth investing in
a better quality model.

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n the rest of this book, I’ll dive
into details on how to grow specific
types of indoor vegetables, herbs,

Vegetables, herbs, fruits, and even
houseplants are all more susceptible

and fruits, but there are common issues

to mold issues than outdoor plants for

that affect most indoor edibles, and it’s

a number of reasons. They tend to get

helpful to know these general concerns

more water, which can introduce mold

before planting that first seed.

spores, and they’re sometimes growing
in wooden containers, which introduce that water into small cracks in the
wood. Humidity, airflow, and poor soil
also contribute to mold.
It’s quite easy to tell that you have
a mold problem, because if you’ve
ever seen a loaf of bread go bad then
you know what can happen—a gray or
yellowish fuzz begins forming in just
one spot and soon it’s expanding everywhere. Getting mold on the plant
itself is less common, fortunately,
Living indoors does limit the type and number of
afflictions that can affect plants, but they are by
no means immune from problems such as mold and
disease. In most cases, the remedy is more or less
water and/or light.


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but it does happen if mold on the
soil isn’t treated in a timely way. Most
often, you’ll see that telltale fuzz at
the base of the plant, or along the
container edge.
Prevent mold by watering when
the plant needs it, not as a daily (or
twice daily) habit. There are many
conditions, such as cooler temperatures, when plants don’t need as much
moisture, so putting plants on an

One homeopathic remedy for abating mold on your
indoor plants is to crush a clove of garlic into a cup
of water. Let the garlic steep for 15 minutes or so,
then transfer the garlic-infused water to a mister
and spray the affected plant lightly.

automatic watering schedule can result
in dampness, leading to mold. Another

rosemary, cinnamon, and tea tree. Just

problem is inadequate drainage. When

put a few drops into a cup of water, add

this is lacking, plants are sitting in soggy

to mister, and spray the affected areas—

soil, which can lead not just to mold but

for stubborn mold, you can spray once

also insect issues and disease.

a week.

Putting the plant in more direct

No matter what the method used,

sunlight can be helpful, as well as in-

just be sure to isolate the plant so that

creasing the airflow or putting the plant

the mold doesn’t spread to other vege-

near an open window so it can get more

tables, herbs, and fruits.
If mold keeps cropping up—and

fresh air.
There are also chemical fungicides,

for some people, it’s a scourge that

but I like to consider those as a very

seems to plague their indoor growing

last resort since I’m spraying them

efforts on a continual basis—consider

into my indoor air, even if it’s a couple

switching out your setup completely,

spritzes. Instead, I’ve had some success

especially your soil and containers. It

with crushing up a clove of garlic and

can be pricey to do a total rehaul of

letting it sit in a cup of water for about

your efforts, but a fresh start can help

15 minutes; then, I put the concoction

to tackle ongoing mold issues.

in a mister, shake thoroughly, and spray
on the plants. That method, combined

Pest Control

with moving the plant to a sunny spot,

As a farmer, and especially as an organic

often does the trick.

farmer, I’m used to seeing an array of

Also, some essential oils can be
used as natural mold fighters, including

bugs, from flea beetles that feast on my
cabbages to Colorado potato beetles
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that can strip a plant down to sticks in

include aphids, whiteflies, mites, and

less than a day. Even with the knowledge

mealybugs, all terrifically annoying.

that we’ll be losing part of our crops to

No matter what options you choose,

insect damage, however, I still feel an el-

it’s smart to gravitate toward non-toxic

evated sense of injustice about them, as

options. Although I’m obviously a fan of

if they’re the mean girls in my otherwise

organic methods, this goes beyond my

peaceful high school lunchroom.

beliefs—conventional pesticide sprays

That same smoldering frustration

that are designed to be used outside

comes up in my indoor growing efforts,

(and usually with respiratory protec-

but at least my at-home gardening is on

tion) can wreak havoc when used inside

a much smaller scale, and so I can actu-

where air ventilation is severely reduced.

ally do something about the situation.
The usual suspects for indoor pests

Also, much like choosing a nontoxic container for planting, keep in

Preventing Disease
Here are a few pest control measures to try on

that you bought to kill the mice), but keep

any kind of vegetable, herb, or fruit plant:

in mind that this method tends to work

ƒ increase the air circulation by placing a fan

best with large-scale pest populations. if

nearby or opening multiple windows that

you have a sizeable greenhouse area, for

allow strong cross breezes.

example, then it might make sense, but

ƒ Move adjacent plants, especially house-

if you’ve only got a few aphid-infected

plants, away from your vegetables and

indoor tomato plants next to your kitchen

herbs—the pests may be targeting one

window, buying a standard order of lady-

type of plant but end up affecting your

bugs (at least 4,000) seems like overkill, to

whole indoor garden.

put it mildly.

ƒ dip a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol
and gently brush the plant’s leaves, if the
insects are mainly on the top of the plant
and aren’t too numerous.
ƒ Create a mix of mild liquid soap (like dr.
bronner’s) and water and spray the plants.
ƒ if the outdoor weather is amiable, put
the plants outside; if you’re dealing with
aphids, you may have a hungry ladybug
population outside just waiting for this
kind of takeout.
ƒ it’s possible to buy beneficial insects like
ladybugs or lacewings and release them
inside your house without causing a
rippling effect (in other words, you’re not
getting a mongoose to handle the snake


To discourage insects from munching on
plant leaves, mix a small amount of mild
liquid soap with warm water and lightly
spray the plant with a mister. This won’t
harm the plant but makes the leaves quite
distasteful (be sure to wash them before
eating them yourselves).

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corners, and birds swooping in and out


through open windows to steal seeds.
Controlling these pests is very diffi-

never use pesticides intended for outdoor usage indoors.

cult, but not impossible. Some anecdotal
evidence suggests that sprinkling peppermint oil around pots and trays is effective, as well as a box-type device called

mind that whatever comes in contact

“the tin cat,” in which mice can enter but

with the plant may eventually affect the

not exit. The ultrasonic devices, however,

person or animal who eats it. Person-

have been universally panned by nearly

ally, I don’t like the idea of nibbling

everyone I’ve asked (and believe me, I’ve

on chemical-laden pesticides, even in

had way too many mice discussions in

trace amounts. So, I choose not to go

the past few years), and most people just

that route. But if you’re finding that

suggest I get a real cat.

nothing works whatsoever and you want
to try to save the plant from infestation,

Disease Issues

then at least bring the plant outside if

As disheartening as mold or mice are

you spray it with conventional pesticide

shriveled or mottled leaves, blackened

formulas, so that the toxins don’t get

vegetables, or other indications of

trapped inside the house.

disease can also be dismaying. Unfortu-

On a preventative note, carefully

nately, disease can occur even in the best

inspect any transplants that you’re plan-

setup, and greenhouse managers are of-

ning to bring inside for indoor growing.

ten on a constant state of high alert to try

If leaves are shiny, or tiny eggs appear

to prevent issues. At our farm, we make

in clusters anywhere on the plant, clean

sure to wear greenhouse-only boots, and

it off carefully and leave it outside for

to rinse off any tools or carts that have

a few days if possible to make sure the

been in the fields, to prevent diseases

pests don’t hatch into a full infestation.

from hopping inside from outside.

In terms of other pests, mice can

In a house or apartment, measures

be an issue, too. They tend to appear

like that aren’t feasible. You may be

in older houses, I’ve found, as well as

transferring disease because you didn’t

greenhouse spaces that are attached

shake off enough of the outdoor soil

to kitchens, because those rooms may

when repotting herbs from the garden,

have air ducts close to the ground.

or your plants might be more suscep-

Nearly every greenhouse I’ve ever

tible to issues because your care isn’t

visited has mousetraps tucked into the

quite what’s needed.
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Bacterial: When a detrimental bacteria affects your plant, the decline
can happen fairly rapidly as the plant
tries responding to the invader. The
most common symptom of a bacterial
problem is leaf spot, which can create
round areas of dead cells on foliage,
indicating infection. You might also see
odd-looking bumps on stems, or abnorPowdery mildew is one of the more common fungal
infections plants experience in agriculture, but it
can hit your indoor garden too. Overly humid conditions are a prime contributor to its growth. One
organic treatment that growers suggest is spraying
the plant leaves with a solution of 1 part milk to
10 parts water at the first signs of mildew.

mal growth on leaves and roots.
Viral: If a plant is suffering from a viral
issue, it’s most likely that you have an
insect problem, since that’s the most
common way that plants get infected.
Bugs feast on a diseased plant and then

Common Disease Problems
When it comes to indoor growing,
there are several types of diseases that
can come into play, and here are general disease categories worth noting:
Fungal: Simply put, these involve a type
of fungus that’s trying to take over your
plant’s leaves and stems. Most often,
this results in black spots, grayish mold
or fuzz, rot at the base of the stems, or
whitish powder coating leaves and stems.
Sometimes, the plant seems fine and
then suddenly wilts and dies within a
short timeframe, which is an indication
of root rot. Another fungal problem is
“rust,” which manifests as small, rust-colored bumps on the underside of leaves
that eventually turn yellow.

jump over to a healthy one and spread
the disease when they begin their new
meal. But viruses can also be spread by
people, or even come from infected
seeds. Plants with viral problems often
appear stunted in some way, or misshapen. Leaves might roll up, or appear
yellowish or white.
Abiotic: This is the term used when
environmental factors cause problems
rather than organisms like bacteria, fungus, or insects. Abiotic issues range from
salt burn—caused by too much fertilizer
in the soil—to sunburn from excessive
light. I’ve sometimes seen frost damage
occurring when a plant is put too close
to a window during cold weather; the
leaves might touch the chilled glass and
then turn black as a result.


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ƒ Ventilate: I know it seems like I
keep harping on airflow, but at the
risk of constantly repeating myself,
think about airflow. Ventilation is
your friend.
ƒ Space properly: When you crowd
plants too close together (except
for microgreens and shoots), problems can occur, so be sure to adhere
Fungal infections that select plants quite specifically are fairly rare in indoor gardens. The
Cercospora beticola infection visible on these beet
leaves is commonly known as “sugarbeet leaf spot”
and can be combated only with harsh chemical
pesticides that should not be used indoors. In most
cases, the best action if you discover disease in your
indoor garden is to discard the entire plant (and
the soil it is in) before other plants are affected.

to the spacing requirements for
each plant based on seed company
information or advice on specific
crops found later in the book.
ƒ Isolate: When dealing with a disease in a plant, move it away from
your others, even if they’re differ-

Prevention and Treatment

ent types of plants. This helps to

Reading about plant diseases can begin to

keep the disease contained to one

feel disheartening, like browsing WebMD

area, and makes it easier to treat

when you have a cold and walking away

just one plant instead of several.

convinced you have scurvy. But don’t

ƒ Throw out: Sometimes, you put a

worry—there are ways to prevent issues,

great deal of effort into a project

and deal with them if they come up:

and it’s just not working. If disease
is the culprit, it’s better to discard

ƒ Don’t overwater: In the same way

the plant and start fresh, because

that mold can form from overwa-

you don’t want your other plants

tering, diseases can find a hospi-

to be affected. It’s also advisable

table environment in an overwa-

to use the pot or tray for other

tered plant.

purposes (pencil holder, perhaps,

ƒ Don’t overfertilize: Although you

or an in-box for mail) because even

may think that more nutrients are

if you thoroughly wash it, there’s

better than fewer, there’s danger

always a slight possibility that you

in putting too much fertilizer into

didn’t get all of it. I find it’s better

your plants. Specifically, the excess

to be paranoid than to go through

nitrogen can weaken a plant and

multiple rounds of fighting the

affect its ability to resist diseases.

same problem.
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AT T I T u D E
the start of motivational speech,


gardening, I’d say my approach was

but a good attitude really does

definitely more Eeyore than Pooh, but

go a long way in your indoor growing

over time, I gradually took on a more

efforts. When chatting with other avid

light-hearted attitude. After all, this is

gardeners, I’m often struck by the

supposed to be fun, right? Sure, it can

differences I see in how they approach

feel serious as you deal with aphids,

their growing efforts. Some are so en-

yellowing leaves, lack of germination,

thusiastic and joyful about their projects

and occasional mold incidents, but even

that they apologize for oversharing.

with those challenges, it’s still possible to

They love to talk about what they’re

see this whole venture as an experiment.

his may sound cheesy, or like

growing, they play and experiment and

When I first started indoor edible

I once tried to grow mushrooms

laugh off their failures because they

from inoculated logs in my basement,

embrace their successes so completely.

just to reset my attitude. Even though

Others, however, are almost the po-

I managed to set up what I believed to

lar opposite. They fret over their plants,

be the perfect conditions, the project

get stressed about proper watering, and

didn’t work and I was stuck with some

sometimes automatically assume that

expensive firewood. Still, I took some

most of their efforts will falter. They’re

good notes, realized my missteps,

quick to throw out a struggling plant and

and I’m sure at some point, I’ll give it

then sigh miserably when talking about

another shot, or at least I’ll get one of

trying to find suitable replacements.

my much-more-experienced mycologist friends to grow some mushrooms
for me. I won’t stop doing crazy little

A copper pot, a sunny window, fresh herbs ready
for picking . . . indoor kitchen gardens will boost
anyone’s attitude.

projects, though, because yes, this really
is supposed to be fun.
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Microgreens, Shoots, Herbs,
Wheatgrass, Sprouts, and


here are many types of edibles

ideal as a starting point, and the quick

that are traditionally grown out-

seed-to-harvest timeframes mean that

doors, but can be planted inside

you won’t be spending months waiting

for fun—more on those in Part Three

for vegetables to emerge. In fact, some

of the book—but there are also several

microgreens can be harvested in less

kinds of “crops” that are ideally suited to

than a week, if factors are right.

an indoor growing environment. Specifi-

These projects also help to deter-

cally, microgreens, pea shoots, sunflower

mine if your indoor space is well suited

shoots, sprouted grains, and some herbs

for growing. Because of short time-

can thrive inside much better than they

frames, you’ll be able to spot problems

could fare in a garden.

like airflow and overwatering more

These plants are often harvested

easily. For example, too much water-

at an early stage of a lifecycle, and they

ing and stagnant air can create a mold

tend to be more fragile and delicate

situation in sunflower shoots or micro-

than what’s growing outside in the

greens within just a few days, prompting

garden. Sprouts, in particular, might

the need to tweak your setup.

do very poorly in outdoor conditions,

As with any indoor growing efforts,

even on a patio or deck, where sunlight

enjoy the process—especially when

early in the growing process might

those pea shoots or fresh herbs can be

hinder germination.

thrown into dishes just moments after

For those who are new to indoor

you harvest them.

growing, the projects in this section are


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lthough some seed compa-

are the cotyledon and first true leaves of

nies offer mixes designated as

a plant, although they can also be har-

microgreens, there’s no such

vested at only the cotyledon stage.

thing as a “microgreen seed.” They
aren’t grown using some special, almost
magical seed that will grow a plant that’s
only about three inches in height. Instead, microgreens can be grown from
nearly any seed, since they represent the
first stage of growth of a plant.
Called cotyledons, these initial
leaves of a seedling give way eventually
to a plant’s “true leaves,” and from there
the growth truly begins into vegetable,
herb, or fruit. In other words, if you
plant seeds in order to get microgreens
and then change your mind or leave
them for longer than intended, the
plant will begin maturing and, most
likely, get too large for the pot you’ve
chosen. Most micros, by loose definition,

When used as a garnish, microgreens add intense
flavor and dense nutrients to savory dishes. This
fried pork dish gets a big boost from a sprinkle of
mustard microgreens.

MiCrogreens, sHoots, Herbs, wHeatgrass, sprouts, and MusHrooMs

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Microgreens look similar to sprouted

Their nutritional density depends on

greens—and some online growing

the type of microgreen, but all seem

resources put them together in the

lush with nutrients. For example, red

same category—but unlike sprouts,

cabbage microgreens showed very high

which are grown in water, microgreens

levels of vitamin C, vitamin K, and vita-

are grown in soil. They do best indoors,

min E. Considering how easy it would

since trying to adjust planting density

be to slip some micros into a kid’s meal

and moisture in outdoor conditions can

for an extra nutrient boost, keeping a

be tricky.

small tray going in a kitchen garden

In terms of arrival on the home

makes sense.

garden scene, microgreens are the new
kids on the block, but their popularity
with chefs, small-scale farmers, and
urban growers will likely propel microgreens past the trendy stage. Their
cute size, mule-kick-level flavor, and
nutritional clout make them a perfect
addition to any indoor growing mix.
Although they’re appearing
more often on the menus at upscale
restaurants, microgeens only started
becoming popular in the last few years,
and even the word itself is fresh. Mark
Mathew Braunstein,