Even the smallest urban kitchen can have an indoor garden. You just have to find a creative location for it. For example, countertops, windowsills and even walls can be great planting spots, and the harvest is worth the effort. “Kitchen gardens are an easy, affordable way to enjoy fragrant scents, fresher air, tasty edibles and a connection with nature—all within arm’s reach of where you’re cooking,” says Jennifer Long, co-founder of Garden Tribe. Read on to learn where in your kitchen you can get your green thumb on.
If you have a southern exposure and four to six hours of sunlight daily, this is the perfect place to start container gardening. Long recommends focusing on heartier herbs like thyme, basil, rosemary and oregano. Additionally, she says, “Start with plants from your local garden center, which is easier than starting from seeds.” Once you get a feel for what grows well in your environment, group your plantings: basil with items like arugula, cilantro and other aromatic greens for example.
Almost anything can work as a container, like soup cans and plastic buckets, as long as you poke holes at the bottom for drainage. “But be mindful [of] materials that may be toxic,” says Long, “since you’ll be eating the fruits of this labor.” That means avoid reusing old paint cans or anything that previously held something other than food. To ensure proper drainage, make sure containers have at least one hole in the bottom, and fill out larger containers with fresh organic potting mix.
As for watering, the top inch of soil should dry out in between feedings, but everything below should stay moist. Water deeply so that water runs out of the bottom of the pot into a saucer, but don’t let the plants sit in standing water for more than a few minutes.
For those short on square footage, a vertical garden can turn a blank wall space into a growing surface. All you need is a support structure and a nearby door or window for some sunlight. Try felt pocket planters (which you can DIY or buy) or “living pictures,” which are wood frames full of moss that you can plant in. Add some kind of a tray to catch excess runoff if your setup doesn’t include one.
Long recommends grouping your plants by their watering needs so they always get the appropriate amount. “Don’t mix dry-condition plants with water lovers, ” Long says.
If you geek out over science, try a hydroponic garden where you sprout and grow plants in water without soil—ideal for countertops and kitchens with too little natural light: “Hydro” options like the AeroGarden let you substitute an LED lamp for sunlight. (Herbs and lettuces sourced hydroponically fare well.) While most kits are designed for counters, they also make for a nice decor on a desk or kitchen table. You can also house a simple kit in a sunny windowsill.
If fragrant flowers, glossy leaves and fresh fruit are your thing, clear some floor space for a citrus tree. While dwarf citrus trees require higher maintenance than other options, they’re trendy, and turn out nice drink and meal garnishes. For best results, grow citrus in a large container that gets eight to 12 hours of direct sun a day.
Quiz: What’s Your Gardening IQ?
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Maybe you keep potted herbs on your windowsill—or maybe you volunteer in your community garden. Whatever your planting experience, take our quiz, developed with Weston Miller, community horticulturist at Oregon State University, to see whether you’ve got a green thumb … or whether you’re just green when it comes to gardening.
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1-2 correct answers: Seedling: You’re in the early stages of your gardening journey, but that’s OK! Tomatoes are a good starter plant—and then you can try these 5 Things To Do With Fresh Tomatoes.
3-5 correct answers: Great Grower: You clearly know what you’re doing—but everyone could benefit from these Easy Ways To Keep Your Lawn Greener.
6-7 correct answers: Garden-Variety Expert: Congrats—you’re a bona fide gardening pro! Check out these Natural And Effective Pest-Control Techniques to give your garden some extra TLC.
Question 1 of 7
How many hours of sunlight a day should a vegetable garden get?Correct
8 hours is ideal.Incorrect
8 hours is ideal.
Question 2 of 7
Which one of the following vegetables does not thrive in the summer when temperatures are above 70 degrees?Correct
Lettuce grows best during spring or fall when temperatures dip below 70 degrees.Incorrect
Lettuce grows best during spring or fall when temperatures dip below 70 degrees.
Question 3 of 7
True or False: You don’t have to use fertilizer if you use compost.Correct
Compost improves structure and overall health of the soil, while fertilizer gives it the specific nutrients it needs for plants to thrive.Incorrect
Compost improves structure and overall health of the soil, while fertilizer gives it the specific nutrients it needs for plants to thrive.
Question 4 of 7
How long are seeds good for?Correct
Seeds are good for about one year, although it’s best to plant seeds as soon as possible after purchasing.Incorrect
Seeds are good for about one year, although it’s best to plant seeds as soon as possible after purchasing.
Question 5 of 7
How often should you harvest plants like cucumbers and tomatoes?Correct
Twice a week is ideal, and the more you harvest them, the more your plant will yield.Incorrect
Twice a week is ideal, and the more you harvest them, the more your plant will yield.
Question 6 of 7
All of the following plants are in the mustard (brassicaceae) family, except:Correct
Chives are part of the onion (alliaceae) family.Incorrect
Chives are part of the onion (alliaceae) family.
Question 7 of 7
Why is it important to rotate plants?Correct
If you don’t rotate crops from season to season, your garden will be susceptible to insects or disease buildup in the soil.Incorrect
If you don’t rotate crops from season to season, your garden will be susceptible to insects or disease buildup in the soil.
After you upgrade your kitchen, make sure your investment is protected. Get a fast, free homeowners insurance quote through the GEICO Insurance Agency.
Read more: Now that your indoor garden is set up, upgrade your outdoor space with these curb appeal ideas.
By Danielle Blundell