When “Something’s Growing in the Kitchen” Isn’t a Bad Thing
As you push your cart—squeaky wheel and all—over to the produce aisle, you’re dismayed to discover the supermarket is out of arugula (again!). Then you see the romaine is a little wilted, the spinach a bit slimy.
“Guess I won’t bother having salad this week,” you think heading back out, green-less, into the piercing winter wind.
Shopping for fresh produce this time of year can be a drag. You’re trying to make healthy choices, but the availability of healthy foods can be, well, let’s just say underwhelming.
But get this: Though I’ve had salads nearly every day for months, I can’t remember the last time I actually bought salad greens from the grocery store.
My secret? I’ve been growing my own indoors.
And fresh produce year-round—regardless of climate—is just one of many benefits of indoor gardening.
Fresh produce in the middle of winter is “snow” problem. (See what I did there?)
Top 5 Indoor Growing Tips for Beginners
So maybe you’re thinking about growing Tower Garden indoors. But where do you start?
I recently had the pleasure of hearing Tower Garden Director Steve Williams share his expert advice for getting started with an indoor Tower Garden. Here are his five tips:
1. Use quality lighting.
Indoors and out, one of the key components to a successful garden is light. A quality light source is critical if you’re growing inside. The Tower Garden Grow Lights Kit uses high-output T5 fluorescent bulbs and easily attaches to the Support Cage.
You may have seen alternative grow lights advertised in stores or online. Many of these generate too much heat (which can potentially burn you and/or your plants), consume too much energy, and produce too little light for healthy plant growth. But Tower Garden’s grow lights are specifically designed to facilitate plant growth. And since they’re fluorescent bulbs, they generate little heat and consume less energy (as little as $0.30 per day’s worth).
You should run your grow lights for 14–18 hours every day and sync the cycle with your sleeping routine (so the lights aren’t on when you’re trying to sleep). But don’t forget to give the plants a little darkness, too! They need rest, as that’s when they do much of their growing.
2. Decrease watering frequency to 15 minutes on every 45 minutes.
Outside, Tower Garden crops typically need to be watered every 15 minutes. But growing in a controlled environment, such as your home, business or classroom, plants don’t need to be watered as frequently. In fact, you can set your pump timer to 15 minutes on and 45 minutes off.
Reducing the watering cycle will extend the life of your pump and minimize energy consumption. So, added perks!
3. Find the ideal location.
If you had fresh produce literally at your fingertips as you were preparing meals, wouldn't you eat more whole food-based meals? I know many growers set up their Tower Gardens in their kitchen for this very reason. Mine is in my dining room, just steps from my kitchen. And I walk over to harvest ingredients for lunch and dinner daily.
Don’t have space in your home? Garages and greenhouses are also great options, as they still offer protection from winter weather. Regardless of where you put it, just make sure your Tower Garden is easily accessible. It’s that whole “out of sight, out of mind” thing. If you don’t see it, you’ll likely use it less.
Bonus tip: If you have wooden floors, be sure to use a rug, utility mat or similar barrier to prevent accidental water spillage from damaging the floor.
4. Grow only lettuces, leafy greens and herbs.
Indoor growing is great. But it’s not without its limitations. One key limitation is fruiting crops generally will not grow well inside. There are a few reasons for this, including lighting, pollination (I wrote about both topics here) and space.
About that last factor: Most fruiting plants, such as squash, cucumbers and tomatoes get big, meaning they’ll likely shade out other plants and reach beyond the grow lights, onto your floor. Neither is ideal.
But there are several non-fruiting types of plants you can grow, including the following vegetables and herbs. (This list isn’t comprehensive—it’s just to give you an idea of the many options.)
21 Plants that Grow Well Indoors:
Want a more specific planting plan? Grow like the pros with these four Tower Garden themes—all of which grow well indoors with grow lights:
Growing plans courtesy of ATL Urban Farms.
5. Start with strong seedlings.
A strong start is one of the best ways to ensure a strong finish (i.e., abundant yields from your indoor garden). And the best way to ensure a strong start is to grow your own plants from seed.
There are many reasons to start with seeds as opposed to buying seedlings. But when it comes to indoor gardening, perhaps the biggest benefit is that it will greatly lower the possibility of pest problems. Bad bugs (or their eggs) often hitch a ride on the way in with seedlings that are grown outside. And once they get in, they’re hard to get rid of because there are no natural predators inside.
Recommended reading: How to Treat Garden Pest Problems »
If you’re going to start from seed, consider using this mini greenhouse that comes with a grow light and heat mat. The vented dome holds in the heat and humidity as the mat warms the germination tray from below. And once seeds sprout (which usually takes only a matter of days using this method), the T5 fluorescent bulb gives hungry seedlings the light they crave. So you end up with compact, healthy seedlings (rather than pale, leggy ones) that are ready to flourish once you transplant them to your Tower Garden.
“But, Logan, what if I really don’t want to start from seed?”
You should anyway.
OK… fine, fine. If you’re really opposed to growing from seed, I’d suggest buying seedlings from a Tower Garden farm. You can find a list of them here.
Ready to Grow Fresh Produce All Winter Long?
This winter, skip the slightly slimy supermarket salad greens and grow your own fresh, delicious produce instead with the Tower Garden Grow Lights Kit.
- The Grow Lights Kit includes:
- Four 54W high-output T5 fluorescent lights with bulb life of 20,000 hours
- Reflectors to improve light efficiency
- Power strip with built-in timer
- Hardware to attach the grow lights to a Tower Garden Support Cage (required for use but not included)
- Grow Light Installation Guide
… plus support from me and the rest of the Tower Garden team!
You can order your grow lights today for $219. (And if you’re buying them at the same time as a Tower Garden, you’re eligible for monthly payments.)
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