Foods You Can Grow in the Comfort of Your Home

by Mikey Rox on 5 September 2012 11 comments
Photo: A. Strakey

Don't have an outdoor green space where you can grow fresh food? Don’t fret. There are plenty of foods that you can grow indoors — right inside your home, in fact — that will have you eating healthier and cheaper in no time. Get that green thumb in action and start planting the seeds to produce-stand independence today. (See also: 10 Unique Garden Containers and Techniques)

Tangerines

I know what you’re thinking — I can't fit an orange tree in my house. You’re right, you can’t. But thanks to technology, you can fit a dwarf citrus tree in your home and grow your own juicy, refreshing tangerines. In a garden these dwarf trees can grow up to 12 feet tall, but when planted in a container, their stature stays decidedly more diminutive. It’ll take almost a year for your tree to bear fruit, but you can get the process started by following these instructions on how to grow citrus in containers.

Lemons

These instructions for how to grow a Meyer lemon tree indoors detail how to care for the tree during the summer and winter months (just because you’re growing it inside doesn’t mean it should stay inside all the time) and also suggest that you can own your own lemon tree for less than $20. At that price, the tree will than pay for itself over its lifetime if you use a lot of lemons.

Limes

If you want to grow a lime tree, consult the instructions for lemons above and consider these tips on how to successfully grow indoor fruit trees:

  • Choose a pot big enough to handle the tree, and make sure it has adequate drainage holes.
     
  • When choosing the type of soil, read the packaging to make sure it’s conducive to what you’re planting. In this case, you want a mix that's lightweight and drains well.
     
  • Water the tree on a regular basis so the soil stays slightly moist but not saturated.
     
  • Provide six to eight hours of direct sunlight per day. If direct sunlight isn’t available, use an artificial grow light.
     
  • When planting, leave the root collar above the soil line and the top of the root crown barely below the soil. Do not cover the trunk with soil.

Pineapple

Pineapple seems like the kind of fruit that requires a tropical outdoor climate, but it’s surprisingly versatile and well suited for growing in pots. The pros of growing fresh pineapples at home are that they don’t require much water or soil (they use the moisture stored in their leaves), and while they prefer full sun, they can grow in dappled shade. To get started, all you need is the top of a pineapple you just ate. That’s right — very easy. When you’ve got that, follow these easy steps to planting and growing pineapples at home.

Bananas

Dwarf bananas do well indoors because they’re self-sufficient — they don’t need a pollinator. Unlike pineapples, however, bananas do require regular watering because of the plant’s massive leaves. Other factors to ensure a healthy dwarf banana plant include lots of bright, indirect light, humidity, and adding fertilizer at least once a month. Learn how to grow bananas indoors with these tips.

Strawberries

To grow strawberries at home you’ll need a terra-cotta pot, PVC pipe or a cardboard tube (a toilet paper roll will work fine), and soil high in organic matter. The strawberry plant will also need at least six hours of sun per day.

Quinoa

Quinoa is one of the healthiest foods you can eat — and it’s one of the easiest to grow. Unlike most of the other foods on this list, quinoa doesn’t need soil at all. It’s perfectly happy growing in water, which cuts down on the mess and leaves you with more space. This how-to on growing quinoa suggests using empty juice containers, but you can use whatever you’d like.

ARTICLE CONTINUES BELOW

Tomatoes

Red, ripe, juicy tomatoes scream summer, but there’s no reason why you can’t have fresh tomatoes all year round. According to these instructions on how to grow your own tomatoes, “windowsill” tomatoes do well in small pots filled with quality soil and given adequate attention.

Hot Peppers

Spice things up this winter with fresh hot peppers at your fingertips. Fill a peat pot with potting soil and seeds, and set in a warm area — preferably about 80 degrees. Keep the soil moist and provide adequate light (about 16 hours a day), and you should see seedlings in two to five weeks.

Cucumbers

You’ll need ample space to grow cucumbers indoors. They’re vine plants that grow along the ground outside, but indoors you may want to grow them vertically to maximize your space. Something else to consider when growing cucumbers indoors is the right time to harvest. eHow says that you should pick the produce when it’s palm size to avoid an overbearing plant.

Mesclun Greens

Keep the weight off this winter by growing mesclun greens in the convenience of your own home. Start with a window box and organic fertilizer, and place the box in a well-lit area for at least six hours a day. Water regularly so the soil is moist but not saturated. It’ll take about a month for the plants to reach harvest height, which will be 3” to 4” tall.

Spinach

Avoid all that E. coli nonsense by growing fresh, clean spinach indoors in small pots packed with high-quality soil and time-released fertilizer. After planting the seeds, keep the soil moist until seedlings emerge in about 10 days. Ideal temperatures for growing spinach indoors are between 60 and 85 degrees. Lots of bright sunlight is required.

Carrots

When planted in an outdoor garden, carrots are vulnerable to rodents, but they’re perfectly safe from hungry vermin indoors — and surprisingly easy to grow. You’ll need a large container — at least a foot deep — with drainage holes. Place a tray under the container to catch the water. After planting the seeds, place the container in an area that receives full sunlight. Carrots will be ready to harvest in 65 to 75 days.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms are one of the easiest foods to grow indoors because they require a cool, dark, damp environment — and most of our basements offer these conditions. Whether you want to grow shiitake, oyster, or white button mushrooms, the first thing you’ll need to do is buy the spawns (easier to manage than spores) from a reputable establishment. When you’re ready to plant, place the growing medium in a pan and raise the temperature to about 70 degrees using a heating pad and add the spawn. Once the spawn has rooted — about three weeks later — cover with an inch of soil and a damp cloth. You’ll see the mushrooms appear in about 3 to 4 weeks.

Do you grown your own food indoors? Something that’s not on this list? Let me know in the comments below.

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Guest's picture
Olivia

Since we're pesto freaks at our house, basil is a must. We've been growing it outdoors and freezing the finished product to get us through the winter, but your article got me thinking... Thanks for the ideas!

Guest's picture

I'm impressed! I never would have thought of growing most of those items in the home. Tomatoes and bell peppers are 2 of the most obvious. I have a lemon tree that's been growing in a large pot for the past 5 or 6 years.

I did grow a strawberry plant indoors this year and it failed miserably. It produced a grand total of 1 strawberry. This was mainly because I planted it out of season.

Very interesting that you can grow pineapples and bananas in the home. I think they'd do a lot better outdoors, but I have no personal experience.

There are also many herbs that can be grown indoors. A few of them include basil, oregano, rosemary, thyme, parsley, and cilantro. If you do a lot of cooking, it can be much cheaper than buying them at the grocery store. A large basil plant, in particular, can produce a high enough yield to last for a couple of years. I'm still using dried basil that I grew 2 years ago. An indoor herb garden is a great way to get started if you're interested in growing your own foods.

Guest's picture

Most herbs can be grown easily indoors--especially basil, but others like oregano, chamomile, etc. can do well indoors. Another commenter mentioned basil, and I highly recommend it. It's very easy to grow and takes up a minimal amount of space. Many herbs can be grown on a windowsill with a wide ledge, lending both beauty and practicality. I'm also looking into the site windowfarms.org, which offers guidelines on how to grow lots of different plants indoors (read about it in a magazine--I believe Yoga Journal). I might try lettuce this winter, since I hate buying store-bought greens. Thanks for the post. I never would've thought you could grow tangerines in your house!

Guest's picture

I love gardening, and eating fresh, homegrown fruit/vegetables however now living in a condo I cannot garden due to lack of a yard. So thanks for the informative post!

Guest's picture

You definitely learn something new every day! Great list and thanks for the wonderful blog post :-).

Guest's picture

WoW!! I never thought of growing most of these at home. I usually grow herbs and mint but I think I will consider growing my own Quinoa as well..since I eat so much of it. I amy even try a few fruit trees in my small outdoor area as well.Thanks for sharing all these tips!

Guest's picture
Diana

Well talk about learning something new every day! I would never have thought you could grow tropical fruits indoors at all, much less the others on the list. very insightful may have to try some of these with my children. Thanks for this.

Guest's picture
Liz

Growing fruits/vegetables indoors yields a small crop. I did this for years in Western PA - Meyer Lemons, limes, tomatoes, herbs, etc. Unless you have grow lights (expensive), you get very little for the money you spend on pots, potting medium and fertilizer. Basically it's a hobby, really not a huge money saver.

Guest's picture
FrugalCat

Some pineapples have the bud removed from inside the leaf cone to prevent you from growing new fruits. The big companies (Dole) are more likely to do this.

Guest's picture
Liisa

You can also grow ginger, green onions and leeks, among several other veggies, just by putting the roots in a glass of water and putting the glass on a sunny windowsill. As you cut off the top to use for cooking, it regrows in a matter of days. :)

Guest's picture
don

Hi I just wanted to add this one. Try patio blueberries I believe they will grow well in a pot as well.