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Indoor vegetable gardening has become a growing trend, as people become more aware of the benefits of organic produce. “An indoor vegetable garden provides chemical-free vegetables. Urban agriculture may be an informal activity but it leads to better health and nutrition. Moreover, there is a joy in harvesting one’s own veggies. In metro cities, one can use a sunny balcony or window grill of an apartment, as a garden. One can also grow vegetables indoors, with vertical gardens, railings or grill planters, pyramid planters, etc.,” says Priyanka Amar Shah, founder and ecoprenuer, Ikheti.
How much sunlight does an indoor vegetable garden need?
Most vegetables need full sunlight or partial shade. “Indoor vegetable gardens can be set up in the balcony or window, where one gets adequate sunlight. Choose a location where you receive a minimum of four to five hours of sunlight, especially if you are planning to grow herbs and vegetables,” states Shah.
How to choose the soil for a vegetable garden
The best soil for vegetables, includes compost and organic matter and is free from stones. “Use a mixture of soil, compost and coco peat. Coco peat, the dried coconut husk, helps to retain water for a longer period of time and also controls the soil’s temperature. So, you do not have to worry about watering, even if you are off on a mini vacation for two to three days,” adds Shah.
How to water a vegetable garden
The frequency of watering the plants, may have to be increased from once a day to twice a day during summers, while you can water the plants on alternate days during the rainy seasons. Do not water the plants excessively.
Ideal plants for an indoor vegetable garden
A first-time gardener should start with veggies and herbs that are easy to grow and maintain. “For a beginner, it is better to grow local vegetables, as the weather is conducive and later, experiment with exotic ones. Begin with edible herbs like ajwain, mint, lemon grass, curry leaves and then, move on to tomatoes, chillies, okra, etc. Once you get some experience, graduate to growing other vegetables,” Shah advises.
Okra: Requires at least five to six hours of sunlight and needs slightly moist soil. After almost two months of planting the seeds, one can harvest them.
Lemon: The seedlings grow very slowly. It needs full sunlight and watering two to three times a week and daily watering in hot weather.
Chilli: It is easy to grow with proper sunlight and moderate watering. Medium to large-sized containers are apt for planting chillies.
Eggplant: These seedlings are ideal for beginners. The plant requires moist soil and lots of sunlight.
Spinach: It is easy to grow in a balcony or on a windowsill. Opt for wide, rectangular, six to eight-inch-deep pots. It needs drained, rich soil. Avoid harsh sunlight.
Hydroponics system for growing vegetables indoor
Hydroponics, the method of growing plants without soil, uses water to supply nutrients directly to the roots. Hydroponic systems come in compact or vertical styles. In this gardening technique, soil is replaced with a solution of water and nutrients, for the plants to grow. One needs sunlight, water and oxygen to activate the edible garden in the balcony, windowsills, or even backyard. It is an expensive alternative though. A hydroponic system can grow vegetables much faster, all year round. Hydroponic farming is still in a nascent stage in India.
Micro green indoor vegetable garden
Micro greens need minimal space and light, making them effortless crops to grow in a few containers in an indoor garden. Micro greens are tender, edible vegetables and herbs that are harvested within weeks of sprouting. With less sunlight requirement, micro greens are ideal for window farming, in city apartments. One can grow methi, green moong, laal mattah, green peas, pumpkin chia, amaranth, moth, fennel or dill, etc.
Soaking the seeds overnight helps in better germination. Spread the seeds evenly on the soil, to ensure enough space for each plant to grow. Spray water and keep it near the window sill.
Tips for indoor vegetable gardening
*Do not put too much weight on the window grill or shelf, as the plants and pots get heavier when watered. Ensure that the window grill is strong enough, to take the weight.
*Herbs and greens can grow in small pots or hanging baskets but tomatoes, peppers and eggplants need big containers.
*For vegetables, use containers that are deep enough to support their roots.
*Add nutrients in the form of natural compost.
*Regularly mulch the plants by adding dry leaves. Mulch is a weed suppressor and acts as a barrier between the soil and the heat, cold and wind.
*For vegetables growing in vines, like tomatoes or cucumber, install vertical support.
*Buy a watering can.