Love harvesting fresh veggies and herbs from your garden? Did you know you could enjoy delicious homegrown produce year-round – and grown inside? We asked horticulturist Shelley Levis, author of the new book Countertop Gardens, about how to set up and maintain an indoor edibles garden.
When did you become interested in ‘thinking outside the pot’ and growing produce indoors?
I have had an interest in gardening for as far back as I can remember; my first memory was picking flowers around age four. I started growing indoors around my mid-20s while living in a small apartment with a balcony only big enough to fit a chair and a planter. Desperation led to inspiration, and I converted the entire guest bedroom into a growing area using bookshelves and shop lights.
So it’s a myth that you need lots of space and expensive equipment to grow food indoors?
Exactly. My indoor apartment garden was hard to maintain, since the only stuff available at the time wasn’t intended for that purpose; the lighting was hard to get right. Today, there are an amazing number of products out there for everyone’s specific needs. In addition to being inexpensive and space saving, many of the devices available actually look good with your décor. Having houseplants is a huge trend right now. Edibles look as lovely as any plant you can grow. The devices I tested for this book allow you to enjoy growing edible plants indoors year-round with ease and style.
What do you need to consider when growing edibles indoors?
Budget, time, available light and space are just a few of the most obvious questions you will need to ask yourself. It’s also important to consider your skill level and be honest with yourself. The good news is that there are devices that match any level of expertise.
What varieties do people most often have success with, versus ones to avoid?
Herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow indoors, but salad greens thrive indoors, too. Compact tomatoes, peppers and potatoes can be grown indoors if you can meet their light requirement. Light is the biggest challenge when growing edibles, however innovative companies have produced grow lights suitable for the home. If space and light are an issue, a single full-spectrum light bulb can be paired with a clip-on lamp and be used anywhere.
What are a few of your fave DIY methods that are easy to set up and maintain?
I love to repurpose things as well as upcycle materials. Plastic soda bottle hydroponic planters are a cinch to make, easy to maintain and work great for herbs. A stick-up shower caddy can be converted into a window planter for micro-greens, and mason jars can produce a fresh batch of sprouts every week. I have 10 clever DIY ideas with step-by-step instructions and photos included in my book. I want to inspire everyone to think outside the pot!
PHOTO CREDIT INFORMATION: