For those of you just tuning in, I decided to experiment with growing vegetables indoors without the use of grow lights. In December, I sowed seeds for radishes, beans, carrots, garlic, and micro-greens using Green Mountain Compost Potting Soil and Raised Bed Mix. Part 2 of our adventure details observations from the weeks following.
The radish seeds sprouted in 4 days! This was exciting at first, but we soon realized they wouldn’t give us their true potential of a crisp, spicy red fruit since they were not given their minimum requirement of sun. Instead of sending their energy to form a fruit, they sent it in search of light, which instead created leggy greens.
All was not lost, as we snipped them by day 30 and added them to our salad.
The Verdict: Radishes need a grow light.
Secondary verdict: Radish shoots are tasty.
The beans that were grown in potting soil took 7 days to sprout, while those grown in raised bed mix took 10 days. This must have been due to the density difference of the soil—the seeds likely favored the lighter soil structure in Premium Potting Soil.
It looks as though we will be getting some fruit from these plants, as little baby beans have just begun to show where the flowers once were. I’m pleased with the outcome so far, although I’m still unsure about the size of the fruit each plant will yield. I think I’ll try to grow more beans next time; they give excitement to the sunroom, especially in the dead of winter!
The Verdict: Pending. But they sure are pretty!
The carrots followed the sprouting schedule of the beans: 7 days in potting soil and 9 days in raised bed mix. More of the sprouts in the raised bed mix survived, while an entire row in the potting soil did not make it. This may have been due to over-watering, but it’s hard to say exactly what happened.
It could still be too early to call it, but the carrots seem like they are on the same track to sunlight starvation as the radishes. I don’t think I will try to grow carrots again unless I find access to a grow light.
The Verdict: Carrots might need a grow light.
I’m always amazed at this awesome vegetable! After just five days, I saw the green sprouts popping up through the soil. There were six cloves planted in each soil medium, so I decided to pull 3 from each medium to cook as garlic greens. I left the other three to see if they can produce a new full bulb.
The greens can be cut about a week after they sprout, and new greens regrow. I was able to get multiple cuttings of greens before the plants became exhausted. I haven’t planted new cloves in their place, but probably will next week. As for the rest, we’ll have to wait and see!
The Verdict: Garlic is my spirit vegetable!
Microgreens definitely won the trophy for indoor gardening without a grow light!
We saw sprouts within a couple days of planting the seeds and harvested after a week and a half. The microgreens grown in the raised bed mix took a little bit longer, but still produced tasty greens!
The Verdict: If I improved seeding, spacing and harvesting a little bit, I might be able to go all year without buying greens at the grocery store!
So, can you grow vegetables indoors without grow lights?
And no. On one hand, the radishes and carrots were obvious failures. (If you have had a better experience, I would be thrilled to hear about it!)
On the other hand, the garlic and microgreens did really well, and the beans are doing much better than I had originally thought. I’ll write an update to this post in the coming weeks to reveal final bean size and plant yield.
My overall takeaway from this experiment is that without adequate light management in northern climates like here in Vermont, vegetables can sprout and grow, but eventually each plant will become exhausted while looking for light.
If you do not have access to grow lights, stick to microgreens for nutrition, garlic for flavor, and beans for living room aesthetics!