Guest post by Ashly Rosa
When the winter gets you feeling down and you find yourself dreaming of fresh herbs and veggies from the summer garden, consider creating your own garden indoors! Besides providing plenty of delicious food to eat, indoor plants clean the air in your home and add a pop of vibrant green space to the indoor space.
Indoor gardening is a great solution for those who do not have enough outdoor space, especially for those who live in cities where space is at a premium. Plants do not have to take up much space - if a sunny window, table, or shelf can work with the current configuration of your space, then a plant can thrive. For outdoor garden spots, indoor gardening may be a great way to get seedlings going before planting them outside the spring.
Here are some important things to consider when starting an indoor garden:
The amount of space you have to devote to an indoor garden is the first thing to consider. You can make it as big or small as you like, depending on the space you have to work with.
If you plan to increase the size of your garden a lot between the seedling and the full-growth stages, you may want to set up a table or shelving unit specifically dedicated to starting your plants. A small shelf with indoor plant lighting can also be set up in a corner of your apartment. Of course, if you have a sunny window, it may also provide enough light for a few plants that can tolerate such conditions, like lettuce or micro-greens.
Without adequate light, a plant will become 'leggy', which means that its stalk has become very tall. “Leggy’ plants are weak, partly because they do not have enough energy to grow properly, and may not be able to produce flowers and fruits (or if they do, the amount of flowers and fruits produced may be very low). Most plants grown near a window will not get sufficient illumination in the winter months from the sunlight alone, because sunlight is weaker in winter and shines for fewer hours than in summer. As a result, you will probably need to use a plant light. If you have a grow tent, it will be very helpful for you and the size of your plants will also increase very fast.
What size light do I need?
Look at your bulb's wattage to determine the light energy that will support your plants. It is recommended that you provide your plants with at least 50 watts per square foot in the growing area. Bulbs should not be placed more than a few inches (especially with seedlings) from the plant; otherwise, the inadequate light can result in your seedling becoming leggy.
For ease and simplicity of use, I use a Sunblaster Grow Light so that I can start my seeds in the spring. It's nice and compact, and your small seedlings will get full spectrum lighting so that they become strong and healthy. In the long winter months when a lot of cooling becomes too cold, I use it to increase my yield of fresh vegetables and green vegetables indoors. It's definitely one of my favorite purchases!
If you have limited internal space, I recommend the Sunblaster Grow Light Garden. I use a smaller version of the one in the image and it works very efficiently.
Temperature + humidity
For most plants, a temperature of 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit (18-24 degrees Celsius) is ideal, although some temperatures outside this range will not do any harm. Subjecting plants to temperatures that are either very hot or very cold for a long time will eventually create problems (such as stunted growth or yellow leaves) and the plants will not be able to yield their best possible harvest.
The biggest problem with growing crops inside your house is the lack of moisture, especially in winter, which is a lot drier than other seasons.
To prevent some of these problems, you can increase the moisture in your indoor growing environment in different ways.
Spray plants with a spritzer daily
Leave a tray filled with water near your indoor garden
Cluster plants together to create more moist micro-climates
Use a humidifier
We also have friends who used to keep their plants in the bathroom, where they benefited from the humidity created from the daily use of the shower.
For an indoor garden, you should look for a potting mix that is made especially for indoor use. When I started my seeds, I personally used a pro-mixed organic seed starter mix. It's the top quality material that professionals use, so you cannot really make mistakes with it!
When you start seed, you want to avoid using regular gardening soil for in-ground planting because it may contain bacteria and bugs that can prevent your plants from growing or developing properly. A good seed starter mix has a fine texture and sterilization - a perfect combination for baby plants.
A good indoor growing medium should be loose, light, and fluffy. It should have adequate organic matter to supply some nutrients and moisture but drain well. Most bagged mixes are great, or you can mix your own.
Containers full of growing plants dry up faster than plants grown in the ground, and therefore need to be watered more frequently. When the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch, it’s time to water again. Remember to get rid of any excess water that flows out of the bottom of your container, as plants do not want to sit in it and you run the risk of root rot.
Nutrients are absolutely essential to grow healthy plants, and plants will use nutrients already present in the soil or growing medium quickly. Follow the instructions for inorganic or organic fertilizers you choose, paying particular attention to how much to apply (always apply a bit less of synthetic liquid fertilizer to avoid “burning” your plants),how to adjust amounts for the density of your planting, and how often fertilizer should be applied.
As long as you supply your plants with adequate lighting and they are not too big for your house, almost anything can thrive!
There’s no reason you can’t grow a vegetable garden inside your house, with the proper supplies and growing conditions, so if it’s something that you’ve been dying to try; we say 'go for it'!
Just remember, before putting plants outside you need to acclimate them to the new conditions. You can put them outside each day for a short time (e.g., starting with a few hours a day), and then follow each day with a little more time outside. Do this daily until you get up to approximately 7 days every day, then your plants can be safely transferred outside if there is no risk of frost.
Ashly Rosa is a blogger and avid gardener. You can learn more about her gardening adventures on her website and blog, https://www.mygardenings.com
Interested in learning how to create your own thriving vegetable and herb garden, even if you don’t have much space or experience? Check out our new online gardening course, Container Garden Like a Pro
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