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Rhonda Ferree's ILRiverHort

Rhonda Ferree's Horticulture Blog
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Grow Food Indoors This Winter

Many of us have vegetable gardens that provide us with delicious, fresh produce all summer long, but do you also grow food indoors in the winter?

I'm teaching an Indoor Gardening Series every Wednesday in October for Bradley University's OLLI program. The last session is on the edible indoor garden. As I researched and prepared for this program, I was amazed by how many food crops you can actually grow indoors.

Some types of edible indoor gardens to try include window gardens, containers, special systems, and indoor greenhouses. The most limiting factor for growing plants indoors is light, so whichever option you choose must include a bright window or supplemental lighting.

Window gardens are very easy to do, especially when using prepared herb kits. I have small pots of cilantro and lettuce growing on my windowsill right now. I simply sprinkled some seed in a small container, gave it a little water, and placed it all in a mock greenhouse. My favorite mock greenhouse is one of those zippered plastic bags that linens come in, but Ziploc bags work too.

There are many possibilities with container herbs. I often grow rosemary indoors in the winter since it doesn't overwinter outdoors. Another great idea is to do a mixed container of herbs in a large container or strawberry pot. Or try a small patio or salad tomato grown in a 5 gallon bucket.

There are many products on the market today that make indoor gardening easier. Examples include self-watering containers and the system. I have an Aerogarden in my kitchen where I grow herbs and greens all year long. An Aerogarden is a hydroponic system that grows plants in water using a premixed nutrient solution. The system has lights that raise and lower to match plant growth. It is all contained and quite simple to use.

I predict that we will see more and more high tech indoor growing systems in the future. Have you ever been to The Land at Epcot in Florida or to the O'Hare Urban Garden in Chicago airport's Rotunda Building? The O'Hare vertical aeroponic gardens are nestled between terminal 2 and 3 on the mezzanine level. There you'll find 26 towers with more than 44 different types of organic herbs and vegetables, including Swiss chard, arugula, basil, chives, dill, sage, edible flowers, lettuces, hot peppers, and more.

But you do not have to have an expensive or high tech growing system to grow your own food indoors. Be creative. Try growing onion or celery tops in water. I'm experimenting with growing carrots in a 2-liter bottle.

Keep the freshness going all year-round by growing your own herbs, vegetables, sprouts, or even mushrooms indoors this winter. Hmm, Hmm, Good!

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