Indoor Gardening: Making Year Round Gardening Possible


There are so many benefits of gardening. One of the best benefits is putting fresh food on the table and, for me, there’s just isn’t a better feeling than that!

A lot of folks think that when the summer and early fall gardening season ends, so does the gardening. That’s just not true.

What if I told you that you can grow a plentiful garden INDOORS…all year round?

Gardeners who garden indoors do so for a number of reasons. Here are the most common reasons:

  • Gardeners who live in northern climates that have shorter summer months love indoor gardens. It provides them with more options to have the most productive, plentiful garden.
  • Gardeners without a good gardening area in the yard may find growing indoors especially useful. Indoor gardening is perfect for city dwellers especially those who live in an apartment or town home.
  • Plants also help cleanse your household air and improve the aesthetics of any indoor space.

Sounds pretty awesome, doesn’t it? Let’s go even further and get you started on the road to indoor gardening. What I’ll be covering in this article:

  • Space – The best spaces in your home for indoor gardening
  • Light – The best lighting options for indoor gardening
  • Temperature – What temperatures are necessary for an indoor garden
  • Humidity – Watching for signs that plants are being affected
  • Soil – Which soil is best for indoor gardening
  • Plants – Choosing the right plants for indoor gardening
  • Maintenance – Watering and Fertilizing your indoor garden

Space

You can utilize as much space as you need for your indoor garden. You can grow plants of all kinds. Most indoor gardeners use a windowsill or a table for their indoor gardening areas. The table should be on a tile or linoleum floor to catch any water. A tarp under the table can be used as well.

Another great idea is shelving which will provide lots of planting room while taking up little space. If using shelves, make sure that adequate light reaches every plant. This may require a separate grow light for each shelf.

Light

Plants need light to photosynthesize, and they need to photosynthesize to survive. Without adequate light, a plant will not grow to its full potential, and in some cases the plant may not produce fruit. A grow light may be required.

If you are new to indoor gardening, purchasing a grow light can be confusing, as there are different grow lights to choose from. Here are the choices for grow lights and the results they produce.

Incandescent Lamps are inexpensive and can be bought at a hardware store or nursery. While they work OK for growing houseplants, they are not ideal for an indoor garden.

An incandescent light bulb lit up against a black background

An incandescent light bulb. (Image via)

Fluorescent Lights work best for growing herbs and other plants that don’t require a lot of light. They are not good for plants that are budding or flowering because they don’t put off enough light. Inexpensive, they can be purchased at your local hardware or garden supply store.

An indoor garden using a fluorescent grow light.

An indoor garden using a fluorescent grow light. (Image via)

The new Compact Fluorescent Systems, however, are quite bright and efficient, and in some cases might even be better than the fancier high intensity discharge (HID) lights. Compact fluorescents are smaller and more efficient than older forms of fluorescent lighting so they can be used for all plants. They also produce less heat than incandescent and HID lights and consequently can be placed much closer to the plant.

High Intensity Discharge (HID) Bulbs are the brightest and most efficient lights available but, they can be expensive. One 1,000 watt grow light bulb can produce the same amount of light as 50 40-watt fluorescent lights. Keep in mind that there are different types of HID Bulbs to choose from. The High Pressure Sodium and Metal Halide bulbs are the only ones indoor gardeners will need.

A high-end HID bulb

A high-end HID bulb. (Image via)

  • High Pressure Sodium (HPS) Bulbs produce a red-orange light that benefits flowering. With an average lifespan 2X that of metal halides, high pressure sodium lamps are economical. This isn’t a great light if you are only going to use one, as it doesn’t produce light in the blue spectrum needed for leafy growth.

An HPS grow bulb

An HPS grow bulb. (Image via)

  • Metal Halide (MH) Bulbs produce a blue-white color that is conducive to encouraging leafy growth and keeps plants compact. A bulb will last about 10,000 hours and produce up to 125 lumens per watt compared to 39 lumens per watt for standard fluorescent lights and 18 lumens per watt for standard incandescent bulbs. This is a good light to start plants out with. When it comes time to flower, switch to a High Pressure Sodium bulb.

An indoor garden using metal halide grow lights

An indoor garden using metal halide grow lights. (Image via)

Note: There is more to a grow light than just the bulb. You can purchase the reflector, cord, ballast, bulb and other parts separately, or buy a whole system that just needs to be plugged in.

Temperature

Temperatures of 65-75°F are best for most plants. A variance of 10°F either way will probably be OK. Plants that are too hot will be small and weak. Plants grown at too-cold temperatures may have yellow leaves that fall off.

Humidity

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A lack of humidity in the house can be a challenge for indoor gardeners. Winter tends to be drier than summer, and if you run the heat in your house the problem is further compounded.

You know you have a low humidity problem if:

  • The tips of your leaves are turning brown
  • Plants look withered or puckered
  • Plants lose their leaves
  • You’ve researched how much humidity your particular plant needs and it isn’t getting it.

To increase humidity:

  • Mist plants daily, or more often as needed. (Do not do this with hairy-leaved plants since the water hangs around longer and could cause disease.)
  • Place a tray of water near your garden (don’t put plants in the tray; this can lead to other problems.) Fill the tray with lava rocks to increase surface area for evaporation.
  • Place plants close together to create a microenvironment with a higher relative humidity.
  • Run a humidifier (this will also benefit your skin as well.)
  • Purchase an environmental controller, which can humidify or dehumidify depending on your needs.

Soil

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Indoor gardens benefit from a good planting medium. Soil found outside is not appropriate, since it’s often too heavy and may contain weed seeds and insect pests. Instead, look for a mix that is specific to indoor plants. A good growing medium should remain loose and drain well, yet contain enough organic matter to hold nutrients and moisture.

Plants

Almost anything can be grown indoors — as long as it eventually doesn’t get too big. However, do consider growing plants with similar light, humidity and watering needs together.

Here is a list of great plants to grow indoors:

Vegetables

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  • Peppers
  • Salad Greens
  • Kale
  • Chard
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Tomatoes, especially cherry types
  • Beans, Bush

Herbs

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  • Basil
  • Parsley
  • Oregano
  • Lavender
  • Cilantro
  • Rosemary
  • Chives
  • Catmint

Fruits

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  • Strawberries
  • Blueberries
  • Apples, dwarf varieties
  • Citrus

Flowers

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  • Geranium
  • Pansy
  • Zinnia
  • Roses
  • Candytuft
  • Alyssum
  • Marigold
  • Petunia
  • Begonia
  • Shasta Daisy

Maintenance

Watering

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Plants grown in containers dry out more quickly than their soil-grown counterparts and require frequent watering. Always use room-temperature water and add enough water that it runs through the drain holes of your pot or container. Do not let water collect under the plant (the saucer area) as this can lead to rot and disease.

Fertilizing

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Organic fertilizing for indoor plants is the best recommendation. In fact, If you compost at home, you can make a compost tea to water your indoor plants.

Here’s how:

  • Fill a bucket about 1/3 full with finished compost
  • Add water until the bucket is full
  • Let the bucket sit for a few hours, if not three or four days (don’t let it freeze!)
  • Using cheesecloth or a fine screen, strain the mixture into another container. (Anything leftover can be thrown into the garden or back into the compost bin)
  • Add water to the liquid until it is the color of weak tea
  • Apply the compost tea to the soil around your plants

Stay tuned for my next article on indoor gardening in which we talk about the awesome process of Hydroponic Gardening!

Check out these other gardening articles:

5 Uses for Epsom Salt in Your Garden

Gardening 101: The Three Sisters

DIY Raised Garden Beds

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