And for good reason: Locally grown produce tends to be better for the environment and for local communities than its store-bought counterparts. Growing food at home also ensures that growers know exactly where their food comes from and how it was grown (no need to worry about deceptive food labeling). If you're not whipping out the pruning shears yet, consider this: Learning new skills is good for our brains.
Luckily, you don't need to be a farmer (or even live near a farm) in order to reap the benefits of home-grown produce. If you have a sunny window (or two, or five) and a bit of extra time on your hands, then you're capable of growing your own food right at home. Read on for our roundup of 16 easy, healthy plants to cultivate indoors - and how to get them growing!
General Growing Tips
Before you get started, here are a few tips that will be handy to keep in mind no matter which of the plants from this list you choose to grow.
All of these plants require well-draining soil, which means you will either need to use a pot with holes in the bottom or pile up some stones in the bottom of your pot before adding soil (so that the water can drain through the stones). If you choose to use a pot with holes in the bottom, be sure to put a shallow drainage container under the pot so the water doesn't drain onto your floor, shelf, or windowsill.
For each of these plants, feel free to purchase potting mix at a garden center or make your own (You can also choose whether or not you want to stick with organic soils). Each plant grows best in a slightly different soil environment, but this general potting mix recipe will help get you started.
Many of these plants grow best in areas that receive lots of sunlight and remain fairly warm throughout the day. Sunny windows are extremely helpful for growing plants indoors. However, if you don't have sunny windows (or if the area is a low temperature), grow lights will be your new best friend - they help maintain optimal light and temperature conditions for plants regardless of outside weather or indoor conditions.
Fruits and Veggies
Photo by: Flickr user Alpha
Why They're Healthy: Avocados are chock full of healthy fats in addition to vitamins E and B6 and carotenoids, which are high in vitamin A and have been linked to a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, and eye degeneration. No wonder these fruits are one of our favorite superfoods!
How to Grow: It's possible to grow an avocado tree from an avocado pit, but doing so may not yield edible fruit. If you want to eat what you sow, it's best to purchase a dwarf avocado plant (varieties that yield the larger green-skinned fruit or the more common black-skinned fruits are equally good) . To tend for your tree, add some sand to the bottom of a large, well-draining pot before filling it with regular potting mix and planting your tree. Water the tree regularly but make sure the soil is never soggy - avocado roots don't take well to being waterlogged. Prune the shoots regularly, and be sure to place the tree in an area with high ceilings - even dwarf trees can grow higher than 10 feet!
How to Harvest: Green varieties are ready to harvest when the fruits' skin turns slightly yellow, while darker varieties are ready when their skins have turned almost black. Ripe fruits can be left hanging on the tree for a few weeks, but any longer than that and they'll start to lose their flavor and texture.
Photo by: Flickr user missellyrh
Why They're Healthy: Carrots are a good source of a variety of vitamins and minerals, including thiamin, niacin, folate, manganese, potassium, and vitamins B6, A, C, and K. They also supply carotenoids, which are a big boon for eye health .
How to Grow: Purchase carrot seeds and a pot or window box that's at least a foot and a half deep and wide, with drainage holes at the bottom. Fill the container to within an inch of the top with a humus-rich potting mix. Water the soil before planting the seeds. Plant the seeds one inch apart in rows that are six inches apart from each other, pressing the seeds gently into the soil and covering them with a thin layer of soil. Water. Place the container in an area that receives tons of light. Keep the soil moist, but not soaked. To help preserve moisture, soak some peat moss in water overnight and then spread it on top of the seeds. Expect the seeds to germinate (i.e., start sprouting) in about two weeks.
How to Harvest: Carrots are ready for harvest when they've grown to about ¾ of an inch across the top (just below the green stem). If you can't see the carrot itself, gently brush aside some soil around the stem so you can size it up (Note: Though it may be tempting to see how big carrots can get, they'll start to lose their sweetness and flavor once they surpass their peak size.). To pick the carrots, grab them firmly at the root and wiggle them around a bit, then pull straight up. If you find that the soil is quite hard, water it and then wait an hour or so before retrying the harvest. Once the carrots have been pulled from the soil, remove the greens immediately, wipe off any excess dirt, and let them dry before storing them in the fridge.
For more of the best edible plants to grow indoors, click here.