The idea of getting your own crop of greens, herbs, and even vegetables on the windowsill is a very tempting one. And inevitably: associated with myths, misconceptions, and tales of disappointment. These days, growing herbs on your balcony or in your kitchen are not only popular but it’s also trendy.
But before you sow lettuce, cilantro, and mint in pots, it’s worth judiciously evaluating your options. Growing a vegetable garden on the windowsill is possible only under the right conditions. And first and foremost – the right light.
This article debunks the myths about growing greens and vegetables at home and “paints” a realistic picture of the garden on the windowsill.
MYTH 1. VEGETABLES AND GREENS ARE EASY TO GROW AT HOME ALL YEAR ROUND.
What started as a fad to have fresh homegrown herbs and vegetables even in the winter has developed into a real disappointment for many people.
Instead of fast growth and long-awaited harvests, herbs and greens transplanted from the vegetable garden into pots in the fall or immediately sown indoors look like their peers in the bed.
Even greens that grow successfully on the balcony in summer suffer when winter comes – stretching and dropping their leaves. If it does not starve to death, it will recover with the arrival of spring, and with pruning, it will be a delight to flower and harvest.
The reason for the “winter crisis” in the home vegetable garden is simple – underestimation of the task. Plants in pots, boxes, and containers can indeed be grown indoors. But you should know that to achieve such a desirable result, even the most rustic types of salads and greens need to provide everything needed for normal active vegetation.
And therein lies the main problem with windowsill vegetable gardens. Their owners do not realize that for the vegetables and greens in the house to be harvested, they need to be combined with all the conditions in the bed:
- bright lights and long days.
- stable heat.
- access to fresh air.
- replenishment of all necessary nutrients.
- adequate hydration.
- timely shaping.
The task of recreating summer on the windowsill is far from trivial. After all, it is no accident that in the West, growing herbs and vegetables at home began to use automatic settings with climate control. This decorative small vertical greenhouse.
Provides everything you need for plants indoors in the fall and winter, really, only with the power of “robots”. Or those who are willing to spend a lot of time and effort to get an uncommon harvest.
After all, a limited crop area means a limited yield. Greens and vegetables on the windowsill are a pleasant, useful, but very small addition to the diet.
MYTH 2: YOU CAN GROW LEAFY GREENS ANYWHERE INDOORS.
The proper placement is the key to the successful home growing of herbs and vegetables. Only heated, glassed-in lanais, balconies, and bay windows on the south, southeast, and southwest windows with adequate light levels are suitable for growing vegetable gardens.
Even in the summer, plants on the east or west windows do not get enough light and require artificial supplemental lighting. And what can be said about winter!
It is simply not acceptable inside the room without being placed on a windowsill, unless it is an automatic climate system for a special display case.
Choose a room with high humidity for your home vegetable garden. Pots with greenery are most often placed in the kitchen, not only for aesthetic reasons.
MYTH 3: SOUTH BAY WINDOWS ARE WELL LIT
Growing an indoor vegetable garden, especially in the winter or fall, requires more than just choosing the brightest window. Even herbaceous plants, not to mention vegetables, need plenty of light and long hours of light to develop properly.
To develop properly, plants need at least 12 hours of light per day, ideally 14 hours. And you can only provide it with extra light. Installing plant lights is needed not only in the cold season but also on cloudy days. And you can’t do without it on the south window.
Only specialized plants can provide ideal growing conditions, but for the simplest green plants and young herbs usually measures simple additional lighting is sufficient.
MYTH 4: ANY ROOM TEMPERATURE WILL DO
Greens in pots and containers require stable temperatures: at least 59°F (15°C) for salads and 64°F (18°C) for vegetables, with a diurnal temperature difference of at least 37°F (3°C) for proper growth and development.
Room temperature is good, but not always. Vegetables prefer temperatures of 71-77°F (22-25°C). Also, even with salads, ventilation, sudden jumps in temperature, and low air humidity are unacceptable.
And the air in the room must be timed! That is, the plants should be constantly protected from cold airflow by ventilating them in winter.
MYTH 5: YOU CAN GROW ANYTHING ON A WINDOWSILL.
In container culture, regardless of plant location, you can grow a fairly small list of vegetables and greens – hardy, unpretentious, and perfectly adapted to a limited amount of soil.
Only the most hardy herbs – parsley, dill, basil, fennel, cilantro, melon, tarragon – grow without problems on a windowsill with good light and control conditions. Mint, marjoram, chamomile, and other “tea” plants can languish in winter even with extra light.
Vegetable onions grow easily even in hydroponics or just in water and are good for windowsills.
For salads it’s a bit more complicated: you can only sow leafy and spicy salads, which are best eaten and harvested when very young. There are special mixes to grow baby salads.
There is no problem in giving delicious sprouts, arugula, green beans, and chicory in any soil. Spinach can also be sown on the windowsill for mini greens.
If you want to specifically supplement a variety of greens, consider growing miniature vegetables – sprouting seeds of radishes, beets, beans, sunflowers.
From root crops, you can grow mini carrots and a full crop of early, moisture-loving radishes.
It is easier not to make mistakes in the choice of vegetables. Focus on the classification of balcony varieties – plants with special balcony or potted varieties. You can try to grow tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers (especially spicy and edible decorations, which can also be considered as a full-fledged houseplant).
However, when selecting varieties, self-pollinating, early maturing, low-growing, cold-tolerant, well-grown, partial shade varieties should be the main focus. Midget and miniature variants are ideal.
Strawberries grow well in pots, but they need very bright light.
Growing new plants from seed, rather than buying or transplanting adult plants into pots, has a much easier chance of success. Young seedlings are better adapted to a windowsill, while adult plants need similar conditions to previous plants and will inevitably wilt.
You don’t have to restore everything to a vegetable garden. Indoor fruit plants such as citrus fruits, pomegranates, cinnamon, pineapples, and even coffee can be quite rewarding.
MYTH 6: ANY POT AND SOIL WILL DO.
To grow greens and vegetables, choose shallow, wide containers with plenty of space and drainage holes, so there is little risk of water accumulation. Be sure to have a drainage opening at the bottom – about one-third of the height of the pot.
The substrate is even more important! For greens, do not use any soil but nutrient-rich, complex, coarse, loose soil containing leafy soil, loose soil, and peat with non-compacting additives.
Perlite, coarse sand, and vermiculite are ideal additives, in addition to charcoal, gypsum, and coconut fiber. It is worth evaluating the prospects of using hydroponics.
For herbs and vegetables, it is best to provide top drainage as well to minimize the risk of overwatering.
MYTH 7: SOWING SEEDS ON A WINDOWSILL IS SIMILAR TO SOWING SEEDS IN A BED.
To get a bumper crop of herbs and grasses for your home, sow seeds densely and a short distance apart so that the seedlings completely fill the space in the pot, creating a dense mat.
For vegetables, it is best to sow the seeds individually, 2-3 seeds per pot at a time, and then remove the weaker shoots. For each variety, you should follow all sowing rules very strictly.
MYTH 8: WINDOW SILL GARDENS REQUIRE ONLY MINIMAL CARE.
Only uncompromising care can bring about a windowsill harvest:
- Watering must be done very carefully. Even herbs that are not the most water-loving will not tolerate complete drought without losing their ornamental value. But dampness is not an option either. Moisture-loving lettuce should be watered with a steady stream of moisture, but not too much. Allow the top layer of soil to dry out between waterings. The best way is not to water the most, but to water often.
- Fertilize regularly, but in small concentrations so that the nutrient stock in the soil remains stable. Special fertilizers for fruiting plants should be used. Growth stimulants and organic fertilizers are only allowed to be used in the form of biofertilizers with controllability.
- Pruning should be done at the right time to avoid stunting of the plant.
- The cleanliness of leaves, soil, and containers must be impeccable.
And most importantly – the greenery and vegetables on the windowsill must be constantly monitored, noticing the slightest problems and reacting adequately.
We hope that our article will enable you to truly evaluate your chances of success in organizing a vegetable garden on the windowsill.
With the arrival of spring, the easiest way for beginners is to try this hobby for yourself. If you have a south-facing windowsill and you follow our advice on choosing crops for your home vegetable garden, then you have a good chance of success.
But “vegetable garden on the windowsill in winter – no worries” is a utopia. Start growing herbs and vegetables in the winter at home should only those who have a positive experience in growing these crops in the open air, can provide your vegetable garden light, temperature, and care that the plants need. In other words, “no worries” is not an option.
You made a good decision!