How To Grow An Indoor Garden

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For both flavor and health, there’s nothing better than garden fresh herbs, fruits, and vegetables! 

But, while growing your own herbs and produce is both tasty and rewarding, lacking the space for an outdoor garden or living in an area with harsh winter months can put a damper on your efforts and a longing in your tastebuds. 

Thankfully, innovation (and thus indoor gardening) is not lacking in our world: past, present, or future! 

It is said that indoor gardening dates back to the early Greeks and Romans. And now, that practice has spread across mountains and seas and into homes all across the globe!

But, what about sunlight? What about soil? Just how is it done, and what can you grow? 

Let’s find out…

 

What Do You Need?

Space

The amount of space needed really depends on the size of the garden you wish to grow. 

If you’re wanting to grow more than just a few pots of produce though, a table or bench dedicated to your garden is recommended. 

Shelving also makes a great space saver depending on the room you’re growing in, just be sure the light source can reach all of the plants. 

Pots and/or Planters

Okay, so we know this goes without saying, but you’re going to need something to grow your produce in. 

But, what works best? 

While any pot will do, one key to remember is that pot or planter must have a hole (or holes) in the bottom for draining out excess water, preferably onto a saucer or tray placed underneath the pot or planter and not running out onto your floor, right? 

If your pot or planter does not have holes for drainage, overwatering occurs which can cause the roots to rot or will kill the plant entirely. 

Another thing to consider is size. 

Try to keep in mind the size of the plant you are trying to grow when choosing a container size, and you should be fine. 

A few examples: 

  • Greens generally only need roughly a 4 inch deep pot/planter.
  • Carrots work well in roughly a 6 inch deep container. 
  • More shallow greens may only need 2 inches of depth. 
  • Plants with deep roots (like tomatoes) may need close to 12 inches of depth to grow.

Soil

While you will be reaping the efforts of outdoor gardening done indoors, you won’t be able to do so with the same soil. 

Classic garden soil is not recommended for an indoor garden. 

In fact, potting soil is considered the gold standard…or even the only option…when it comes to indoor gardening. 

Regular garden soil is known to contain bacteria and fungi that would not be a welcomed indoor addition. 

Look for a potting soil that contains organic matter for nutrient and moisture retention, but will also remain loose and allow for proper drainage. 

Water

Watering two times per week, or when your potting soil is dry is recommended. 

Keep in mind that plants grown in potting soil in pots or planters indoors will likely dry out faster than they would in garden soil. 

Be sure to always use room temperature water.

And, to avoid overwatering, feel the soil with your hand or fingertips to test the moisture content. 

If you notice any of the following, you might be overwatering:

  • Lack of growth
  • Discoloration
  • Wilting of the stem or the leaves
  • The plant is losing its lower leaves

And, you may be under watering if: 

  • The leaves or flowers of the plants drop before the produce is ready.
  • The edges of the leaves begin to turn brown.
  • The soil is dry.
  • You notice wilting on the outer tips of the leaves.

Lighting

Natural light is perfect light. But, since you’ll only find that in its purest form outdoors, let’s just say that you should play extra close attention to this need when growing a garden indoors. 

The natural light coming in from window sills is not considered an ample source of light for effectively growing an indoor garden. 

Full spectrum fluorescent lighting, plant lights, or “overhead grow lights” are what the experts say are best for growing produce indoors (especially in the winter months where natural light is not as prominent or available as long. 

Plants growing under these artificial lights will need more light (12-16 hours per day is suggested). 

A height of 2 inches above the top of the plants is recommended.

Temperature and Humidity

So, obviously your indoor temps are drastically different from what these plants would encounter outdoors. 

I mean, I know I don’t keep my home temps at a scorching 92 degrees in the summer months. And, surely you’re not trying your hand at an indoor garden, avoiding the outdoor harsh winter weather, only to set the thermostat at a frigid 21 degrees!

So, what’s an ideal temp for your indoor garden?

For most plants a range between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit will work just fine. 

Just remember: plants that get too hot will be small in size and weak, and plants that are too cold will lose their leaves (which will also turn yellow). If you notice either of these things happening, try adjusting your temperature accordingly.

And, if you notice any of the following, you may be having humidity issues:

  • brown leaves (primarily on the tips of the leaves)
  • plants losing their leaves
  • plants are withering

If you are experiencing any of the above problems, your home is too dry. You can add moisture or humidity to the area by:

  • misting the plants
  • running a humidifier in your home
  • placing a bowl of water nearby (it will evaporate and bring moisture to the area)
  • placing all plants very close together “to create a microenvironment with a higher relative humidity” 
 

Best For Indoor Growth?

As long as you have the space for it (and follow the practices listed above for light, water, temperature, containers, etc), you can grow almost anything indoors. 

Here’s a few ideas to get you started…

Herbs– most all herbs are great for indoor growth, cilantro, basil, parsley, chives, thyme, and sage are most recommended

Scallions– easy for beginners, don’t need a lot of light, not difficult to care for

Tomatoes– germinate rapidly from seeds (just transfer the “baby plant” to another pot once 3-4 inches tall), need roughly 10 hours of light daily, you can shake the plant once it flowers to allow pollen to fall to the flowers as a means of manual pollination 

Microgreens– easy to grow indoors, don’t take up much space, when cut at soil level, another round of growth may occur

Carrots– don’t need a lot of space, are resilient to cooler temps (even down to 60 degrees Fahrenheit), need lots of light (roughly 12 hours daily)

Peppers– tend to do well indoors, are self-pollinators, need lots of light 14-20 hours daily, recommended to allow soil to dry out between waterings

Leafy Greens– takes about a month to grow, can tolerate a bit cooler temps than most indoor produce (roughly 60 degrees), will continue to produce after cutting outer leaves for eating

Garlic Greens– can actually be grown in a container of water 1-4 inches in depth, grown from existing garlic bulbs and taste like a garlic flavored scallion (you’re only eating the greens with these, not the garlic bulbs)

Strawberries– other than possibly needing to pollinate by hand not much care is required, choose an “ever-bearing or day neutral variety,” decent yield in a small space

Radishes– ready in roughly one month, can eat the greens as well 

 
 
 
 

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