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Indoor vegetable gardens prove to be a growing trend

This undated photo by Dina Klempf courtesy of LA Urban Farms shows an indoor grow garden.

Dina Klempf/AP

A tasty salad of tender pea shoots. Handfuls of fragrant herbs for the stew. Snack veggies for lunch boxes.

Keeping a fresh supply of greens and herbs on hand can be challenging as the growing season winds down, or if you don't have a garden. But now you can plop a planter anywhere in your house, set a few timers, and in about 10 days you'll be nibbling greens like a contented rabbit. All year round.

There are a variety of indoor grow gardens on the market that come with everything you need: planter, planting medium, seeds, fertilizer and a high-intensity grow light. Smart tech and remote controls adjust lighting and moisture levels, so even if your thumb's not the greenest, you can still find success.

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Linnea and Tarren Wolfe of Vancouver decided to design a home grower after watching their kids gobble up sunflower and pea-shoot microgreens "like potato chips."

Their Urban Cultivator looks like a wine fridge. It comes as a free-standing unit, topped with a butcher block, or it can be installed under the counter and hooked up like a dishwasher. The company offers an extensive seed selection, but anything from your local garden centre will grow.

Linnea Wolfe advises home gardeners to do some research into the benefits of the edible, immature greens known as microgreens.

"Most of them only take about 7 to 10 days to grow," she says. "You can mass-consume them, and the health benefits are extraordinary."

The indoor garden trend is part of a, well, growing movement, says New York landscape architect Janice Parker.

"The technology of these kits simplifies hydroponic gardening at its best, and makes it available to all," she says. You don't need a yard, or favourable weather.

"What a pleasure to have fresh herbs, flowers and vegetables, and experience a connection to nature no matter where you are," says Parker.

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She thinks these kits shouldn't just be relegated to the kitchen.

"I'd put them anywhere – dining room tables and coffee tables come to mind. Or in 'dead' spaces that have no light or interest," she says.

She recommends growing plants with both flavour and flair: "Chives, dill, rosemary, fennel, basil and nasturtiums all have gorgeous flowers and beautiful foliage."

Miracle Gro's line of Aerogarden indoor planters includes the Sprout, which is about the size of a coffee maker and suitable for herbs, as well as a larger model in which you could grow just about anything. Prepackaged seed pods, including lettuces, cherry tomatoes, herb blends and petunias, come ready to pop in the planter. An LCD control panel helps adjust lighting and watering needs.

Click & Grow's planter is compact. It has room for three plants, and an integrated LED light pole and special lightweight soil are included. The planter comes in white, grey or beige. There's a walnut wood case available for the herb model.

LA Farms' vertical garden would make a vibrant addition to a sunny kitchen or sunroom. A circulating pump brings a soothing burble of water up and through the tower-shaped planter.

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So what to grow in it, if you're a novice?

"Leafy greens such as arugula, kale and butter lettuce, and herbs such as parsley, cilantro, thyme and oregano prove to be easiest for indoor growing," says LA Farms' founder, Wendy Goodman, of Los Angeles. "These plants require less light, have an easy germination process and typically grow more quickly than other produce."

Chef Matt DeMille shows you how to make the perfect side dish: these easy pickled vegetables! Globe and Mail Update
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