For those of us who don’t have the luxury of South facing outdoor space filled with productive raised beds, it can take a bit more creativity to work out what we can grow. Having lived in a single glazed, North facing tenement flat I am well acquainted with the variety of challenges this creates; the good news is that not only can you still grow but the plants can actually help improve your environment.

When growing indoors, the most important factor to consider is light. If you have ever grown from seed near a window, you may have noticed that your seedlings reach toward the light. If the light levels are too low they become tall and leggy, with more stem than foliage. To help combat this problem, it’s ideal to place your plants in a south facing space, not too far from the window. If you aren’t south facing, try to work out the sunniest place in your flat and choose plants that mature quickly and perform well in lower light situations. Micro greens such as sprouts are a great first crop for this, but if you’re keen on something a bit more substantial than that, salad leaves are the way to go. Spinach, kale and mustard greens make incredible (and super healthy) additions to salads which are excellent when harvested at the baby leaf stage; as a bonus they are forgiving of lower light levels.

Frequent harvesting of herbs and salad greens is important because no matter how cool your flat may be, it’s still warmer than the outdoor environment that they are used to. This warmth is great to get things started before the outdoor season has begun, but in the summer it means things are likely to bolt (also known as going to seed – when they flower) if left to grow too long.  Once a plant has bolted you will notice that the flavour changes and while still edible, the flavour is compromised. You are likely to find you have a glut of greens in the summer while you keep on top of this, so consider freezing your herbs in ice cubes trays. Spinach, kale and mustard greens can also be frozen for use in soups and stews at a later time.

What about damp and drafts? The vast majority of plants prefer air humidity which is greater than the average house. Houseplant aficionados are always trying to find a way to increase the humidity around their plants and many houseplants are considered natural dehumidifiers as they help to absorb excess moisture in the air. Edible crops are however somewhat different from your average houseplant in this respect; while they are very unlikely to be negatively impacted by a damp indoor environment (just remember indoors will always be drier and less drafy than outdoors), they do not provide the same dehumidification effect as other plants.  If you are keen to get some green indoors that helps to manage humidity, consider options such as air plants, spider plants, and even ivy; these are all easy to grow and care for and are very efficient at absorbing moisture from the air.

The concept of bringing plant life indoors is called biophilic design, and helps to increase our connection to the natural world. I’m sure we can all agree that connection to nature is something we could all do with a bit more of in our lives.


By Emily Hairstans