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Growing More Than Lettuce Indoors

photo credit: BJ Miller

Indoor gardening can be incredibly rewarding and an easy practice to begin and manage year-round. We aren’t limited to lettuce and microgreens. Polly McGann, owner of Happy Leaf, LLC, and her team have successfully grown so many crops from strawberries to tomatoes and plan to try rhubarb next, using the advanced LED lights her company sells. Rise Gardens, which sells indoor hydroponic gardens, offers gardeners the opportunity to grow everything from tomatoes to peppers for their system.

For those that want to try indoor gardening but are intimidated, Happy Leaf has a YouTube channel with step-by-step instructions on everything from how to choose a grow light to trying the Kratky Method. “The Kratky method, for newbies, can seem a bit like magic, but trust us, it works!” says McGann. One of their YouTube videos takes people through the process in detail. “Once you learn the steps, you will realize this is by far the simplest way to grow indoors,” notes McGann, who says that while we can grow lettuce and herbs using this method, it’s also possible to grow kale, swiss chard and other produce.

For those interested in growing spinach, tomatoes and root vegetables like carrots and beets or even cabbage, McGann and her team have discovered those plants do better in a mix of coconut coir and vermiculite instead of growing with the Kratky method. The Happy Leaf YouTube channel offers specific videos on how to grow a variety of plants, including basil and tomatoes.

Hank Adams, CEO and founder of Skokie-based Rise Gardens, says they specifically designed their system to grow a huge variety of produce. “In addition to growing the usual greens and herbs, with Rise’s system, gardeners can add components like trellises to grow vining crops such as snap peas and cucumbers, raised trays to grow rooted vegetables, inserts to grow microgreens, and they can leverage the larger base level to grow large fruiting and flowering plants such as tomatoes, peppers, swiss chard, kale or eggplants,” he says.

While Adams and his team hand-picked the varieties they offer to maximize growth with their system, he also strongly recommends trying something new. Still, he says, the most popular items grown overall are tomatoes and peppers, because those purchased outside of the local season are far less delicious and nutritious. “We also get a lot of requests for herbs, as these don’t stay fresh from the grocery store for long and they’re expensive,” he adds. “Greens are also sought because you can guarantee they’ll be fresh and crisp when you harvest them minutes before dinner.”

Photo Credit BJ Miller

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