How to Grow an Indoor Garden
There are many reasons to start an indoor garden; maybe it's wintertime and your home seems colorless, or maybe it's summer and your plants have started to wilt. If you live in the city, it's quite likely that you don't have a garden or a yard at all - an indoor garden is a good option to liven up your apartment and even to grow your own food.
An indoor garden is an excellent idea; it will bring color to your home, clean the air and make you feel peaceful. Here at OneHowTo we'll give you some tips on how to grow an indoor garden no matter the color of your thumb.
Where to grow an indoor garden: Light
Plants feed on light, and therefore light is the first aspect you have to consider when starting an indoor garden. A dark place will make your plants grow weedy and spindly, and they will not blossom or give fruit at all.
If you have windows - especially facing south, east or west - put them to good use. If you don't, or there's not enough space around them, you might want to consider grow lights. Regular light bulbs are not enough; we're talking about special bulbs that you can buy in gardening stores. You can buy them alone or in kits, which may include timers, cages or fans. There are different kinds of grow lights, which ought to be placed close to but not touching the plants:
- Incandescent lights: For individual house plants.
- Fluorescent lights: For herbs.
- Compact fluorescent lights: More specialized equipment - and therefore more expensive -, they project different ranges and light colors. High Intensity Discharge fluorescents are often used for commercial, bigger spaces. High Pressure Sodium bulbs are good when the plants are blossoming, while Metal Halide bulbs are a good option in general.
- Red or blue LED lights.
You'll be able to tell whether your plants need more or less light by the thinness and the color of their stems and leaves. Seeds don't actually need much light to grow, but once they burst out of the soil it becomes a priority.
Where to grow an indoor garden: Space
Once you've settled on a type of light source, you should consider where you'll place your garden. The smaller the temperature fluctuation, the better - if you can illuminate it well, a basement could be a good option. Temperatures should be between 60º and 75º F - 15º and 23º C - depending on the type of plant. You can isolate your indoor garden by growing it in a tent or closet - make sure you keep the light and humidity under control.
Do not place your garden close to fans or heaters that might dry the soil too much. It's better if the environment is humid. If it isn't, mist your plants or place a tray of water near them, letting it evaporate. You can also use humidifiers or environmental controllers - your skin will thank you as well. It's a good option to grow your plants together, so they all benefit from the same conditions, creating a green place in your home.
In general, it's better to start an indoor garden with new seeds and soil and well-cleaned pots, since you don't risk bringing in any pests. However, if you're moving your outdoor plants inside to keep them from intense cold or heat, they will need to be acclimated. Remember that plants dry faster in pots and containers than they do in an orchard soil; when you transplant them, wash and rinse the pot well, and dampen the soil thoroughly to ease the transition. Be careful with the roots.
If the weather is mild again and you want to move your indoor garden outdoors, acclimate your plants by hardening them. Place them outside (not in direct sunlight) for some hours each day, and increase that time. Introduce them to sunlight slowly. Only transplant them when you have been doing this process for at least a week, and water well.
What to grow in an indoor garden
You're in luck - mostly everything can be grown indoors, in pots and containers. However, some plants are better suited for it and will thrive, while others will simply survive. Of course, look for each plant's specific requirements in pot size, light and water.
- Vegetables and fruits: As a rule of (green) thumb, grow inside those vegetables that you would use in a salad. Smaller varieties of tomato and beans are good choices, while eggplants, peppers, squashes and cabbages can also tolerate pots. Fruits like berries or citrus can be grown indoors, but the plants need to be pollinated.
- Kitchen herbs: The best choice for small apartments. Perennial herbs like aloe, catnip, chives, lavender, lemon balm, oregano, rosemary or sage are best bought already a bit grown and planted in large pots. Annual herbs like basil, cilantro, dill and parsley can be bought as seeds and planted.
- Flowers: Most flowers thrive when planted in pots. Good choices include begonias, geraniums, marigolds, pansies, petunias, roses or zinnias.
- Trees: Even if it sounds surprising, they can be grown in pots! However, do consider dwarf varieties.
How to feed indoor plants
You should water your indoor garden frequently, with room temperature water, until you see it escape through the pot's drain holes. Don't let it stay in the dish, since the soil and the plant's roots might rot. If the weather is hot, you might even have to water them twice a day. In order to know whether you should water your plants, lift the pot and consider its weight - the dryer the soil, the lighter the pot. If in doubt, the soil should be kept moist, but not wet.
- Your indoor garden is under-watered if: The soil has turned pale and dry. The leaves are brown and wilt from outside. The plants look droopy.
- Your indoor garden is over-watered if: The leaves are yellow and wilt from inside out. The plant has stopped growing.
As for nutrients, you can buy organic fertilizers or make your own compost. Soil should be specifically mixed, loose and fluffy and rich in organic matter. Don't use soil from outside. If you want your indoor garden to grow faster, you can try hydroponics. This technique involves planting the plants without soil and providing the nutrients directly - the space needed is much smaller.
Take a look at our article on how to grow healthy plants both outdoors and indoors.
How to plan an indoor garden
When you've decided the size and kind of indoor garden you want, you might be wondering how to plan it so that it looks good.
Play with the size of plants and containers, contrasting them - but make sure each plant fits its pot. Place them in layers, in pyramids or towers. If you place your indoor plants together it will look like an actual garden; moreover, the plants will provide some shade for each other and create a miniature ecosystem. Provide one or two focal points - bigger, better-looking plants from which to grow your indoor garden.
Not everybody has the space or time for a vertical garden, but you can create a similar effect by hanging floating bowls, placing a vertical pallet in a balcony or hanging stacks of pots on a kitchen wall. For horizontal layers, consider racks and baskets, or even a portable table with wheels - you'll have a movable feast!
Literally any container can be a pot; you can use classic plastic or terracotta pots and paint them, or get creative with:
- Old pipes
- Plastic bottles
- Tea cups
- Mason jars
- Coffee and tea tins
- Light bulbs
If the container does not have any drain holes, place charcoal, gravel or water-absorbing beads at its bottom to absorb excess water and avoid rot. Try labeling each pot with paint, stickers or flags - it will be cute and informative.
These have been some tips on how to grow an indoor garden. Remember to choose each plant according to the space and time that you can give it and treat them with care. You will be rewarded with a lush, fresh feeling inside your home.
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