Cultivating indoors and being able to harvest fresh vegetables and herbs all year round may sound like a dream for many, but it is fully possible - even in the middle of winter.
The most convenient choice would be to buy a hydroponic system, such as the Harvy grow box, or a mini-greenhouse. This makes cultivating during the winter super simple! Whether you use a hydroponic system, a mini-greenhouse, or regular pots - continue to read to find out how to best cultivate indoors during winter.
The biggest challenge with winter cultivations is the lack of sunlight. The sun is not strong enough and the number of hours with sunlight is too few to suffice healthy cultivations. The plants find it difficult to germinate and become rickety, if not provided with enough light and heat.
With grow lights, you help your indoor cultivation with this problem. There are many varieties to choose from for indoor cultivation, such as light bulbs, light bars, and different kinds of hangers and rackets to attach the lighting on.
Make sure that the lighting is adapted to the spot where you want to cultivate. Sometimes lighting from an ordinary window lamp in combination with a few hours of daylight is enough for your cultivation. Since an ordinary lamp emits heat that small plants do not like, it is important not to let an ordinary window lamp hang too close to the crops. Most plants need light to grow strong, rather than eat.
Speaking of heat, some plants really enjoy it, though. Herbs, especially basil, are heat-loving plants! With a heating pad, you can help your seeds germinate faster and better. Use the pad by placing a mini-greenhouse or pots with barrels directly on it, and the soil will be heated to about 29 degrees. Although, note that a heating pad is not for all seeds. Lettuce seeds, for example, do not germinate at temperatures above 20 degrees.
If you have floor heat at home, that works just as fine. Place the mini-greenhouse or pots on the floor instead. The seeds do not need any light until they have begun to rise above the soil surface. When that happens, move to a window sill, for example, or provide with grow light.
Remember to ventilate the mini greenhouse, if you’re using one, as the heating pad contributes to increased condensation. The pad or floor heat is only used until your seeds have gotten their first character leaves.
Choose nutritious and well-drained soil for your indoor cultivation. To retain the moisture of the soil, you can sprinkle a bit of Vermiculite into it, a soil improver that both absorbs and emits moisture.
You can also sprinkle in a handful of Perlite, another natural and environmentally friendly soil improvement material. Perlite looks like crumbled styrofoam and makes the soil airy and porous. This material makes the seeds germinate faster and creates conditions for strong roots to form.
There are mini-greenhouses with an irrigation function to make the seeds germinate faster and to keep the humidity level even. This is a very practical self-watering choice to keep the soil moist.
If you grow in a pot or trough, be sure to keep the sowing moist - both before and after the seeds have started to germinate. Preferably water the seed with a spray bottle, otherwise, the seeds might move around from a too strong jet of water. The soil should be moist but not wet. If you don’t water regularly, the plants might develop a bitter taste.
During winter, cultivate herbs and leafy vegetables that are easy to grow from seed to plant. Choose varieties that you use regularly in your cooking. Basil, cilantro, and lettuce, like baby leaf lettuce, can be grown indoors all year round, for example. Ruccola, or arugula, is also a delicious choice - imagine picking these fresh from the windowsill all year round!
Harvest your herbs gradually. You harvest basil best by pinching the top leaves when. The plant will form new side shoots and branches afterward. Do not let the herbs bloom, this will cause a bad taste and the plant will be thin and weak, as all the plant’s energy will go to the flowers.
Sow new seeds at 1-3 weeks apart. This way, you will be able to harvest regularly.
Lettuce is an example of a plant that can be re-sown quite quickly, just 1-2 weeks apart. Another simple and grateful crop to grow indoors in batches during winter are sprouts. Both crops are also extremely rich in vitamins and are fast-growing. Sprouts are ready to be eaten in a week or so, and some lettuce varieties after about 2-3 weeks.
Good luck cultivating!