Growing your own vegetables can be rewarding, and it clearly offers a number of health benefits. However, growing vegetables is not without a challenge. Depending on the region where you live, one challenge can be inclement weather. Another challenge can be rodents and other small animals getting into your garden. Weeds are also a constant problem for the beginner gardener.

One way to avoid those problems is to grow vegetables indoors. This is a great option during the winter.tomatoes-with-other-veggies

By growing your vegetables indoors, you can have much better control over the elements that the plants are exposed to. This eliminates the need for pesticides, allowing you to grow healthy organic veggies.

Plants need plenty of sunshine. Look to your South-facing windows as the best source of light. You can also try artificial light - fluorescent 48" tubes with a "warm white" light do a good job at emulating natural light. However, standard fluorescents are not intense enough for plants with big canopies or plants that grow over a foot tall. Metal halide lights may be a viable alternative.

If you have a large enough window, you can place a gutter, or build a long narrow box, and plant peas and other small vegetables in it. This method requires an inch or two of rocks at the bottom of the planter, covered by good soil.

A simple irrigation system can be added using a rubber hose running the length of the planter under the dirt, with holes punched every six inches or so. Use a funnel to add water, taking care to not overdo it. Damp soil is all you need.

The easiest crops to plant indoors are lettuce, herbs, and mushrooms. As a rule, look to plants that don't grow very tall, or consider vine plants and grow these vertically.

People have found very ingenious ways to optimize space and grow vegetables indoors. One inventive idea is to use a shoe organizer to plant veggies vertically. To do so, simply line each pocket with a plastic bag, then fill it with soil. The trick with this method is to only plant short vegetables.

A more conventional idea is to grow vine plants on a wall-mounted trellis. You'd begin by planting green beans or tomatoes on clay pots, but you'd place these against the wall with the trellis, which would allow them to climb the trellis with their vines as they grow.

An even simpler method is to build wooden shelves, which can easily be done with hollow brick and 2x10s or 2x12 planks, and then place rows of potted plants on these.

While you may avoid most pests by planting indoors, aphids are still a very likely problem. Before resort to using toxic chemicals as a solution, look to oils and soaps - many of these are an effective natural solution against aphid infestation. Keep in mind that if you're seeing aphids, you're quite likely over-watering your plants. As you fight off the insects with oils or soaps, cut down on your watering and you'll soon have this problem solved.

As with all gardening projects, don't start with over-ambitious goals. Master one crop and one method before moving on to the next. Let each success inspire a new project. Soon you'll be rewarded by watching green things grow even in the middle of winter.

About John Keisling

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