garden center

Garden centers around the country provide products and advice for growing your own plants at home, but one of the less-talked-about kinds of gardening is indoor gardening.

If you’ve ever wondered what indoor gardening is, it’s just what it sounds like -- potted plants, or shallow planting beds, with some form of artificial light over them. The ideal plants for growing indoors grow well under artificial light, and they stay compact enough throughout their lifespan to make growing indoors feasible. You should be able to find all the products you need at local garden centers.

Whether you don’t have room for a backyard garden or you need a good hobby to keep you through the winter months, the following vegetables work the best for indoor gardening.

Beets

Beet plants are fairly compact, especially when not grown to full maturity, and they offer delicious beet greens and delicate baby beats when grown indoors. Beet greens are easy to monitor for harvesting as they’re up above the surface, but ripe baby beats will take about six weeks to develop.

Carrots

Obviously we aren’t talking about 12-inch long grocery-store carrots here! The carrot varieties that work best for growing indoors are round and short, and they grow well in pots that are six inches deep. Baby carrots are usually ready to harvest in about six to eight weeks.

Herbs

Few things are more beautiful or aromatic than fresh herbs in an indoor garden. If you have a sunny windowsill, you can even grow several types of herbs without synthetic lighting, like you would raise a houseplant. Some excellent varieties of herbs to consider include cilantro, basil, parsley, oregano, chives, thyme, and sage. If you do any frequent cooking that uses one or more of these herbs, this could be a great opportunity to work some fresh spices into your cuisine.

Lettuce

Leaf lettuce matures quickly, and makes for excellent salads and sandwich toppings. Different varieties offer a wide range of colors, flavors, and leaf shapes to choose from. To harvest, snip the outer leaves only to allow each plant’s center to continue growing. Harvest only one-third of your crop at a time and be sure to rotate the harvest to allow regrowth in previous sections.

Mushrooms

Mushroom kits make it easy to grow your own fresh, delicious mushrooms. Mushrooms of multiple varieties are typically ready to harvest in just two weeks, and they are excellent in soups, sauces, and sautés with vegetables and meats.

Kale

If you thought kale is always bitter and a bit unpleasant to taste, then you just might have never tried young, fresh kale before. Kale that’s harvested early has a sweeter, milder flavor than the mature-harvested kale you find at the grocery store. And since you don’t have much room in an indoor garden anyway, you’ve got no choice but to harvest your kale early. Kale is ready to harvest at its baby stage in roughly four weeks.

Spinach

Like kale and lettuce, spinach is excellent for salads, as well as warming winter soups. Its dark-green leaves are very rich in vitamins, making it a healthy and delicious choice for your indoor garden. Baby spinach is usually ready to harvest in just over a month.

Swiss Chard

Hopefully you like leafy greens, because they all tend to grow well indoors! Swiss chard leaves taste a bit like a cross between beet leaves and spinach, and they’re very tender with sweet, slightly crunchy stems. They are excellent in soups and stews, and they can also be sautéd with mushrooms, bacon, and other greens to make a delicious side dish. Once chard plants have started growing, it may become necessary to transplant them to larger pots so they don’t become too top-heavy. They should be ready to harvest in about four weeks as baby greens.

Radishes

Radishes are fast-growing, with a sweetish flavor when young and a slightly bitter, peppery flavor when they’re more mature. They add a great kick to soups and salads, and they’re typically ready to harvest in four weeks, at about one inch in diameter.

From carrots to kale, these are the best plants available at garden centers for growing in indoor gardens. If indoor gardening sounds like the right project for you, visit a local garden center to get what you need and get started.