Health

Growing Indoor Vegetables for Your Mental Health

As the pandemic has driven a surge in remote work, a growing number of people are having to face an uncomfortable new reality: the work-from-home dynamic is here to stay. We’re not going back to the office, and while this isn’t all bad news, it does make it harder than ever to balance our personal and professional lives. It’s no surprise that, by all indications, the average American work-life balance is increasingly unhealthy.

Most of us are constantly available, and our bosses know it. Being perpetually tuned-in to messages, emails, and updates means that we’re subconsciously ready to work at any minute. With the divide between work and relaxation constantly eroding, it’s increasingly difficult to truly relax. It’s only a matter of time before the stress of the office begins to permeate everything else in our lives. 

Now, more than ever, is the time to create some boundaries that allow you to disengage from your work. Changes in your routine and your availability are the obvious antidotes, but one of the best ways to separate your private life from your professional one is far too often overlooked: picking up a rewarding new hobby. Growing vegetables at home is simple, rewarding, and accessible to virtually anyone, which makes it the ideal place to start. 

The Psychological Benefits Of An Indoor Garden 

It’s natural to assume that the biggest reward that comes from growing vegetables indoors is the vegetables themselves. However, as satisfying as it may be to cook with home-grown ingredients, the truth is that the benefits go far beyond what you can eat. What you spend your free time thinking about has a huge impact on your mental health. Even the best work from home jobs have the potential to get a stranglehold on your thoughts, and you have to be proactive about getting your mind on something else when you’re not working. An indoor garden does just that. 

Cultivating anything is a long-term goal which requires planning, structure, and routine to accomplish. It’s precisely these things that can be destabilized by working from home, which is why growing vegetables is a great way to push back against the influence your office life has on your free time. The peace and calm you experience during this process is worth far more than the actual crops you’ll yield – even if they’re delicious! 

Why indoors? The practical reasons are obvious: you don’t have to worry about animals, freezing weather, or thieving neighbors. However, growing vegetables inside of your home comes with psychological benefits as well. By placing a personal project in your personal space, you’re telling your brain that your personal goals are equally worthy of care and attention. This can go a long way in keeping work-related thoughts and concerns in check. 

The 5 Easiest Vegetables To Grow At Home   

If you’re thinking about growing vegetables indoors, it’s best to start with some of the simplest and most rewarding options. After all, your goal is to enjoy this process, so it’s a good idea to pick vegetables that aren’t finicky and labor-intensive! Once you get the hang of the process, you’ll find that growing more complex crops comes naturally. Let’s take a look at some good choices. 

Herbs 

 

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I know what you’re thinking, and yes, herbs are technically vegetables! Fresh Cilantro, Oregano, Rosemary, Mint and Thyme can add fantastic flavor to virtually anything you cook. On top of that, they’re remarkably easy to grow. Make sure you give them plenty of sunshine, and keep them between 65 and 75 degrees. 

Carrots

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All you need to grow carrots is plenty of sunshine, a relatively cool space, and a deep pot with drainage. Carrots do best between 55 and 65 degrees, which makes them ideal to put by a bright window during wintertime. Multi-colored varieties of carrots can be especially fun to grow. 

Chili Peppers 

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Chili pepper plants originate from hot climates, which means they require warm weather and lots of light. However, it’s possible to match those conditions indoors during winter! Since they’re self-pollinating, they’re ideal indoor plants. Growing chilis can be used to spice up your cooking, or even to make your own homemade hot sauce! 

Green Onions

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Growing green onions may be the best option for someone who’s never tried to grow vegetables indoors before, primarily because they don’t require nearly as much sunlight or water as other vegetables do. After using green onions in a dish, simply save the root end, and replant it. 

Leafy Greens

​​Photo from pxhere

One of the best things about greens such as kale and spinach is their rate of growth: in as few as four weeks, they’re ready for use. On top of that, they thrive in compact spaces, making them ideal for those of us living in small apartments without lots of spare room. Just make sure to put them near a window, where they’re hit by indirect light, and keep in mind that they’ll do best in colder rooms. 

Potatoes

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If space is not a concern, then potatoes are for you! You can grow potatoes from scraps, simply by cutting up a sprouted potato and planting the pieces side by side in a large pot. You’ll simply need a large container full of soil, because potatoes can become surprisingly large. If everything goes well, you should have ready-to-eat potatoes in around two months. 

When Is The Best Time To Start? 

Today! The beauty of growing indoor veggies is that you’re essentially tricking the plants into thinking it’s summer all the time, so there’s no reason to wait for the right season to begin. Simply figure out what you’d like to grow, and go for it! 

Here are a couple of things to keep in mind: 

  • Most vegetables thrive when they’re exposed to around 12 hours of sunlight per day. Take note of which parts of your home are the brightest, and for the longest periods of time: that’s where you’ll want to put your plants. If 12 hours of sunlight doesn’t sound realistic for your location, you can always buy a cheap LED grow light. 
  • Overwatering can be just as bad for a plant as not watering at all. Many newcomers to this hobby struggle with finding the right balance in the beginning, which is why it’s never a bad idea to make a little chart with each plants’ watering schedule. Once you’ve got the hang of this later on, you can just eyeball it! 
  • Fertilizers and nutritional supplements can supercharge the growth of your vegetables, and are an important part of keeping your plants healthy. However, using fertilizer without enough water can end up ‘burning’ your plant. Try to time fertilizing with watering, and when in doubt, use less fertilizer than you think you need. 
  • Unfortunately, even though your plants are indoors, they’re not immune to pests like aphids and gnats. Inspect every new plant you bring home for unwanted visitors, keep good circulation between your vegetables, and don’t overcrowd pots. If you’re proactive, this shouldn’t be a problem. 

Most importantly, remember that this is meant to be something that you enjoy. Growing vegetables indoors shouldn’t be stressful, nor should it be a chore. If you’re not careful, and take on too much, it can quickly become one. Start small, and learn the basics. After seemingly no time at all, you’ll be growing virtually anything you want. Good luck! 

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