How do I grow vegetables indoors over winter?

Photo: notamaiar / Flickr

Growing vegetables and herbs indoors over the winter is a good way to supplement your diet and can also lead to learning opportunities for children.

What vegetables can I grow over winter?

According to Gateway Gardener, a gardening blog, leafy vegetables like lettuce, spinach and kale grow pretty well inside. They’re relatively low-maintenance and do well in partial shade.

Other easy plants to grow include many herbs like oregano, parsley and basil.

Related: Herb gardens give many benefits

If you have the space, try growing tomatoes and peppers. Remember, if you’re growing tomatoes and peppers, you may need to supplement sunlight with grow lights. Another thing to keep in mind with growing tomatoes is a stake will be needed to prop the plant when it bears fruit.

Where can I grow my plants?

Ideally you’ll want your plants to get sunlight throughout the day. Some plants like tomatoes and peppers may need more light than the winter sun can offer. In such cases, buying some grow lights may be in order.

Window sills, if properly sealed from drafts, make a great place to set your pots or other containers.

Pots vs. other containers

According to the Virginia Cooperative Extension, the only requirements for a vegetable containers are the following:

  • Must be big enough to support plants when they are fully grown
  • Hold soil without spilling
  • Have adequate drainage
  • Never have held products that would be toxic to plants or people

It’s easy to see how people have become very creative with their planting containers.

Instructables user tokala built an indoor window box out of tin spouting and a couple of pieces of untreated wood.

Related: Adding pallets to your garden

Other people have made growing containers out of old pallets (make sure the pallet wasn’t used for something toxic), or out of recycled soda bottles.

If you have extra canning jars after this year’s harvest, there’s a way to turn those into a cheap and creative wall planter.

Watering and fertilizing

Water your plants as you would outside. Keep in mind that the air inside your home may become dry over winter due to your furnace. Check your plants’ soil for moisture every few hours.

Fertilize according to the maker’s instructions. The West Virginia Extension service says that plants grown inside will grow less quickly, thus requiring less fertilizer. 


Because your plants are growing indoors, the risk of pests is somewhat lowered. But, some pests do thrive inside. Pests that can live indoors are include: mites, whiteflies, mealybugs and aphids.

Colorado State University Extension has a great resource page that details how to control each of the indoor pests that you may experience.

Related story: Three ways to extend your gardening season

About the Author

Will Flannigan is Farm and Dairy's online editor. He grew up in Salem, Ohio, and is new to the agricultural scene. Will enjoys hiking, community theater and learning new things. More Stories by Will Flannigan


  1. Great Ideas. I’ve been wanting to do something like this. In a basement/garage, If I used the sun lamps, I wouldn’t need direct sunlight, correct? (I’m a newb)

    • Will Flannigan says:

      Correct. Depending on the kind of vegetables/herbs that you’re growing, you’ll need stronger lamps.

      Things like tomatoes and peppers will need stronger light than things like mint or parsley.

  2. Frank DeFeo says:

    I was going to begin growing vegetables this winter in my 3X6 indoor greenhouse. Just experimenting with spinach and radishes. Any tips? I was going to keep the lighting an inch or two above the plants until established and open the greenhouse up after that as well. I’ve started seeds in the late winter/early spring for transplant outside, but never kept them indoors for good.

    • Will Flannigan says:

      Hi Frank,

      You’re doing a good thing by starting the seeds with your lights only a few inches away from your plants. Pay close attention to the amount of heat coming off of your lights, you don’t want to burn up your seedlings.

      Also be mindful of the humidity of your air indoors during winter. It’s been my experience that the air indoors gets very DRY over the winter months. With that in mind, make sure your plants are staying watered. With a furnace running and drying-out your air, you may need to change your watering habits.

    • Barb says:

      I just got a set of grow lights for Christmas (yep that and power tools LOL) I’m trying to be more self sustaining as I did grow up that way and feel we spend way to much at the grocery. Anyhow….I was thinking about just using them for starter plants this spring but now am thinking I can do a whole lot more….We have a huge laundry room in the basement and I’m thinking I could do tomatoes? I have a set up in my kitchen that I might do greens in. We already have chickens for eggs and a huge outdoor garden – but once winter comes there are less eggs and no outdoor veggies here. Thanks for the website – it got me thinking.

  3. Lex says:

    I agree with Will and the author in two things, The watering patterns in winter, depending where you are are different than those in summer//also the vent cycle is different. You will just have to use trial and error to see how it goes.

    which leads me to my second agreement..this is great learning for children. let them grow some food, prepare it and eat it..from seed to dinner. That is a lesson that will leave a mark!

  4. I have a large room on the back of my home with 8 large windows. We used it for a dining room but it just collected dust. Was going to change to a patio ( sun room) but have decided to grow some veggies this winter. Does anyone have on what kind. I thought of tomatoes, herbs, bell peppers. I saw I may be able to even grow lettuces. I live in southern Mississippi. Any ideals are welcome

  5. Heather says:

    Hi, I live in CT and my tomato and pepper plants in my earth boxes still have buds and unripe fruit on them. I don’t want to lose them to frost. Is it possible to move them inside. What kind of grow lights, pest control will be needed?

    • don says:

      heather, yes you can move them. but, it is a big but, you need to do a quick research on the root structure of the plants you want to move. some kinda ball up and stay within the general pot soil they were planted in, others will stretch out and make a wide and deep home for themselves. your success entirely depends on getting the root structure up intact and unharmed. do that and you should have no problems. pests are not a problem indoors unless you bring them in, lights depend on the type and size plants you are growing.

      put it like this, you can grow anything inside given you have powerful enough lighting to do so. at some point unless you are generating the electricity yourself it no longer becomes cost effective to grow it inside. but you are only limited by your space, lighting, cost to burn said lights and your imagination.

      have seen friends nicely insulated and heated garage in colorado transformed into tropical paradise with corn and tomato and fish and plants all over lol. it was like a steam sana in there using wind and solar and regular co-op electricity. it was nice, skylites helped and he had special uv lights etc. raised talapia in his own aquaponics setup.

      i am sure it is all pot now, that is all anyone grows there now lol. more millionaires made in colorado than anywhere because of legal pot now. course sooner rather than later gonna be a blood bath there because every pot business is setting on millions in cash. they cant put the money in the bank lol…. the funniest thing you will ever see, or not lol. money, all cash, coming out there ears with no place to put it lol…

      they dont lock up the pot anymore, no room, the money is everywhere lol. son still lives there….

      good luck with plants.

  6. Linda P says:

    Can I grow green beans in the house? How about melons?

    • Matthew Groff says:

      theoretically it is possible to grow anything indoors, given the proper soil depth, proper watering, enough soil nutrients, enough sunlight/supplemental artificial light, and enough room to grow. Now, the question should be is it Practical? lol Green beans/string beans Should not be too much of a problem as long as you use the “Bush” variety or if you use the “Pole” variety have a trellis or some sort of support for them and give them the proper sunlight or supplemental lighting, give them the proper water and the soil depth is sufficient to handle the root system and the soil you use has enough nutrients in it or you can supplement feed them.

      But as for melons they need lots of room to spread out, so you would have to have a very large planting box just for a couple of plants. The only other option is to raise them up or grow “vertically”! Either train the vines to grow upward or grow in a pot/bag and let the vines “fall”/”Rain” down toward the floor or down a trellis.

      You may have to have separate supplemental lighting for each of the types of plants you want to plant due to the different sunlight requirements that they need. Some plants only need at a minimum of 4 to 6 hours of sunlight a day, while others need 10 to 12 hours of sunlight a day. And remember there are different types of “Grow lights” available for gardeners to use. Each type has their advantages and their disadvantages.

  7. Mary Van Dam says:

    I am glad I found this site! I am going to try to grow so veggies this wi ter Indoors! I was thinking about bringing my egg plant indoors I just moved my herbs indoors andbthey are doing great! I just started raising chickens and I want to be able to keep their favorite herbs and tomatoes growing! So will regular uv shop lights work or do I need grow lights?

    • Matthew Groff says:

      If you can get the “Grow Light” bulbs that fit the specific size shop light you have, those will be better than the regular bulbs in the shop light. Or if you can afford the specially made grow lights that are specifically designed for growing indoors/greenhouse use, they would be MUCH better, But they can be VERY expensive! I have seen those “professional” models range in price from a couple hundred dollars all the way up to a couple thousand dollars! There are MANY options available to you, you just have to do a little research. Hope that helps.

  8. LindaM says:

    I have grown veggies indoors in the basement for years. No windows and a dirt floor.(Helps with watering._)
    I just plant greens in an under-the-bed storage bin with holes drilled in the bottom and filled with grow mix.
    I start seeds in them too come spring. I bring things like tomatoes, peppers and an eggplant indoors to grow thru the winter. Some tomato plants I just hose off and bring in. Others I take slips from a parent plant in the garden (or in someone else’s ! ) Just push a pencil in the grow mix/compost and insert the slip with all leaves cut off but top two or so. Water the soil in and in a few days they will have rooted. I grow them under an HID light because I have no south facing window upstairs nor one that stays above 65 degrees at night. Tomatoes and peppers want warmth. I have difficulty keeping it above 55 in the basement sometimes in the dead of winter. I then add a portable heater for those chilly days (during those days it’s usually below 0 outside.) I keep a fan going and mist regularly. I don’t have many problems with pests. Perhaps the occasional whitefly. I hang the yellow sticky strips.

    You can definitely grow green beans inside and this year I am starting a couple of small cucumbers as well. As long as they will grow under the HID lights I don’t care what ones they are… whatever I have seeds for. I think I bought some seeds for those small dukes so I will plant a couple of those. I also grow potatoes if I have any sprout. If they are sprouting then I plant them in a basket lined with a plastic bag that I have poked holes in for drainage. Grow them the same as outside. Come spring I tip them over and harvest new potatoes.

    I also dig up some flowers that are still blooming well. I pot them, water them and bring them in wherever there is a spot. I have petunias, marigolds geraniums and various other pretty things. They continue to. bloom right thru winter if you pick off the spent flowers like you do outside.

    I wanted to mention that I take slips for all the tomatoes that I want to grow the next year. While they may or may not flower and produce inside, I take slips from that plant in the spring to plant out in the next year’s garden. I get about a 30 day advantage over starting from seed. If you’re taking slips then you won’t have to worry about cross pollination. You will get a true clone of whatever the plant was that you took the slip from.

    I might even try growing mushrooms down there this year since I have some spawn.

    Good luck with whatever you decide to try. When mesclun mix is $8.99 at the market you’ll feel like you got away with something when you can go downstairs with a pair of scissors and pick lunch!

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