Let it grow: how to start an indoor kitchen garden

Three easy ways to get your family growing food indoors, while the weather outside is frightful!

Photo by Black Thumb Gardener

Sick of the gray weather outside? Give your kitchen a healthy shot of green by starting an indoor garden! We’ll show you three easy ways to get your family growing food while the weather outside is frightful. You don’t need an especially green thumb to get this garden started, just happy kids and some pretty containers will do nicely.

Kitchen Scrap Garden:

If you’re new to gardening, a scrap garden is a low-risk investment since you don’t need to walk any further than your fridge to get started. Besides looking pretty, kitchen scrap gardens are a great way to use up parts of your vegetables that you’d normally throw in the compost. You might remember elementary school experiments that called for sprouting sweet potatoes or avocado pits on toothpicks poised over water, but it turns out the easiest scraps to start (and harvest) are celery ends, green onion roots and lemongrass ends: you can get all of these growing just by sticking the root ends in a glass of water. To get you started, we love this tutorial on 17 plants you can grow from kitchen scraps (via Black Thumb Gardener) as well as this one on kid-friendly garden projects.  Once your scraps have sprouted new growth, not only is it fun for kids to snip off their own greens to add to your meals, they’ll be much more likely to eat them since it came from “their” garden.

Sprouts and Microgreens:

Growing food from seed takes more attention, but is well worth the effort. For expert advice on seed starting, we turned to Mark MacDonald from West Coast Seeds. He recommends trying sprouts or microgreens if you have younger kids, because sprouting seeds like alfalfa or bean sprouts are ready quickly, and don’t require special equipment or strong light. “Start with anything that’s porous that water will pour through—screen or stocking,” suggests Mark “All you need to do is take a Mason jar, put about a teaspoon of seeds in, rinse the seeds three or four times a day and let the water drain out every time you rinse them.” Turn the jar back over (making sure your seeds get good air circulation) and in three or four days, you’ll have sprouts you can eat.

Herb Garden:

This garden takes the most investment, but it’ll provide you with a steady supply of home grown greens. First, decide what kind of seeds you’re going to plant—your kids may be most excited to plant pizza toppings like basil or chives; you might want to try growing a salad mix. Once you have your seeds, it’s time to think about equipment. Seeds need ample sunshine to grow into healthy plants, but doing that in winter requires full spectrum light (or grow light) to get your seeds started.  If you’d like to try building your own lighting system, there’s a great tutorial on You Grow Girl on how to do this...or a much simpler solution is to prop up a full spectrum aquarium light over top of your seed tray (as one member of our Better Together team does!). Or you can go the simplest route and buy a lighting/seed starting kit. Once you have your lights set up, you can either buy a ready-made seed tray or try this homemade newspaper starter pot that Mark shared with our friends at yoyomama.ca. Once your seedlings are up, you can transfer them to a larger pot (or can, or mason jar...) to keep growing. To get your family’s creative juices flowing when it comes to containers for your gorgeous new garden, check out these amazing indoor herb gardens made from all sorts of upcycled materials (or this ambitious bottle garden!).

Have you got a kitchen garden? We’d love to see your pictures and ideas over on our Facebook page. And if you’re looking for recipes that you can use your greens in, follow us on Twitter where we’ve got tons of tasty ideas for you.

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