The 10 Best Foods to Grow Indoors At Home

tomato plant indoors

You can grow dozens of foods indoors, with limited space

Growing your own food can save you hundreds of pounds per year

Taking care of crops can help improve your mental health


Growing food in your home may seem like a pipe dream – what are you, a millionaire? With access to a greenhouse? Come on – but it’s completely possible.

Anyone can create food in practically any amount of space, with extremely low start-up costs, as long as you have access to sunlight or enough artificial lighting.

And once you’ve nurtured your crops into full-grown food, you’ll save a bundle of money, enhance your mental health, and feel an enormous sense of pride in your achievement.

It’s a cheap, meaningful, eco-friendly activity that everyone in the household can help with, and at the end of a cycle, you get some delicious food. Here are the best ones you can grow.

tomatoes plant indoors

The best foods to grow indoors at home

Basil
Garlic
Onions
Carrots
Radishes
Strawberries
Tomatoes
Chili peppers
Lemons
Olives

Basil

Time to grow: 6-7 weeks

A variety of herbs are available for you to create with just one cheap purchase and a few months of care and attention – but basil is our favourite.

You can ensure your own personal supply of these delicious leaves by sowing seeds in a small pot filled with seed compost, some time between late February and mid-summer.

Only plant a few more than you want, since most of the seeds will germinate.

Then cover the pot with a small freezer bag, seal it in place with an elastic band, and wait for the magic to happen.

Once the seeds have germinated, remove the bag, and water the soil each morning. When seedlings outgrow their pot, re-pot them.

From June to September, you can reap the rewards of your careful attention. Choose one – or several – of the top leaves, and pinch them at their bases to remove them.

And if basil’s not your thing, you can also grow chives, mint, and oregano indoors – as well as parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme.

Garlic

Time to grow: 1-2 months

This tasty base for countless meals traces its culinary origins back thousands of years – and one of the reasons it’s so popular is that it’s relatively easy to grow.

Simply buy some bulbs from a garden centre or online supplier (not a supermarket), and plant them between October and February.

Water them during spring and early summer, but hold off when the bulbs start getting large, as this can encourage rotting.

Snip off any flowers that form, get rid of weeds by hand, make sure they get plenty of direct sunlight, and by the summer, you can harvest some of your own mouth-watering garlic.

Onions

Time to grow: 2 months

The most versatile vegetable of them all is simple to grow at home.

Buy small bulbs called sets from garden centres or online sellers, and plant them between mid-March and mid-April, or in September.

Ensure you’ve got good drainage, water the bulbs regularly, and feed them occasionally with liquid fertiliser – but as with garlic, stop watering and feeding them once they’ve swollen.

Weed by hand, remove flowers when they appear, and harvest the crop in summer.

By the end of the process, you’ll be crying with pride, and not just because you’re chopping onions. (Bonus tip: reduce the tears you shed by using your sharpest knife.)

Carrots

Time to grow: 10-11 weeks

Carrots are healthy, vitamin-rich, and great for dipping in hummus, adding crunch to your salads, or including in a roast dinner.

They also grow quickly, and don’t need much space. In short, they’re perfect for a burgeoning gardener with limited room.

To grow them indoors, get short-rooted varieties and sprinkle them over good-quality potting soil.

Water them when the soil is dry, and once they reach three inches, feed them liquid fertiliser once every two weeks.

When they’ve reached their full size, pull them from the soil and enjoy. And if you still want more, you can plant new batches every two weeks.

Radishes

Time to grow: 3-4 weeks

These crunchy, bite-sized delights take just three or four weeks to go from being seeds to being on your plate.

This makes them ideal for indoor gardeners, along with the fact that they grow well at room temperature.

Just make sure they get 12 to 14 hours of light per day, and water them regularly to stop the soil from drying out – otherwise they’ll get too spicy for most palates.

If you enjoyed nurturing your first batch, plant little and often for a continuous supply of radishes.

a strawberry plant

Strawberries

Time to grow: 2-3 months

If you’re after a sweeter treat at the end of your gardening experience, strawberries are quick and easy to grow.

All they need is shelter, 12 to 16 hours of light, fertile (preferably sandy) soil with good drainage, and water – though avoid using so much that you end up with standing water, and don’t water their heads, as this encourages disease.

Also, don’t plant them in soil that you’ve previously used to grow chrysanthemums, potatoes, or tomatoes, to ensure your berries don’t contract verticillium wilt.

If you follow the right steps, you’ll have fresh strawberries within two or three months of planting.

Tomatoes

Time to grow: 2-3 months

Tomatoes need a great deal of sunlight – between 14 and 20 hours per day – but you can still successfully grow them indoors, as long as they get the light they need.

The seeds germinate quickly, and can then be placed in their separate pots, where you should feed them with a water-soluble organic fertiliser every two weeks until the first fruits begin to form. At that point, switch to a high potash feed.

After they start flowering, shake the plants regularly to help the pollen fall from flower to flower.

And make sure to water them regularly and evenly, as uneven moisture levels can cause your tomatoes to split before their time – which is about two to three months after you sow the seeds.

Chili peppers

Time to grow: 2-3 months for sweeter peppers, 3-5 months for hotter peppers

Want to add some spice to your indoor garden without intentionally underwatering your radishes? Chili peppers are the one for you.

Between late winter and mid-spring, get a small pot, fill it with seed compost, and sprinkle some seeds on top. Like basil, most seeds will germinate, so only use a few more than the amount you want in the end.

Put the pot on a sunny windowsill that gets 10 to 16 hours of light, and use an elastic band to secure a small freezer bag over the top to increase the humidity. When seedlings appear, remove the bag.

When the seedlings are an inch high, plant them in their own individual pots, with multipurpose compost.

And as with all indoor crops, if that sounds too time-consuming for you, you can always buy a young plant and nurture it from that point. No judgment here.

Lemon tree

Time to grow: 3-6 years

Citrus trees smell great, add a pop of colour to your home, and thrive on the stable temperatures available indoors. A lemon tree will provide you with zest before and after you harvest them.

Feed it with one of two types of specific citrus feed: summer feed from late March to October, and winter feed the rest of the year.

In summer, water liberally (preferably with rainwater), but in winter, wait for the soil to dry out a bit first. If you’re unsure, leave it for a bit, as the danger of overwatering is much more serious than underwatering.

Try to keep the temperature above 10°C at night, though lemon trees will generally cope as long as the mercury doesn’t drop below 5°C.

When they look like the fruit you see in the supermarket, pull them off and use them in a variety of meals and drinks. Delicious.

Olive tree

Time to grow: 4 years

These evergreen trees will give your house a sophisticated Meditteranean feel, but more importantly, they can provide you with lovely fresh olives.

Seeing as they can reach 10 metres, you’ll probably want to buy a dwarf tree, which can grow to around 1.8 metres – about the size of a tall human adult.

Use soil that drains well, make sure your tree gets at least six hours of light per day, and feed it during spring with a general fertiliser.

Plant them in spring, treat them well, and you can reap the rewards in summer.

Olive trees are the most complex plant on this list to care for – but if you’re still after a bigger challenge, try growing an apricot or peach tree indoors.

Josh Jackman Senior Writer

Josh has written about eco-friendly home improvements and climate change for the past three years. His work has featured on the front page of the Financial Times; he’s been interviewed by BBC Radio; and he was the resident expert in BT’s smart home tech initiative.

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