Grow an Indoor Winter Garden: The Best Greens and Herbs

| 12/10/2011 6:32:32 PM

Heidi CardenasBased in Lake County, Illinois, Heidi Cardenas has been freelancing since 2000. She studied business administration at the College of Lake County and has a background in human resources administration. She has written for "Chicago Parent Magazine" and guest blogs for The Herb Companion, Natural Living and TribLocal. She enjoys writing on a wide range of topics, but especially gardening, natural living, and home and family eco topics, and she helps you get your green on at  

If you like salads, salsas and pestos, you will love fresh greens like cilantro, basil, baby lettuce and parsley. These may be available at your local grocers year round for a premium price, packaged or loose, but you can easily grow them yourself indoors in the winter months for fresh, inexpensive and organic green food. 

Because the sun isn't as available in winter as it is during other times of the year, an artificial light source is important to successfully grow greens indoors during this time of year. A fluorescent grow light and a sturdy shelf with a tray to catch water are all that you need to grow several pots of greens from October to March. To avoid conditions like wilt and black fly that can kill newly emerging seedlings, a light seed starting mix is important. If you are ambitious and want to grow a lot of greens, a rack with three or four shelves and a couple of fluorescent lights suspended on chains will provide an organized area for your indoor garden. 

Mesclun, a mixture of greens that includes leaf lettuces, chervil, arugula, endive, spinach, Swiss chard, mustard greens and dandelion, is an ideal mix for growing indoors in winter. The seeds sprout into an enticing mix of tender leafy greens that are perfect for salads. When cut, they will grow back in about a week for a continuous crop. 

spinach greens 

Spinach is another easy-to-grow leafy green suited for an indoor winter garden. The tasty dark green leaves are packed with vitamins and minerals including vitamins A, C, E, K and B6, protein, zinc, calcium, magnesium and iron—valuable nutrients for health and well-being. Seeds soaked overnight before planting will sprout in about a week into young spinach plants that are ready for cutting in a couple of weeks with proper light and water.