Between rising grocery costs, the growing issues of GMOs and pesticides in produce, and the increasing commercialization of the food industry, it’s getting harder and harder to find quality, organic produce.
So why not grow your own?
If you’re like most people, you probably instinctively respond with a host of objections. “I kill every plant I touch,” “it costs too much money to start a garden,” or “I don’t have enough space.” Fortunately, you don’t need a ton of money or a massive, established garden to grow fresh food for yourself and your family.
In fact, you don’t even need to leave your house. Here are my top favorite greens to grow indoors, why you should incorporate them into your diet, and how you can get started today.
Benefits of growing greens indoors
Greens are easy to grow
Many greens are easy to grow and don’t require a lot of sunlight or space. This makes them the perfect option for those who want to start gardening but don’t have a lot of outdoor space.
Growing your greens is environmentally-friendly
Growing some of your own food is an effective way to reduce waste and do your part for the environment. Transporting lettuce and other greens around the country is more detrimental than you might think.
Those bulky plastic containers of lettuce take up a lot of space on trucks, and greens can be difficult to transport without them spoiling. Growing your own greens at home can lower your carbon footprint and help the environment.
Greens can be expensive or difficult to find
High-quality greens are difficult to find in stores and can be hard on the wallet no matter what your grocery budget is. If you’re looking for microgreens, you’ll be paying top dollar for a small container that you could easily grow yourself with little effort. Adding microgreens and other leafy vegetables to your diet is more financially feasible when you grow them yourself.
You can grow greens indoors all year round
If you live in a place with harsh winters, you know that fresh greens can be hard to come by (and expensive!) during the winter months. But if you grow greens indoors, you have access to fresh, nutrient-rich greens all year round.
Best leafy greens to grow indoors
Leafy salad greens
Arugula, lettuce, kale, and spinach are all good choices for indoor growing. You can grow them in a pot or container and enjoy them in fresh salads all year round.
Salad greens are relatively easy to care for but can take up more space than some of the other options on this list, which is one of the only cons of growing these greens indoors. If you’re growing more than one or two plants, I’d recommend investing in a grow tent or a grow tower to maximize space and ensure your plants get enough light.
Health benefits of leafy salad greens
Leafy greens are a great source of vitamins and minerals like iron, calcium, and vitamins A and C. But that’s not all! These greens also contain compounds that can help protect against diseases like cancer and heart disease. Some studies have shown that eating just one serving of leafy greens per day can reduce the risk of developing these diseases by as much as 20 percent.
How to get started:
- Fill some pots or containers with a light, well-draining potting mix. You can even use recycled yogurt containers or egg cartons if you’re looking to be extra eco-friendly.
- Sow the seeds according to the package directions. Smaller seeds, like lettuce seeds, require more light to germinate, so just sprinkle them on top of the soil and cover with a very light dusting of soil. Larger seeds (like kale seeds) can be planted a bit deeper, about half an inch below the soil surface.
- Keep the soil moist but not soggy, and within a few days, you should see seedlings starting to emerge. Set your seedlings near a sunny window or under a grow light.
- When the seedlings are big enough to handle, thin them out so that they’re about eight inches apart. Pot them up into larger, one to two-gallon-sized containers. Keep them well-watered over the next several weeks.
- Begin harvesting the leaves when they’re a few weeks old. You can get a continuous harvest from leafy greens by using the cut-and-come-again method of harvesting, which means that you cut the leaves several inches away from the soil surface, leaving plenty of the plant left in the pot so that it will regrow.
Microgreens are young greens that are usually harvested about 7 to 21 days after planting. These delicate greens pack a serious nutritional punch and can be used in salads, as a garnish, or even as a healthy and flavorful addition to smoothies.
There are hundreds of ways to use microgreens in your cooking, and they are some of the easiest and most nutritious greens to grow indoors.
Health benefits of microgreens
Microgreens are a good source of vitamins C and K, as well as carotenoids and other health-promoting phytochemicals.
Additionally, studies have shown that microgreens may have higher levels of nutrients than mature greens. This is because they are harvested when their nutrient levels are at their peak, which means that microgreens are more nutritious yet easier to grow. It doesn’t get any better!
You can grow microgreens indoors all year round, and they don’t require a lot of space. You don’t even need to use soil to grow microgreens. And soilless growing means minimal mess.
Try out The Good Box Growing System to fill your meals with micros in just five easy steps.
5 Easy Steps to Grow Microgreens in The Good Box
Run both sides of jute mate under water. Make sure it is saturated. It will turn a dark brown color and feel heavy.
Scatter the seeds evenly over the mat and place the lid on the box. Keep an eye on the mat, don’t let it dry out.
Once microgreens have sprouted (usually 3 days or so), take off the lid and set it under the grow box. Place the box where it will get plenty of natural light.
Check the mat daily and keep it wet. A light spray with the kitchen faucet works great. Rotate the box for even growth.
Harvest in 4-7 days by snipping off at mat level with clean scissors. Wipe the tray off with a clean cloth, and get ready to grow some more!
Sprouts are greens that have been germinated from the seed of a plant. These greens are incredibly crisp and crunchy and make a great addition to stir-fries. While they can be a bit strange to grow at first because of the unique process, once you get the hang of it, they’re quite easy.
There are three main types of sprouts:
- Leafy greens like lettuce and spinach (technically the only type of sprout considered a “green.”
- Bean sprouts
- Grains and seeds like alfalfa, wheat, and sunflower
Health benefits of sprouts
Sprouts are the germinating shoots of various plants, and they’re packed with vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Leafy greens sprouts, in particular, are a great source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as iron and calcium. They aren’t as nutritionally dense as microgreens, but they’re a great addition to an indoor gardener’s skillset, and you cannot beat their short growing time (3-5 days).
How to grow sprouts:
You’ll need a few things to get started:
- A wide-mouth mason jar
- Cheesecloth or a sprouting lid
- Sprouting seeds
First, fill your mason jar with lukewarm water and add about one tablespoon of sprouting seeds. Swirl the seeds around in the water and then pour out the water, making sure to drain the seeds well. Place the lid on the jar, making sure that the cheesecloth or sprouting lid is in place so that the seeds can breathe.
Next, place the jar in a dark spot and let it sit for about 12 hours. After 12 hours, remove the lid and rinse the seeds well with lukewarm water. Drain the water and replace the lid.
Repeat this process of rinsing and draining the seeds 2-3 times per day until you see sprouts beginning to form! Once the sprouts are about an inch long, you can remove the lid and allow them to continue growing until they reach the desired length.
Fresh herbs are a great way to add flavor to your cooking without having to use salt or other seasonings. They’re also relatively easy to grow indoors, even if you don’t have a lot of space, since a small pot of herbs is generally sufficient for the average home cook.
Some of the best herbs to grow indoors include:
Health benefits of herbs
Herbs are not only great for adding flavor to your food, but they also offer a variety of health benefits, both medicinal and nutritional. For example, basil is a good source of vitamin K, which is important for bone health, while mint has a calming effect and can help with indigestion.
How to get started:
The easiest way to get started with growing herbs is to purchase an herb plant from your local nursery or garden center. Alternatively, you can grow herbs from seed, but this will take a bit longer and is a bit finicky.
Once you have your plant, pot it in a well-draining potting mix and place it near a sunny window. Water it regularly and fertilize it every few weeks. You can start harvesting once the plant reaches six to eight inches tall.
Growing your own food at home doesn’t have to be complicated or take up a ton of space. Even if you’ve never planted a garden, you can grow a tray of microgreens or cultivate a thriving mint plant to enjoy fresh greens on demand throughout the year. Experiment with your homegrown greens in the kitchen and watch your health improve and your grocery budget plummet. Happy growing!