Grow Leafy Greens and Herbs All Year Anywhere

This time of year my garden is quietly waiting for the sun to return sufficiently for me to plant cold hardy crops under protection outdoors.  While I wait for the weather to improve I still want to grow and enjoy fresh salad greens and herbs.   On today’s installment of the Urban Gardening Series I am going to go through how I grow salad greens and herbs indoors. [1] The best part is you can do this literally anywhere you live or work.

Growing your own produce indoors can certainly help offset the rising prices of produce in Canada.

Growing indoor salad greens and herbs is often referred to as a kitchen garden and does not have to cost a lot of time or money.  Additionally when you look at the prices to get these herbs and leafy greens in the store you either simply cannot get them or they are very expensive! At the end of today’s video I will share one of my favorite dishes that uses these greens and herbs.

Light Source
The first thing you will need access to is a light source.  A south or southwest facing window(north of north east in the southern hemisphere) is ultimately the cheapest as you have access to free light.  If you don’t fluorescent lights are a great cheap option to get you going.  

My system takes advantage of my South or Southwest facing window while the bottom uses grow lights.  I prefer to use the free light from my window as it helps save the energy costs. 

I will put a link to a few videos that explain grow lights, how to purchase them and how I built my system in the description and at the end of this video. [2]

Lets move onto starting your salad green and herb seeds indoors.

Starting your salad greens or herbs indoors.
I started my salad greens and herbs in December before the sun started to come back following the winter solstice.  As the sun was too low in the sky I had to start with the grow lights moving the plants up in later January as the sun started to return.

I simply took a small pinch of the seeds I wanted to grow and tried to spread them across the surface of the soil.

Once I had done that I used soil on the edges to cover the seeds with a thin layer and watered them in.  This is the only time I water my indoor plants from the top.  Make sure to be gentle and add just enough to wet the seeds.  In the future I water my plants from the bottom using a tray allowing the plants to wick up what they need. 

I will touch on why bottom watering is a good idea in a future episode.

How much do I need to water indoors
Indoors you will not need to water nearly as frequently as outside.  I usually wait until the pot feels light when I pick it up.  In order to water I place 2-3cm or inch of water in the tray and let the plants and soil absorb it.

Usually once the plants grow I will need to do this every couple of days.

Why herbs and leafy greens are good for growing indoors
I started by planting Sorel, Mache and Clayton for my salad greens and Thyme, Basil, Dill, Mint and Rosemary to fill out my kitchen herbs. 

Herbs and cold hardy salad greens are especially easy to grow indoors as they are well adapted to growing in lower light conditions.

What potting mix do I use
Potting mix for indoor growing is very important.  I make mine from 1 part coconut coir or soils potting mix and 1 part compost.  The potting mix holds moisture but allows easy drainage while the compost provides more than enough nutrients allowing me to not need to fertilize with store bought products.

Cut and come again
You can thin the seedlings out using them as micro greens on your salad and as the plants grow most of these you can cut and come again frequently. If they stay healthy I will continue to harvest them right through until spring when the garden outside takes over.

Favorite Dish
Once I transferred my salad greens and herbs to the top shelf they really took off allowing me to harvest for some of our favourite dishes and to garnish salads.  The best part about the salads I have harvested from these greens is they are flavourful enough I don’t actually use any dressing making my meals that much healthier. 

I thought today I would share with you one of my favourite ways to use basil.  Nothing brings back memories of the garden like a fresh tomato and basil salad. 

It is very simple to make.  Take any tomato and cut them up into bight size chunks.  I really like doing this with cherry tomatoes.  Slice the basil into strips and if you like add some chopped Bocconcini cheese.

Toss the tomatoes, basil and cheese together with a little bit of olive oil, salt and pepper.  I then usually add a garnish of any of the other leafy greens I have and enjoy!  

As you harvest you can cut and come again extending how long you enjoy your greens letting you harvest your own fresh food all year long.

[1] Urban Gardening Series Playlist

[2] Grow lights what they are, how to purchase them and how to build a grow station.

[3] CTV News article about increasing Canadian produce.

About Stephen

The Alberta Urban Garden Channel hopes to promote organic gardening that is simple, sustainable and does not have to cost a lot. We do this by investigating the Science behind gardening, methods, practices and products to make sure that you will have the best chance of successfully growing your own food at home.