GROW AN IN­DOOR GAR­DEN

How to plant herbs and greens in­side

Chicago Sun-Times - - DRIVE HOME - BY MARY CADDEN

Amer­i­cans have started gar­den­ing again, in large part be­cause of the pan­demic and re­cent eco­nomic down­turn.

The rea­sons are twofold: for stress re­lief and for food.

And while many have ad­e­quate out­door space to plant or keep a con­tainer gar­den, a sig­nif­i­cant num­ber of peo­ple do not — think apart­ment and condo dwellers.

That leaves only the great in­doors. Googling “grow­ing veg­eta­bles or ed­i­ble plants in­doors” elic­its myr­iad posts that claim you can “eas­ily” grow any­thing from av­o­ca­dos to toma­toes in your home or small apart­ment.

That might be stretch­ing it.

How do you de­fine in­side?

Af­ter all, we’re talk­ing about grow­ing plants by the win­dow or on the win­dowsill, and not in, say, green­houses and so­lar­i­ums.

And last we checked, many apart­ments don’t come with wash­ers or dry­ers, let alone so­lar­i­ums.

Also, how do you de­fine grow?

“There’s a dif­fer­ence be­tween what you can tech­ni­cally grow in­doors and what you can suc­cess­fully grow in­doors,” says P. Allen Smith, host of “P. Allen Smith’s Gar­den to Ta­ble” on PBS and au­thor of sev­eral books on gar­den­ing. “Are we look­ing for the ef­fort or the re­sults? I’m look­ing for re­sults.”

So, yes, you can tech­ni­cally grow an av­o­cado or tomato plant in your apart­ment. But if you’re think­ing of sup­ple­ment­ing your gua­camole habit by grow­ing them in­side your small space, think again.

How­ever, that doesn’t mean you can’t grow any­thing ed­i­ble in­doors.

If you want to nur­ture some­thing un­der your roof that you can eat with­out in­vest­ing in spe­cial­ized equip­ment like grow lights, you just have to think about greens. Greens are higher yield and lower main­te­nance, with only a few sim­ple wants and needs: ad­e­quate light, wa­ter and a com­fort­able en­vi­ron­ment.

As for light, “it’s a fine bal­ance,” says Smith. “You want a lot, but not too much.”

Of course, it de­pends where you’re lo­cated ge­o­graph­i­cally and where your win­dows face.

For fac­tors like hu­mid­ity and tem­per­a­ture, you don’t have to over­think it. “If you’re com­fort­able, then the plant is com­fort­able,” he says.

So if you de­cide to ven­ture into grow­ing ed­i­ble plants that are cost-ef­fec­tive with­out be­ing time-con­sum­ing, we rec­om­mend start­ing with the fol­low­ing:

Sprouts and mi­cro­greens

Ar­guably the eas­i­est ed­i­ble plant you can grow on your win­dowsill or counter — any­thing from wheat­grass to al­falfa to soy­beans.

Not only are they good for you, but they’re also a great healthy way to in­tro­duce gar­den­ing to chil­dren.

Herbs

Think of what gives your food and drink some kick.

Pars­ley, oregano, basil and lemon­grass all work. And un­like out­door herbs, they can be grown year-round.

Green onions

Green onions can be grown by plac­ing bulbs in wa­ter and set­ting them on a win­dowsill. Just trim from the top as needed.

One added bonus with all of these plants: They’re also or­na­men­tal, a big plus when plant­ing in a small space.

“The beau­ti­ful thing about do­ing let­tuces and herbs is that they’re pretty,” says Smith. And har­vest­ing is easy: “Just clip them off and throw them in a salad or what­ever you’re do­ing.”

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