7 Amazing Vegetable and Herb Growing Tips

Sometimes one of hardest parts of starting your urban garden or growing project is not knowing what crop is the "best" to start off with.

A crash course in vertical farming and how it works

After reading this article:

You will have more information on the specific requirements and best practices for seven vegetables and herbs that can be grown relatively easily compared to other produce so that you can have the most success possible, even in your first attempt (or two).

1. Cucumber

Overview: Cucumber's are widely grown indoors both casually and commercially. Some tips to consider involve: 

Type of seed will make a difference with cucumbers, specifically, the best seeds to use are cucumber seeds especially bred for indoor growing.

The plants from these seeds will be
(1) self-pollinating
(2) higher yield
(3) disease resistant

Space Requirements: 
Cucumbers grow extremely quickly and usually need a rack or structure to grow on as the vines shoot up vertically and will produce large leaves. 

Temperature: Cucumbers will do the best indoors when they are at approximately 70 degrees F / 21.1 C and a couple degrees cooler during the night time.

Light: Cucumbers crave light, having a grow light for indoor growing is a good idea.

Water: Plan to water your cucumber plant at least 2 liters per day, and even 3 liters when the plant is mature and producing cucumbers.

Skin Irritant: Handling cucumber plants can irritate people with sensitive skin. One solution to this issue is to wear gardening gloves and long sleeves.

How to Grow Cucumbers Indoors

1. Place seeds in growing cubes

2. Keep seeds moist by adding vermiculite after planting

3. cover up growing cubes and place in warmer area than the post-germination growing area. Temperature should be 5-10 degrees higher (80 F / 26.6 C) 

4. transport when you first see any sign of green

5. Transporting (via Indoor Garden HQ):
a) use a plastic tupperware container, and cut a hole in the top, run wick through the hole and place the free end of the wick in a growing pot.
b) place growing media in the pot, and pack the starter cube with the germinated seed
c) ensure the wick is at least 1/2 up the height of the pot
d) place the pot on top of the water "resevoir"

6. set up mechanism for the vine to grow upwards, this can be done using ceiling hooks

7. follow the best practices for pruning cucumber plants

2. Bell Pepper

Overview: Cultivation of peppers originated in Central and South America over 1,000 years ago, they weren't introduced to Europe and Asia until the year 1493 when the first peppers arrived in ports in Spain.

Bell Peppers (and all other pepper types) need plenty of warmth and moisture to grow- this should be the area of focus when growing .

How to Grow Bell Pepper Indoors

1. Purchase seeds

2. Soak seeds to speed up the germination process (before planting in cubes). The soaking allows some of the seed coating to soften resulting in a faster growing time.

3. plant seeds in seedling tray with potting mix

4. A soil heat of 80 F / 27 C is ideal for pepper seed germination.

5. Transplant when 2 'true leaves' appear. True leaves are defined as fully grown leaves, not partially developed leaves.

6. Ample light is needed for peppers, as much as 14 hours can be necessary per day. Plan to supplement with fluorescent grow lights

7. Growing temperatures should range from 21-27 C 

8. If seeds require pollination, pollinate manually, pollination will increase yield.

3. Jalapeno Pepper

Overview: Jalapenos are one of the most popular types of pepper. The most common Jalapeno colors are green, red, yellow, and orange (the non-green colors require more time on the vine).

How to Grow Jalapeno Peppers Indoors

1) Sow the seeds in growing cubes, be sure to use a heatpad for jalapenos, the soil temperature should be 80 F / 27 C at least.

2) Transfer to potting or another alternative when 2 true leaves appear

3) transfer into 2-5 gallon pots for a single jalapeno plant. 

4) 16 hours per day is ideal for lighting. Grow lights suggested.

5) Temperatures should be 75-85 F during the day and 60-70 F at night.

4. Lettuce

Overview: Lettuce has been cultivated for over 6,000 years. Evidence of lettuce cultivation is prominent in Egyptian hieroglyphics.

The lettuce growing process from first seed planting to harvest can vary from 65-140 days depending on cultivar.

How to grow lettuce indoors

1) pick the proper style of lettuce for growing indoors, the best choices are "loose leaf" lettuce, a good rule of thumb is any type of lettuce including the name 'little' or 'baby'.

2) Growing seedlings and transplanting to a larger growing pot is not necessary for lettuce, the original planting container will be the only one needed

3) unlike peppers, lettuce will tend to require cooler temperatures, 60-70 F during the daytime and approximately 50 - 60 F at night.

4) grow lights are optional, if you do use they should be no closer than 4 inches from the soil and no more than 15 hrs of exposure in a 24 hour cycle.

5) fertilizer is also optional, with lettuce,fertilizer can be mixed 1/2 with water to dilute. Apply fertilizer once per week for 3 weeks then don't apply for another 3 weeks.

6) Harvest when desired: even small lettuce seedlings taste similar to lettuce, and your lettuce can be harvested at any level of maturity without much nutritional change.

5. Arugula

Overview: Arugula can be considered as part herb part vegetable. It has a reputation for maintaining flavor better when grown indoors compared to lettuce.

How to grow Arugula Indoors

1) similar to lettuce, no transplanting of seedlings are required. Seedlings are small for arugula (same as lettuce), plant 2 seeds per hole.

If you are using grow lights, plants can be planted closer together, 3-4 inches as opposed to 5-6 inches with more window light.

2) Arugula will require approximately 15 hours of light per day, if you are using a grow light, programming the grow light can make the growing process more automated.

3) Within a a month of growing, you can expect plants to be several inches tall.

4) Fertilizer may be helpful, but do not need to apply liberally

5) Harvest when necessary, similar to lettuce

6. Dill

Overview: Dill is an herb native to Europe and Asia that is harvested as a leaf. You can grow dill easily and unlike some other crops, extremely quickly (~6 weeks) .

How to grow dill indoors

1) Plant seeds in ~ 6 inch deep pots

2) Drainage is important for dill, you may want to add sand or perlite or similar material to increase draining efficiency, shoot for a pH between 6 and 7.5

3) Use a "sow and thin" approach, planting as close as 3-4 inches apart but then pruning off dying plants. This results in much larger spacing, closer to 6-12 inches.

4) Grow lights can be used for no more than 12 hours per day. Fluorescent lights should be approximately 8 inches above the soil. High intensity lights like sodium lights should have much more spacing (several feet).

5) Dill will grow tall, before the plants are a foot tall, they will start to sag without support. Urban Farmers can use dwarf cultivars to reduce need for support or create support for the dill plants to grow.

6) plants will be ready for harvest in 6-8 weeks

7. Cilantro

Overview: Cilantro is an herb with light and refreshing taste often cultivated indoors.

How to grow cilantro indoors

1) plant at least 3 inches apart

2) the growing medium should be mixed in with some sand to promote drainage

3) only water when the soil is dry to the touch

4) If using fertilizer, apply bi-weekly and dilute the fertilizer with water. One fertilizer to try out is liquid fish.

5) As the plant grows, it will have a tendency to become spindly and narrow, pinching the stems will help reduce narrowing before harvest.

6) Harvest carefully as cilantro is a delicate herb.

Bonus: Habanero Pepper

Overview: Habanero is one of the spiciest types of peppers. On the Scoville Scale, a measure of spiciness used with peppers commonly, it is generally accepted as the spiciest of all peppers (image below).

Habaneros will tend to have longer required periods to grow.

Tips on How to grow Habanero Pepper Indoors

1) Habaneros respond best to "deep but infrequent" watering

2) 1/4 tablespoon Nitrogen based fertilizer applied every week after the plant is 6 weeks old is beneficial for habonero specifically

3) Avoiding "overhead watering" directly above the plant and instead watering directly into the soil around the plant can reduce risk of fungus development on the plant.

4) Maturity of the peppers can be determined by:

a) firmness of the peppers
b) color of the peppers (i.e. deep vibrant color will change from green to a lighter color is an indicator of maturity.

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Wrapping Up

Congratulations! you made it to the end. Some parting notes: 

- This article is by no means a definitive guide that covers every single potential issue when growing the crops discussed.

- We will continue to update, curate, and incorporate feedback from the Urban Vine community to make this article an even more valuable resource.

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