The Q&A Archives: Vegetable garden

Question: Is it possible to grow vegetables or fruit indoors, that can be grown through winter and harvested by spring?

Thank You in advance!
Bill Peacock

Answer: Sure, you can grow crops indoors over the winter. All you need to do is supply the particular plants you want to grow with their preferred environmental levels, which are temperature, humidity, light level, air circulation, and nutrition. Different crops have different specified growing parameters, so do some research and find out what the type of plants you want to grow prefer.

You will want to start by evaluating the climate in the area where you would like to grow. Measure what the high and low temperatures are. Then you will know if you will need to provide any supplemental heating. If you have good, bright sunlight in the area on a regular basis during winter, you might be able to avoid using artificial lighting. However, keep in mind that fruiting vegetables, such as tomatoes, bell peppers, and cucumbers, have high light requirements. Some vegetables that have lower light requirements include lettuce, other salad greens, and some herbs. If you need artificial light, you will need to decide how much you want to spend on lights. If you have some good sunlight in the area, you might be able to get away with supplementing with cheaper fluorescent lights. Get the highest wattage fluorescents you can and use a mixture of cool and warm bulbs to provide a better spectrum for your plants. More dedicated, high intensity lighting, such as metal halide (good for vegetative growth cycles and nonfruiting plants) and high pressure sodium (good for flowering and fruiting cycles) lamps can be expensive to purchase and operate. Plants grown in an enclosed area also require regular air exchanges. Stale air needs to be ventilated and fresh air introduced at least once or twice a day for optimum growth. This rate of air exchange needs to be increased when growing a larger number of plants. This process of air exchange can be as simple as positioning two fans, one for air introduction and one for venting, at select locations. When growing in soil, make sure it is sterile, friable, and includes a good amount of composted organic material. Fertilize according to specific crop requirements.

This may sound complicated but it really isn't once you have evaluated your growing area and have set up some basic environmental controls. You can start pretty basic, grow some plants, and see how they do.

Best wishes with your project!

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