Indoor Gardening: Fruit Trees, Kitchen Herbs, Beans and Sprouts

Reader Contribution by Jo Devries
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At two weeks of regrowth, there may be snow outside, but there are free onions growing inside. Photos by Jo deVries

A New Year begins, but as we look outside, nothing much has changed. Here in eastern Ontario, Canada, we are usually confined to a deep freeze for the next two months. The only thing that’s new is the latest dumping of snow. Our hearts yearn to work once again in the gardens, which are presently sleeping under a hard, frozen crust. We anxiously await the latest seed catalogues and magazines, ready to bury ourselves in our favorite chair with a hot cup of tea the moment they arrive.

It’s important to keep our spirits up — and keeping our houses looking and feeling fresh is a good start. If our surroundings are stagnant, we will not be operating at our full potential. Remember to throw open the windows for a short period of time every couple of days to circulate the air in your house. Fresh air and a connection to nature does wonders for the soul!

One way of keeping our homes looking fresh and keeping things exciting, is growing edibles indoors. This can be accomplished by growing indoor plants that will flower and bear fruit, or offer a continued supply of cut-and-come-again greens.


Just-cut, green onions are placed in soil. 

Indoor Gardening

 The April/May 2020 issue of Mother Earth News featured an article titled “The Garden of Rebirth.”  In it, author William Rubel had many clever tips on regrowing vegetables from the unused root portion of grocery store veggies. I followed his advice and put some green onion roots, and a few rotten beets that got overlooked in the root cellar, in my garden. A couple of weeks later, I began harvesting green onions and beet top leaves for salads. All free for the picking!

I wondered if I would be as successful with trying this idea indoors. So, about a month ago, I planted green onions in a pot of soil and anxiously awaited the results. In just a few days, the white of the onion base developed a green colour in its center, and a new shoot was visible. After the roots were firmly established, the onions grew almost an inch each day. It was exciting to watch their development; to witness obvious change on a daily basis.

I did some accidental gardening in my root cellar as well. Beets contained in a large plastic container, sprouted healthy leaves, despite having no light and, what I thought was very dry soil. Condensation formed on the inside of the lid, and I had salad fixings growing contently, without even knowing it.


After five days, green onion roots exhibit growth and colour. Fresh new growth is inspiring and comforting.

Indoor Fruit Trees 

Many nurseries today, (and even some of the larger building supply stores) are selling miniature fruit trees. In past years, I’ve grown full size lemons and limes, and miniature oranges, on 3-foot trees in pots, in my small cabin. Lemons take almost a full year to grow, but it’s fascinating to watch the various stages of growth. Lemon flowers have the most amazing aroma, and a healthy plant is full of them. One single lemon plant will fill a room with a heavenly scent for weeks while blooming.

After the flowers die off, the tiny lemons peek out of their centers. A plant may have hundreds of tiny lemons on it, which it can’t sustain, so it’s important to remove all but a few. I grew three lemons on one plant and five limes on another. The bright yellow lemon colour against the green leaves is cheering, even on the dullest of days. It’s so satisfying to look in the window, from outside in the snowy yard, and see lemons growing in the middle of January.

The disadvantage of my place is that the woodstove dries the air out too much for plants. It’s necessary for me to mist my plants regularly. My fruit trees were slowly deteriorating, and some died, so the remaining ones moved in with my son. A greenhouse is definitely in the plans.

Kitchen Herbs

Fresh herbs growing on a sunny windowsill are a delight in the middle of winter. Many grocery stores now sell herb plants in their vegetable department.  A couple of fresh parsley stalks or basil leaves can make all the difference in a meal.

Crushed mint leaves perk up cold beverages, hot chocolate, salads and desserts. Leave a few stalks on your plant to go to seed, and grow your own plants for free.

Magic Beans

If you’re looking for a quick gardening fix, think of Jack’s magic bean stalk. I tend to think of all seeds as somewhat magical, but beans are amazing. Stick a dried bean in a bit of soil, add some water, and voilà, in a few days, you will see new life.

Children especially love watching plants develop. They’re fun to watch; change happens so quickly. Each day, the plant will stretch its new green shoots towards the sun. A strong sprout is followed by a sturdy stem that develops leaves in no time. Already a few inches tall, it curls and twists in search of something to climb.  Its growth can be measured in hours. Each day there is change.

In no time, striking, small, orchid-type flowers appear. The blooms are intricate and come in a wide variety of colours. If you keep a close watch, you might have the opportunity to witness a flower blooming. Then as the flower dies, a seed pod pokes out from the middle of the blossom. A tiny bean, suitable for a Barbie dinner, is growing out of the center of the flower. The bean pod grows at an incredible rate. The bean stalk continues to climb as the pods mature. Whether you’re wanting to collect green beans for eating, or bean pods for drying, picking them is lots of fun! The dying plant can go into the compost, and the whole process, repeated.

Bean plants help improve the soil by adding nitrogen to increase soil fertility. While most plants are extracting nutrients from the earth, beans are a plant that give back. Perhaps, a few beans in the houseplant pots wouldn’t be a bad idea.

Sprouting Seeds, Beans, and Nuts

Sprouting seeds is another great way to enjoy fresh greens, all year round. The crunch of vigorous sprouts makes a great, nutritious addition to sandwiches or salads. Mung, alfalfa, fenugreek and radish are some of the more popular ones, but cabbage, chives, red clover, lentil, peas, black sunflower, and many other seeds are great for sprouting.

Sprouted nuts, like almonds and peanuts are healthy and delicious and are easier to chew than hard nuts. Sprouting is easy, requiring only: seeds, a glass jar, water, and daily thorough rinsing with clean water. Check the Internet for details and the sprouting time required for specific seeds or nuts.

Whether it’s lush, green plants from a nursery, or just leftover kitchen scraps or a few old beans, you can bring new life into your home — and quickly. Open the windows, take in some fresh air, and get ready to watch something new and exciting happening everyday.

Jo deVries (Jo of the Woods) designed and helped build her off-grid Ontario home, where she and her son have enjoyed a pioneer-type life-style without electricity. She is the author ofDoes Your House Know Where South Is? and generously shares what she has learned during her on-going journey of turning a piece of bush land in to a self-sufficient homestead. Connect withJo of the Woodsand read all of Jo’s MOTHER EARTH NEWS postshere.


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