Debbie Arrington

Edible gardening comes inside

Hydroponic gardens are one way people are growing food indoors.
Hydroponic gardens are one way people are growing food indoors. The Associated Press

Who needs soil or sunshine? Edible gardening no longer is restricted to the great outdoors – or even to daylight.

According to industry tracker Garden Media Group’s 2017 Trends Report, indoor food gardening ranks among the fastest-growing trends in the horticulture business. The report was released last week at the Association for Garden Communicators’ annual conference in Atlanta.

The indoor trend represents the confluence of several factors, said the report. People have less (or no) room for gardening outdoors, yet they want to know where their food grew. Consumers are demanding locally grown “clean food,” produced without pesticides. If they can grow it themselves with less water, so much the better. And they want their favorites year round, not just “in season.”

Designed for growing 365 days (and nights) a year, indoor gardening doesn’t depend on the weather and pest problems are few. Under lights, ripe heirloom tomatoes can be harvested in January and tender sweet lettuce can be picked in August. And with a 24-7 growing window, vegetables actually grow faster.

“You control the conditions instead of Mother Nature controlling you,” read the report. “Growing clean fresh food is a necessity, not a luxury. With the demand for organic, local food exceeding supply, and people choosing to live in smaller spaces and urban environments, more people will grow indoors.”

Technology is making indoor gardening easier and more successful, say experts. Innovations such as hydroponic “water boxes” and “grow towers” prove that copious amounts of food can be produced in small, indoor spaces without sunlight or soil.

Business is booming for stores devoted to indoor gardening, said the report. Once associated primarily with medical marijuana growers, these stores now are finding a much broader clientele.

In 2015, indoor gardening stores brought in just under $1 billion in sales, the report noted. Their share of the nursery market has grown 8.2 percent over the past five years. But the indoor grow business is expected to increase by more than 30 percent over the next five years.

“Indoor gardening – growing under lights in soil, hydroponically or aquaponically – is becoming mainstream and destigmatized,” said the report. “From growing arugula to bok choy, clean fresh food will be available to plant, pick and plate every season.”

In its polling of potential gardeners of all ages, the report debunked one popular assumption, that gardeners are all graying. Millennials, in particular, are driving the indoor trend. This 18-34 age group actually grows more herbs indoors than boomers do, with almost four of every 10 millennials growing their own chives, cilantro and other favorites.

Boomers are getting into indoor gardening, too, with 28 percent saying they grow herbs indoors, the report said.

Indoor gardening certainly cuts the distance from farm to fork. With this redefined style of kitchen gardening, it’s kitchen counter to plate.