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Indoor plants: Tips for radishes, lettuce & other edibles from Davie extension office

Think it’s too hot to garden? You can grow edible plants such as herbs, radishes, turnips and arugula right inside your South Florida home. Yes, you can grow your own food indoors.

We asked for tips from a South Florida urban horticulture program specialist affiliated with the University of Florida Institute of Food & Agricultural Sciences, also known as IFAS.

Photo: University of Florida/IFAS

Maybe you’ll be inspired. Ideally, you’ll be richly rewarded with a delicious sense of accomplishment and tasty freshly harvested produce.

Read our Q&A with Samuel Chillaron, Urban Horticulture Program specialist, Florida Yards and Neighborhoods Program for UF/IFAS Extension Office in Davie. Thanks, Sam!

Sam Chillaron

Q: What edible plants work well indoors in South Florida?

A: The summer is a unique time for indoor gardening in South Florida. Our climate-controlled homes, combined with the longer days of summer, can make for good indoor growing conditions – especially for herbs and baby greens.

In general, the edible plants that perform best indoors are those that grow quickly and are smaller in stature. This includes a large variety of herbs, leafy greens, micro-greens and (some) root vegetables, such as radishes and turnips.

The more direct light that can be provided to your indoor edibles, the wider the variety of plants you can grow. Leafy greens and herbs require an average of 4-6 hours of light to grow a harvestable yield. This can be supplied reasonably by a windowsill or a sunward facing sliding glass door.

Popular vegetables producing fruits or crunchy stems like tomatoes, broccoli and strawberries require at least 6-8 hours, and when grown indoors will require supplemental lighting. This can get expensive, considering the cost of grow lights and their energy expenditure.

 Q: What type of indoor set-up and equipment is required?

A: As with any gardening endeavor, our main guiding principle is Right Plant, Right Place. We want to put our indoor edible gardens in the sunniest part of the house. Almost all edible plants need ample sunlight in order to grow well.

The simplest set-up involves nothing more than a pot with drainage holes, potting mix, a tray or dish to catch excess drainage water and a sunny window or glass door for the plants to sit next to.

Most South Floridians keep the temperature inside the home somewhere between 75 and 80 degreesF during the summertime and throughout most of the year. Luckily, this is also the ideal temperature range for growing most of our favorite vegetables.

For indoor gardeners lacking sunny windows or natural sunlight, the next best option will be the use of grow lights. The set-up for this type of indoor garden involves the lights themselves, a stand or shelf to mount the light over the plants and a container garden or hydroponics growing system. If the indoor garden is large enough or the grow lights being used generate excessive heat, a fan or cooling system will also be required.

One of the most popular indoor gardening set-ups involves using stainless steel wire shelving, shop lights and LED grow lights. This system is perfect for indoor growers who are looking to experiment with micro-greens and growing their own plants from seed as well.

Q: Is this expensive, or is it valuable for people seeking to reduce food expenses?

A: Indoor gardening can either be very cheap or very expensive depending on your goals. If you have a sunny spot in the house and frequently purchase micro-greens, baby greens or herbs such as cilantro, parsley or chives, then growing your own at home is definitely a great way to save on these high value crops and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

For larger vegetables, such as tomatoes, peppers or strawberries, the higher investment in necessary equipment to achieve worthwhile yields may not be worth it economically speaking. You are probably better off supporting your local farmers by purchasing these crops from them.

Q: What are the easiest indoor edibles for novices?

A: In the area of leafy salad greens, arugula is by far the easiest to grow. It germinates quickly and provides multiple harvests. Once it grows to about 6 inches tall you can harvest with a knife or pair of scissors by simply cutting the plants about an inch above the line of the soil. In one to two weeks, the arugula will be ready for another cut and come again harvest.

Indoor gardeners may also be interested in trying to grow other baby greens such as mizuna, mustard greens and tatsoi. Simply sprinkle the seeds over the surface of the soil and cover with a dusting of potting mix. Water them in with a light spray of water (a spray bottle works well) and keep moist to ensure even germination. Kale, collard greens and Swiss chard may also be grown in the same way for baby greens. Lettuce is a bit more challenging, as it loves to grow in bright light, but it is also worth trying. Follow the same growing steps as the above for baby greens.

When it comes to herbs, most are relatively easy to grow; however, seed germination time is longer. The trick is to keep the potting soil moist, but not to overwater. It is OK to allow the top of the soil to dry slightly in between watering. Many herbs are also easily grown from cuttings. Rooting hormone is often not necessary. Simply clip a branch from a friend’s plant, remove leaves from the bottom portion of the cutting, insert into a small pot with potting mix and keep moist for about two weeks. Pretty soon roots will start to develop. Excellent herbs for the indoor garden include cilantro, parsley, basil, garlic chives and thyme.

Another indoor crop worth trying is microgreens. Microgreens are edible plants that are only grown to the first true leaf stage after germination. It is believed that because growth is powered by the stored energy of the seed, it is at this baby stage that the plants are at their nutritional peak for consumption. The easiest microgreens crops to grow for beginners are sunflower shoots and pea shoots. Many micro-green kits are available for purchase online as is the bulk seed necessary to grow them.

The basic steps are to fill a tray with potting mix and to densely sprinkle the seeds over the surface of the soil. A dusting of potting mix over the top of the seeds is not required. Moisten the seeds with a light spray and nest an empty tray with the same dimensions over the top of the seeds. In about one week most of the seeds will have germinated and the empty top tray will begin to rise as the seeds literally push it up.

At this point, you want to flip the top tray around to create a dome or shell over the germinating seeds. Your goal is to temporarily block out the light. This will encourage the microgreens to grow upwards and elongate, creating more food. Once the seedlings reach the top of the upper tray, remove the tray. The seedlings will be long and mostly white and yellow. Gradually expose these elongated seedlings to light and they will green up. Once they are nice and green, simply cut the microgreens at soil level and enjoy.

Q: Do you do this at home, and what are your favorite plants?

A: Yes, I do maintain a small indoor garden on my kitchen windowsill, consisting mostly of herbs. My favorites to grow are basil, garlic chives, thyme, cilantro, parsley and rosemary. When I am cooking, there is nothing more enjoyable than harvesting what I need right then and there to add the freshest possible flavors to my food.

Q: Any other tips or thoughts on why South Floridians would want to try this in their own homes?

A: Indoor gardening is a great way for those without traditional backyard space to experience the joy of growing their own food. It is not only functional, but very therapeutic and rewarding.

If you choose to grow your indoor edibles in containers, with some plants you will eventually need to up-pot them as they grow larger and larger. The key to doing this correctly is to gradually increase the pot size rather than going from a small pot directly to a very large pot. By slowly increasing the pot volume over time you will prevent issues related to over-watering.

Many of your indoor edibles will also benefit from periodic applications of fertilizer. I recommend a slow-release organic fertilizer – there are many available on the market. As with any fertilizer or pesticide, whether its organic or not, it is important to read the label and use according to the instructions.

As for watering, you want to check your plants daily. Apply water only if the surface of the soil looks dry. Your goals should be to thoroughly water so that the entire volume of the soil in the pots becomes wet. Lifting the plants before they are watered and after they are watered will help you to develop a sense of whether you watered enough. There should be a significant weight difference between plants that have been watered well and those that are still thirsty.

Gardening is a skill like any other. With time and patience, anyone can learn to do it well and produce bountiful harvests.

For outside: Florida landscaping: Free resources to enhance your yard

Other resources from IFAS

Free and cheap things to do in South Florida this week

Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Free Santa's Wonderland at Bass Pro Shops

All Day | FREE | Bass Pro Shops Miami

What the Constitution Means to Me

Discounted | Adrienne Arsht Center

The Polar Express

$65.00-75.00 | Brightline MiamiCentral Station

Tropical Holiday Trees

9:00 am to 4:00 pm | $0-14.00 | Mounts Botanical Garden

Historic Holiday Decor: Gilded Age

10:00 am to 5:00 pm | $7.00-15.00 | Deering Estate

A Very Merry Garden: Reindeer Round-Up at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

10:00 am to 5:00 pm | $11.95-24.95 | Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

A Very Merry Garden

10:00 am to 5:00 pm | Discounted | Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Garden tour

10:00 am | FREE | Society of the Four Arts

'Stranger Things' immersive exhibit

11:00 am to 9:00 pm | FREE | Aventura Mall

Holiday Train Exhibit at library in Southwest Ranches

12:00 pm to 4:00 pm | FREE | Southwest Regional Library

Holiday train exhibit with running railroad displays

12:00 pm to 4:00 pm | FREE | Southwest Regional Library

Jim Gasior, piano

12:00 pm | FREE | Miami Dade College Wolfson Campus

Food Trucks In Volunteer Park

5:00 pm to 9:00 pm | Volunteer Park Plantation

Food truck gathering at Pelican Harbor Marina

5:00 pm to 10:00 pm | FREE | Pelican Harbor Marina

Holiday events at Bonnet House in Fort Lauderdale

6:00 pm to 8:00 pm | $0-35.00 | Bonnet House

$8 roller skating in Davie

6:00 pm to 8:30 pm | Discounted | Galaxy Skateway Davie

Night Garden Experience

6:00 pm to 10:00 pm | $25.00-35.00 | Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Holiday in Paradise light show, ferris wheel & other festivites in West Palm

6:00 pm to 10:00 pm | FREE | West Palm Beach Waterfront

Fantasy of Lights drive-through display

6:00 pm to 10:00 pm | $20.00-45.00 | Tradewinds Park

Discount advance tickets: Magic of Lights Homestead drive-thru experience

6:00 pm to 10:00 pm | Discounted | Homestead-Miami Speedway

Symphony In Lights at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale

6:00 pm to 11:00 pm | FREE | Gulfstream Park Village

Holiday light show and snow fall in West Palm, 6:30, 7:30 & 8:30

6:30 pm to 9:00 pm | FREE | The Square downtown West Palm

Zoo Lights at Zoo Miami

6:30 pm to 10:00 pm | Discounted | Zoo Miami

City of North Miami Tree Lighting

7:00 pm to 8:30 pm | FREE | Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)

Free live music at Hollywood beach bandshell

7:00 pm to 9:00 pm | FREE | Hollywood beach bandshell

Holiday Street Parade in Boca Raton

7:00 pm to 9:00 pm | FREE | Federal Highway

Nightly Snowfall

7:00 pm | FREE | Dolphin Mall

Holiday Parade in Boca Raton fun

7:30 pm to 9:00 pm | FREE

Comedy Night at Pub 52

8:00 pm to 11:00 pm | FREE | Nightlife Brewing Co.

Comedy Night at Exit One Taproom

8:00 pm to 11:00 pm | FREE | Exit One Taproom

F9: The Fast Saga

8:00 pm | FREE | New World Center | New World Symphony

Thursday, December 8, 2022

Free Santa's Wonderland at Bass Pro Shops

All Day | FREE | Bass Pro Shops Miami

What the Constitution Means to Me

Discounted | Adrienne Arsht Center

Women Championing Freedom

$0-12.00 | Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU

The Polar Express

$65.00-75.00 | Brightline MiamiCentral Station

Tropical Holiday Trees

9:00 am to 4:00 pm | $0-14.00 | Mounts Botanical Garden

Winter Wonderland display in Plantation

10:00 am to 4:30 pm | FREE | Plantation Historical Museum

Historic Holiday Decor: Gilded Age

10:00 am to 5:00 pm | $7.00-15.00 | Deering Estate

A Very Merry Garden: Reindeer Round-Up at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

10:00 am to 5:00 pm | $11.95-24.95 | Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

A Very Merry Garden

10:00 am to 5:00 pm | Discounted | Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

'Stranger Things' immersive exhibit

11:00 am to 9:00 pm | FREE | Aventura Mall

Holiday Train Exhibit at library in Southwest Ranches

12:00 pm to 4:00 pm | FREE | Southwest Regional Library

Holiday train exhibit with running railroad displays

12:00 pm to 4:00 pm | FREE | Southwest Regional Library

Santa's Circus

12:30 pm to 7:30 pm | $15.99 | Jungle Island

Food trucks and music

5:00 pm to 9:00 pm | FREE | Wellington Village Park

"Elf" film & other holiday fun at Las Olas Oceanside Park in Fort Lauderdale

5:00 pm to 10:00 pm | FREE | Las Olas Oceanside Park

Holiday events at Bonnet House in Fort Lauderdale

6:00 pm to 8:00 pm | $0-35.00 | Bonnet House

Enjoy live entertainment at Clematis by Night

6:00 pm to 9:00 pm | FREE | West Palm Beach Waterfront

Night Garden Experience

6:00 pm to 10:00 pm | $25.00-35.00 | Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Holiday in Paradise light show, ferris wheel & other festivites in West Palm

6:00 pm to 10:00 pm | FREE | West Palm Beach Waterfront

Fantasy of Lights drive-through display

6:00 pm to 10:00 pm | $20.00-45.00 | Tradewinds Park

Christmas Lights in the Acres

6:00 pm to 10:00 pm | $10.00 | Plantation Baptist Church

Holiday displays & fun in Pembroke Pines

6:00 pm to 10:00 pm | FREE | Oasis Church

Discount advance tickets: Magic of Lights Homestead drive-thru experience

6:00 pm to 10:00 pm | Discounted | Homestead-Miami Speedway

Symphony In Lights at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale

6:00 pm to 11:00 pm | FREE | Gulfstream Park Village

Holiday light show and snow fall in West Palm, 6:30, 7:30 & 8:30

6:30 pm to 9:00 pm | FREE | The Square downtown West Palm

"Elf"film & holiday fun at Last Olas Oceanside Park

6:45 pm to 10:00 pm | FREE | Las Olas Oceanside Park

Free live music at Hollywood beach bandshell

7:00 pm to 9:00 pm | FREE | Hollywood beach bandshell

Live music at Doral Yard

7:00 pm to 9:30 pm | FREE | Doral Yard

$12 Adult Skate Night

7:00 pm to 10:00 pm | $12.00 | Xtreme Action Park

Nightly Snowfall

7:00 pm | FREE | Dolphin Mall

Friday, December 9, 2022

Free Santa's Wonderland at Bass Pro Shops

All Day | FREE | Bass Pro Shops Miami

What the Constitution Means to Me

Discounted | Adrienne Arsht Center

Women Championing Freedom

$0-12.00 | Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU

The Polar Express

$65.00-75.00 | Brightline MiamiCentral Station

Tropical Holiday Trees

9:00 am to 4:00 pm | $0-14.00 | Mounts Botanical Garden

Free Water Shuttle Weekends

10:00 am to 3:00 pm | FREE | Deerfield Island Park

Winter Wonderland display in Plantation

10:00 am to 4:30 pm | FREE | Plantation Historical Museum

Historic Holiday Decor: Gilded Age

10:00 am to 5:00 pm | $7.00-15.00 | Deering Estate

A Very Merry Garden: Reindeer Round-Up at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

10:00 am to 5:00 pm | $11.95-24.95 | Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

A Very Merry Garden

10:00 am to 5:00 pm | Discounted | Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Brightline Holiday Marketplace

11:00 am to 8:00 pm | FREE | Brightline MiamiCentral Station

'Stranger Things' immersive exhibit

11:00 am to 9:00 pm | FREE | Aventura Mall

Santa's Circus

12:30 pm to 7:30 pm | $15.99 | Jungle Island

Argentina vs. The Netherlands World Cup Quarterfinal

2:00 pm | FREE | Perez Art Museum Miami (PAMM)

Art After Dark at Norton in West Palm

4:00 pm to 9:30 pm | Discounted | Norton Museum of Art

holiday market at Dania Pointe

5:00 pm to 11:00 pm | FREE | Dania Pointe

Dania Pointe holiday night market

5:00 pm to 11:00 pm | FREE | Dania Pointe

Food truck gathering at Tropical Park

5:30 pm to 10:30 pm | FREE | Tropical Park

Friday Films

5:30 pm | $10.00

Holiday films in West Palm Beach

6:00 pm to 7:30 pm | FREE

Holiday events at Bonnet House in Fort Lauderdale

6:00 pm to 8:00 pm | $0-35.00 | Bonnet House

Rudolph's Winter Wonderland in Tamarac

6:00 pm to 8:00 pm | FREE | Tamarac Park

Rudolphs Winter Wonderland

6:00 pm to 8:00 pm | FREE | Tamarac Park

Jazz & holiday music in Hollywood

6:00 pm to 8:00 pm | FREE | TY Park

Zoo Lights at Palm Beach Zoo

6:00 pm to 9:00 pm | $10.00-22.00 | Palm Beach Zoo

Holiday Celebration at the Park

6:00 pm to 9:00 pm | FREE

Night Garden Experience

6:00 pm to 10:00 pm | $25.00-35.00 | Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden

Holiday in Paradise light show, ferris wheel & other festivites in West Palm

6:00 pm to 10:00 pm | FREE | West Palm Beach Waterfront

Fantasy of Lights drive-through display

6:00 pm to 10:00 pm | $20.00-45.00 | Tradewinds Park

Christmas Lights in the Acres

6:00 pm to 10:00 pm | $10.00 | Plantation Baptist Church

Lights 4 Hope drive-through light display

6:00 pm to 10:00 pm | $15.00-35.00 | Okeeheelee Park

Holiday displays & fun in Pembroke Pines

6:00 pm to 10:00 pm | FREE | Oasis Church

Discount advance tickets: Magic of Lights Homestead drive-thru experience

6:00 pm to 10:00 pm | Discounted | Homestead-Miami Speedway

Winterfest in Wellington

6:00 pm to 10:00 pm | FREE | Wellington Village Park

Symphony In Lights at Gulfstream Park in Hallandale

6:00 pm to 11:00 pm | FREE | Gulfstream Park Village

Food In Motion vendor fair in Fort Lauderdale

6:00 pm to 11:00 pm | Feldman Park

Fast Lane Friday

6:00 pm to 11:59 pm | $0-25.00 | Homestead-Miami Speedway

Boynton Beach holiday boat parade

6:30 pm to 8:00 pm | FREE

Boynton Holiday Boat Parade

6:30 pm to 8:30 pm | FREE | Boynton Harbor Marina

Holiday light show and snow fall in West Palm, 6:30, 7:30 & 8:30

6:30 pm to 9:00 pm | FREE | The Square downtown West Palm

Live music at Gulfstream in Hallandale

6:30 pm to 9:30 pm | FREE | Gulfstream Park Village

Zoo Lights at Zoo Miami

6:30 pm to 10:00 pm | Discounted | Zoo Miami

Snow flurries at Dania Pointe

7:00 pm to 7:20 pm | FREE | Dania Pointe

Jam on percussion for free

7:00 pm to 9:00 pm | FREE | South Florida Center for Percussive Arts

Free live music at Hollywood beach bandshell

7:00 pm to 9:00 pm | FREE | Hollywood beach bandshell

Pompano Lighthouse Point Deerfield Holiday Boat Parade

7:00 pm to 9:00 pm | FREE | Intracoastal Waterway

"Elf The Musical Jr." in Sunrise

7:00 pm to 9:00 pm | $20.00 | Sunrise Civic Center

Free movie in West Palm Beach

7:00 pm to 10:00 pm | FREE | Waterfront Commons

Live music at Grandview in West Palm

7:00 pm to 10:00 pm | FREE | Grandview Public Market

Free live music at Dolphin Mall

7:00 pm to 11:00 pm | FREE | Dolphin Mall

Nightly Snowfall

7:00 pm | FREE | Dolphin Mall

Live Music at Doral Yard

8:00 pm to 10:00 pm | FREE | Doral Yard

Free outdoor films in Hollywood

8:00 pm to 10:00 pm | FREE | ArtsPark

Snow flurries at Dania Pointe

8:30 pm to 8:50 pm | Dania Pointe

Patti Roth

About Patti Roth

Patti Roth, the editor of Fort Lauderdale on the Cheap, scouts out state and national deals, discounts and coupons for our readers, finding the real deals and presenting them in an easy-to-read format. A veteran newspaper and magazine writer and a longtime South Florida resident, she has written for The Miami Herald, The Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale, Florida Travel and Life, E Environmental Magazine, Dog Fancy, Cat Fancy, US Architecture and Earth911.com. Send your cheap tips to her at info@fortlauderdaleonthecheap.com.

Living on the CheapMiami on the Cheap is a member of Living on the Cheap, a network of websites published by frugalistas, journalists and consumer advocates. Find practical advice on saving money on groceries, travel and shopping, plus tips from our experts on how to live the good life for less at Living on the Cheap.

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