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A New Journey: Growing An Indoor Garden


Interested in learning how to grow an indoor garden? In my books, How To Grow Vegetables Without Losing Your Mind and Gardening Nuggets, I explain the process of starting plants from seed indoors for plants that you will eventually transplant into your outdoor garden. However, I don’t talk about actual gardening indoors; in other words, growing plants to maturity inside your home.

But after going back and forth about it for a while, I have decided to start growing a limited number of crops inside. I am beginning the process, and so am going to have a blog series (probably one post a week for a while) dedicated to the topic.

In this post, and in the video that follows, I want to answer two questions: Why start an indoor garden? and, What can you grow inside your house?

Reasons to start an indoor garden

There are a number of reasons a person might choose to grow food inside their home.

*1. Greater food freedom.

This blog is all about providing tips and ideas to help you have as much freedom in your life as possible. That includes ideas that empower  you to lessen your dependence on corporations to provide your basic needs. I am not against corporations per se, nor do I take the position that “the grid” is evil. However, I fervently believe in the importance of being prepared for emergencies, both long- and short-term.

Knowing how and being able to provide some of your own physical sustenance is an important part of that preparedness. And since not everyone has space for an outdoor garden, and many climates make gardening outside in the winter difficult without heavy investments into greenhouses, learning how to grow an indoor garden might one day save you and your family’s life.

We live two hours away from a health food store, and I don’t think the area farmers who sell at the area farmers’ markets grow their food without chemicals. We will save a lot of money when we no longer have to drive long distances to have all the fresh produce we want! My indoor garden will help with that.

*2. Better light control in the winter.

Except for the tropics, during the late fall to early spring sunlight is not nearly as strong as it is during the warmer parts of the year. Even though it seems plenty sunny, the light is not intense enough for plants to grow as quickly as they do.

When you garden indoors, however, you can control the intensity of light as well as how long the plants receive light during the day.

*3. Climate control.

I touched on this in the first reason to have an indoor garden. Obviously, plants that are grown inside your house don’t need to be protected with frost blankets and row covers, or mini-greenhouses.

Also, I have discovered that even though the frost-hardy plants – greens, onions, and carrots – will survive temperatures down into the low twenties (Fahrenheit) and even lower, the frequent exposure to these cold temperatures stunt their growth. For example, in the spring a head of lettuce grows back eating-sized leaves within a couple of weeks after I have cut off most of its leaves. But in the winter, a plant will take over a month to grow its leaves back to harvest size.

*3. Bug avoidance.

If you subscribe to my YouTube channel and watch every single one of my videos as they come out, you will have noticed that I have said nothing about gardening for a lo-ong time (except the one about strawberries growing in winter, but the flowers never turned into anything).

Confession time: I was embarrassed that I, a veteran suburban gardener AND an author of a book about gardening, failed at her first attempt at a rural fall/winter garden.

Okay, so it hasn’t been a complete failure, but fewer than 25% of the plants that originally germinated made it, so I’m certainly not going to call myself a success.

Why did this happen?

I blame it mostly on the fact that we were crazy-busy trying to finish out our earth-sheltered house so that we could move into it before winter hit.

I was stressed. And both physically and emotionally exhausted from working on the house at the end of most days. I didn’t want to spend a lot of time on a garden.

As a result, I didn’t water the seeds often enough to get a good germination rate, and then most of those that managed to break through the soil despite my neglect succumbed to grasshoppers and cucumber beetles.

I wasn’t happy about the money we were spending on the house (sorry, folks, big expenses stress me out, even when I know I can afford them), so I didn’t want to spend money on hoops and row covers. Nor did I want to do any more work in the garden than necessary.

Going forward, I am going to be a lot more diligent about covering my plants, especially in the spring. I discovered that there are many more pests in the country than in the city (duh).

However, working on a house or not, pests – especially grasshoppers – are worse in the fall than in the spring because in the spring they are just hatching out. By the time October rolls around, large, hungry grasshoppers are everywhere. And we live in Zone 7, where they don’t completely disappear until late December to early January!

With an indoor garden, you don’t have to worry about pests. From now on in the fall I will start all my fall and winter crops indoors (with the possible exception of mâche – it rhymes with “wash” – and the definite exception of carrots). Some of those plants will stay inside the entire season, so that I will always have some worry-free greens.

*5. Easier to irrigate.

Eventually, our entire mini-orchard and vegetable garden will be in wood chips and sawdust, making irrigation a non-issue. But not everyone has access to wood chips and many cubic yards of sawdust. Unless you create lasagna garden beds that you constantly add compost to, you will have to irrigate.

And in certain circumstances, irrigation is a tricky business. Our soil is mostly sand, and it often gets around or above 100 degrees in the summer for weeks at a time with no rain.

Can you say, “Irrigation nightmare?”

But when you are growing food indoors, it’s a lot easier to monitor the soil moisture…and a lot easier to water the plants, period. More importantly, the water will go where it needs to go, leading to a lot less waste of that precious resource.

*6. Save money on groceries.

Of course, this is a benefit of growing food anywhere, both indoors and out. But if you love your greens and live in a really cold winter climate and don’t want to bother with/have room for a greenhouse, growing them indoors will keep you from having to buy them during the winter.

And not everybody lives in a house! And those in apartments don’t all have a balcony (a north-facing balcony would be mostly worthless for growing either veggies or flowers). If they would grow some of their own food inside, they would lower their food expenses.

Disadvantages of growing food indoors

I’m not going to sit back and pretend that having an indoor garden has no problems. There are actually several disadvantages to growing a garden indoors.

The plants have less nutrition.

University studies have proven that plants grown under lights contain many fewer phytonutrients than their counterparts grown outside in the sunshine. In a future post, I am going to show you how to alleviate that problem.

And I will assert that eating food that you grow chemical-free under lights is going to be healthier than the three- to seven-day old food you buy at a store, even though it was grown outside in the sun.

You will have an ongoing electric cost.

If you are trying to be as electricity-free as possible, having an indoor garden will not work for you. You’re going to have to have lights, period.

No, a south-facing window will not be enough.

That said, the type of lights I’m going to recommend in the next post don’t use that much electricity, and if you live in a normal-sized house that requires heat in the winter and A/C in the summer, the lighting will be a drop in the bucket compared to the house’s climate-control costs.

It’s messy.

Even if you set up a hydroponic system, there will be some mess involved. If you do it the old-fashioned way, as I am planning to, with soil, there will be even more mess.

Definitely don’t plan to have your indoor garden in a carpeted room or closet.

Now, onto the other question I promised to address at the beginning of this post:

What can you grow in an indoor garden?

What kinds of crops can you grow inside your house under lights? Really, if you have the space and money for all the equipment and energy needed, you could grow anything and everything! But since most people don’t want a watermelon or pumpkin vining through their home, I’ll stick to the more realistic crops, starting with the smallest plants.

  • Lettuce
  • Low-growing herbs, such as thyme and oregano.
  • Spinach
  • Strawberries
  • Swiss chard
  • Cabbage
  • Kale
  • Collards
  • Broccoli
  • Mint-family herbs
  • Basil
  • Bush beans
  • Dwarf peas
  • Pepper, both hot and bell (dwarf varieties would be best)
  • Determinate tomato plants (won’t grow as tall/vine as long as the indeterminate varieties)
  • Eggplant
  • Zucchini
  • Regular-sized peas
  • Cucumber (if you’re willing to keep it well-pruned)

Now, if you grow the nightshade vegetables (tomato, zucchini, eggplant, and pepper) anywhere, inside or out, I highly recommend that you only grow them for one season. The reason is that the nightshade vegetables contain toxins that can cause a problem for people who try to eat them all year long – a problem such as an allergic reaction or a sensitivity that leads to burping and/or bloating.

The bigger the plants you want to grow inside, the more complicated your lighting system will be because you will have to figure out how to get it up high. Because they need larger containers, they will also take up more space.

Even determinate tomatoes can grow out of control, and peas and cucumbers will require some kind of trellis to support them.

My plan

I want to have some lettuce during the summer, but where we live lettuce bolts in May or June. So I will grow some lettuce in my indoor garden in the summer, to go with the tomatoes and basil I’ll be growing outside. I’m also considering growing a few bush bean plants inside during the spring and early summer because flea beetles can destroy the plants before they even start producing.

We will eventually transition to a “Back To Eden” garden, which supposedly facilitates such high levels of health that most pests leave plants mostly alone. But since we are going to mulch our orchard first, it will probably another year or two before I get the entire garden in wood chips. So for the moment, yes, I am going to be concerned about flea beetles.

In the fall, I will grow several pots each of lettuce, kale, spinach, and Swiss chard. I will also grow baby kale and broccoli in sprouting trays, which will get harvested after a week or two of growth.

I may try dwarf sugar-snap peas, too, just as an experiment so that you know what it’s like. :)

If you’d like to learn how to grow an indoor garden, stick with me! A great way to do that is to sign up on the form at the top of the page, because besides getting an inspiring e-book you also get on my e-mail list so that you can be advised of new blog posts as they get published.


Look Up!


When you’re walking through a barren land, the only way to see a rainbow is by looking up.

The only way to see a falling star is by looking up.

The only way to see the millions of pinpricks of light by night, and the bright blue sky by day, is to look up.

The only way to see the majestic mountains and the lush forests in the distance is by looking up.

So when you are walking through a barren land, force yourself to keep on looking up. Up is where the beauty is. Up is where the life is. Up is where you will rediscover the joy in living.

And as that joy begins to seep into you, as the beauty above begins to awaken your desire to live again, dare to look down.

And you will see that flowers have sprouted at your feet.


How To Prevent Anything, Part Two: Destress

Continuing on with my series about the key ways to stay healthy, entitled “How To Prevent…Anything”, in this post I want to talk about what some health experts consider the number one cause of illness and disease: stress.

Types of stress

Usually, when we hear the word “stress”, we think of someone reacting with negative emotions to a situation – anger, frustration, fear, etc. But stress can happen to your body without you experiencing any particular emotion. Following are the three main ways you can experience stress.

  1. Negative emotions, especially anger and fear;
  2. toxicity; and
  3. nutrient deficiency.

The latter two ways you are not going to feel like your stomach is knotting up when you are anxious about something, or your face flushing when you are angry. Nonetheless, they still cause stress to your body.

When you experience a strong negative emotion, your adrenals pump out stress hormones that acidify the body. Toxins, whether in the environment or in the food you eat, acidify the body. Because your cells need a slightly alkaline environment to thrive, your body responds to this acidification by pulling alkalizing minerals from the body’s stores.

When you frequently experience negative emotions or are often exposed to toxins, your body eventually begins to get depleted of the precious minerals, which leads to a further acidic state. In this way, stress can lead to nutrient deficiency.

It works the other way around, as well. If you’re not getting enough of all the nutrients your body needs, the various organs and systems in your body will not function at optimal levels. Your body will lose its efficiency – possibly even its ability – to perform certain of the many metabolic functions required every day for you to stay alive. The body has to work harder to do mundane chores, and/or to compensate for tasks it is unable to do due to malnourishment. This creates stress throughout your body. Applying any of the other ways to be healthy when your body is in this state would act only as a bandage.

All that said, can you see why destressing is such a critical factor in preventing illness and disease? How do you go about reducing your stress levels?

I’m going to start what with the obvious kinds of stress, that caused by negative emotions.

Controlling negative emotions

Following is a non-comprehensive list of ideas on how you can reduce negative emotions.

  • Change your perspective. Your boss may have been acting hateful for the past year, and you decide to hate her back. Then you find out that a year ago, she was diagnosed with cancer and has gone through a divorce. You will likely begin to feel a lot more empathy for her.
  • Change your circumstances. While many times, negative emotions are all in your head, sometimes certain situations continually provoke them. If you could just avoid those situations, you would have a lot less stress.
  • Ask someone to pray with you. I mean, right then, you take hold of someone’s hand while they say a prayer out loud on your behalf.
  • Leave the room. If getting rid of your stress is a matter of extricating yourself from the negative energy among a group of people, or taking a break from someone you are in conflict with, excuse yourself to be alone for a while to regroup.
  • Exercise regularly. Getting your body in motion for a period of time every day causes your brain to release endorphins, the “feel good” hormones.
  • Expose your eyes to sunshine. Not that you want to stare at the sun, but somehow the connection of the eyes between the sun and your brain has a similar effect on your mood as exercise.
  • Use essential oils. Several kinds of oils are calming and reduce anxiety, such as lavendar, orange, and frankincense. If the brand is high-quality, a few drops applied on the temple and back of the neck, or taken under the tongue, should alleviate your negative feelings in five to ten minutes.

Reducing toxin levels

Following are ways to be healthy by reducing your stress by reducing your exposure to toxins.

  • Use chemical-free personal hygiene products. Your best bet is to find homemade recipes, as even health food store products often contain objectionable ingredients.
  • Use chemical-free cleaners. This is so easy. There are many books and blog posts that show you how to use inexpensive, toxin-free ingredients to clean your home.
  • Use low-VOC paint in your home. If you have to repaint a wall or a room, make it low-VOC paint. Then air it out for a few days before using the room again.
  • Buy hardwood or stainless steel furniture. Cheap furniture contains fake wood that contains glue and other chemicals that offgas for a long while.
  • Wash non-organic clothing and linens ten times before using them. This will get most of the chemicals out.
  • Quit smoking and/or using drugs. Need I say more?
  • Research alternative remedies to prescription medication. Regular use of synthetic drugs leads to toxin build up in your body. Experiment with diet changes and natural remedies such as essential oils or homeopathy to help with your medical condition.

Increasing your body’s nutrition

This post and this other post will take you far in helping you to avoid nutritional deficiencies.


Reducing stress is one of the prime ways to be healthy. So go have a long, hot bath with quiet music in the background while your spouse takes the kids to a movie.


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