What food plants can one grow in an apartment?

…and I mean in an apartment. We don’t have a balcony or any other outside space, and we can’t hang things out our window. We do have a little free space next to windows in the apartment though.

We’d like to note only grow some spices, but also maybe some tomatoes or something like that. Will this be possible?

Which direction does your window face? If it’s north, you may only be able to grow herbs. Tomatoes would require a LOT more light than even an east or west window might be able to provide (not to mention space). You may manage tomatoes in a south-facing window. Again, though, space is the bottleneck.

Actually, on reflection, you could probably manage lettuce and other leaf veggies in any window, given the space. Anything that requires flowering to produce fruit (tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, etc) is unlikely in anything but a south window, though.

Our windows face mostly west. There are a couple that face south, but they don’t get much light until about noon, because they’re blocked by another building.

You may be out of luck for tomatoes and other edible-fruit veggies, then. I don’t think four hours of full sun a day may be enough. The advantage veggies out in the garden have is that they’re in sunlight for most of the day, barring morning or evening house shadow.

You’re probably better off trying windowsill herb gardening. Most herbs are foliage-based, so don’t need the kind of sun that will trigger and sustain flowering.

I’m afraid you’re pretty much SOL. Indoor plants are, for the most part, understory plants from tropical jungles. Racking my brain, I come up empty. I can’t think of any such plants that produce food. Violets and pansies have edible flowers, but don’t tend to thrive indoors. I’d think they would get leggy. I’m also not sure they’d produce enough blurbs to be worthwhile. Other edible flowers I can think of–nasturtium, calendula, etc.–all require more sun.

And even if you had a SW facing bay window, your plants would still be under a roof, and would not get as much light as plants outside facing SW. As a plant geek who once did have a SW-facing bay window, and who had the same thought, again, I got nothin.

If you think about it, most of the herbs and spices we use come from places like the Mediterranean, or other warmer climes. Even lettuces, as suggested above, I feel certain would grow pale and leggy, although I’ve never tried them indoors myself.

Hot peppers - there are a lot of very compact varieties that will do well in a small pot on the windowsill.

Most stuff will just get leggy and fall over with that little light. Get a fluorescent grow light - they are cheap and easy to use as a supplement to normal light. Herbs and leaf lettuce are easy then.

Commercial site on indoor container vegetable gardening; naturally they would like to sell you a lot of equipment, but there’s some useful basic information on different growing setups and what to grow.

Mushrooms. You should be able to buy read-to-grow bags of oyster and possibly other mushroom species - all you do is slit the bag and spray with water as per the instructions.

They might have some sort of specific light/darkness requirements to get them started, but they don’t actually require direct energy from sunlight to grow.

A friend of mine grows jalapeños (or is it habaneros?) with great success. He makes a mean chili sauce.

The big item here is the light intensity. Its near impossible to get photon levels anywhere near ‘natural’ in indoor areas without going super-tech with equipment/hardware. Many ‘leafy’ plants can be grown acceptably with lower levels, but often results are less than expected. I have used different types of fluoro bulbs (both ‘basic’ and the newer ‘power compacts’) and had good results in the past with starting bonsai-destined ‘seedlings’, but seems that there are great LED-based ‘lamps’ nowadays that produce much less waste-heat per watt-of-output yet have the appropriate frequency/‘color’ of output. I strongly recommend supplemental lighting at proper ‘colors’ for any indoor area that is less than surrounded by large windows with near-constant sunshine :wink: Of course, there are likely certain types of plants that would not require such light-intensity for good growth, but I plead ignorance in such delineations of species. The closer you can replicate the ‘natural’ needs of a plant, the more realistic its growth will be (said basically knowing there are always exceptions!).

And you will (probably) also get better results from ‘leafy’ species that produce/mature more quickly (harvest of leaves, per se) than from things that require lengthy periods for harvest maturation; indoor fruit trees would give poor results as compared to a tray of genetically-small plant of ‘edible leaf’ (lettuce or similar, I guess), but that is an extreme example. I see that shiftless and kimstu are saying about same as me, so the issue should be apparent. Legginess of a plant usually, but not always of course, indicates a lack of proper light strength during period(s) of growth. Even the type soil used in a growing-pot will affect the outcome, so be sure to learn all ya can (popular clay-based bagged-soils are generally horrid for container plants, but that is another topic). Best of luck whatever the decision.

There’s always the growing of mushrooms, too, if good lighting is an obstacle that is too high of a hurdle :slight_smile:

These are easy to tell apart. You can tell by looking - jalapenos are pointed at the end and habaneros are round like a tomato.

You can also tell by eating one. If it is uncomfortably hot, it was a jalapeno. If you experience spontaneous combustion and pass out, it was a habanero.

Does your friend have a trick with the growing? I know someone who tried growing an indoor chili plant who reported that they had the heat but were otherwise bitter and nasty. (And no, I’m not sure if it was an ornamental variety or not).

The Aerogarden lets you grow tomatoes, chiles, green beans, salad greens, and herbs all indoors with zero external light needed, depending on what model you get. I use it for my apartment which has nothing but north-facing windows and no balcony/patio/etc.

I’ve been looking into hydroponic stuff a bit for the last week or so (aerogarden’s are just one of the commercial varieties that are specialized for easy home use), and as far as I can make out, the biggest advantages of aerogarden and related products are twofold:

  1. they’re very easy to maintain, because hydroponics are more or less a closed and initially sterile system that you poor water and nutrients in with no worries about parasites etc.
  2. the lighting system is useful.

As far as I can tell, the lighting is the only thing you really need to grow plants indoors with no more effort than growing stuff outside if you’d have enough sunlight. Given enough light (with some sort of timer, which should be cheap) and a bunch of pots, there’s no reason you couldn’t grow decent veggies indoors with just bog standard garden “compost”.

You can suplement natural sunlight with an indoor light though - even a regular old cheapy incandescent will help things along if you position it close to the plant.

(I live in Alberta which has a growing seasion of about 2 months, tops, and I get lovely tomatoes every year with the above technique).

I must have more seasoned mucus membranes than you as I have no problems with either. :cool:

The last time he used seeds that he had obtained on the Galapagos (probably illegal to remove from the islands, being a protected area) and he just put the pot in his kitchen window pointing East. I never saw it but he told me that in the end the plant had grown so big that it covered the whole window.

put me down as a lover of the aerogarden … i have a black thumb with normal gardening, but i adore the aerogarden. i have several of them and they are fantastic. Actually, my bedside lamp is an aerogarden - it turns on at 5 am and off at 10 pm =)

I have one of the special ones that has the extra tall light support, and is rigged to grow a tomato plant =) though you can use it to grow a strawberry, or pepper or haricot vert inside. The pod for genovese basil is fantastic, we had to do any recipe for basil once a week as it would grow about 6 inches a week and if we didnt use enough basil I think the plant would have taken over the world :eek:

I once threw a neglected, sprouting potato into a pot of dirt.
Let it sit in the corner of a drafty west-northwest facing window in winter, watering occasionally. Another apt. building blocked much of the sun, especially in fall/winter.

It leafed nicely and produced gumball-sized potatoes before cracking the pot.

I’m guessing if you’re trying vegetable cultivation on purpose, you might get something edible. Good luck!