Growing your own healthy, organic veggies and herbs? Growing them all year round? Decorating your home with the natural beauty of your favorite flowers? There are certainly plenty of incentives to get into indoor gardening; unfortunately, many a prospective indoor gardener is intimidated by the sheer amount of information, planning, and purchasing that seems to accompany this endeavor. Simply put, many of us just don’t know where to begin!
The following points explain what you need to get started with an indoor garden - and hopefully make indoor gardening seem less like an overwhelming undertaking and more like the exciting, totally achievable lifestyle upgrade it is.
Location and Space
A common concern of small apartment and condo-dwellers is that there might not be enough indoor space for a garden to flourish. The truth is that indoor gardens can be any size you want them to be! A windowsill can do the job, or if you have more space, you can set up a bench or table for a larger garden. An ideal spot would be an area that receives plenty of direct natural sunlight from an east or west-facing window as you’ll be able to rely less on artificial lighting that way. You can separate the plants that require more shade, or simply close the shutters on your window to adjust the amount of light your garden receives. If you would love to grow a particular type of flower or herb, look it up – there are plenty of shade-loving plants that would thrive in a darker room (or even a closet), and keep in mind that supplementary artificial grow lights make it possible to cultivate a garden just about anywhere in your home! Tip: Keep your plants away from air vents in order to prevent them from drying out.
Seeds vs. Transplants
The great thing about growing plants indoors is that you are not at the mercy of the seasons, and plants that take longer to grow can do so any time of the year without the impending threat of frost. Given the greater control and peace of mind you have with indoor gardening, growing from seed is definitely doable – and may actually be better than transplanting. Plants moved to a different location often suffer from “shock,” stifling their growth and even causing plant death. Additionally, plants transported from outdoors may bring diseases or pests with them. We would recommend ordering seed packets online, where you can browse a much wider variety than you would be able to access at an average garden center. Seeds are also ideal postage items, with low-cost shipping and little risk of being damaged in transit.
You can plant seeds in old yogurt cups, ice trays, and many other recycled containers. Though many people still turn to clay pots or stone bowls for aesthetic purposes, plastic containers are actually better at keeping moisture in the soil and regulating temperature, and are much more easily transportable. Planting in old plastic pails and containers is also a way to reuse these items for a few seasons so that they don’t go straight into a landfill! If you are purchasing new containers however, you may want to consider the environmental impact of plastics and opt for sustainable clay or stone containers instead. Wood and metal containers are also visually appealing options to consider – we would suggest avoiding them for growing edibles however, unless you can be sure there is no lead in the metal or harmful chemicals used to make the wood rot-resistant. Tip: A container made for planting will most likely come with a small hole at the bottom – if your container does not have one, you’ll want to drill a hole yourself to ensure proper drainage!
Heat and Lighting
When you first plant your seeds, heat – not light – is what’s essential. Most seeds germinate best in soil temperatures between 75°F and 85°F; if your house temperature is not near or within this range, you can simply purchase heat mats to put under your planters. In fact, before the first shoots break through the soil, you can even keep the plants in a dark room so long as the room is warm enough! Once the seedlings have sprouted however, you’ll have to provide light for them to continue growing. As we stated earlier, most light-loving plants will thrive in east or west-facing windows; however, you can definitely find plants that require less sunshine if your living space happens to be a bit challenged in the natural light department. We would strongly recommend looking into artificial lighting as well – grow bulbs and grow panels can be an excellent supplementary source even for those with daily access to natural sunlight. LEDs, while relatively new to the indoor gardening scene, are our #1 recommendation due to their high energy efficiency and recyclable, toxin-free construction.
Soil and Watering
Preparing the perfect soil for plants to grow in is much easier indoors than outdoors because you’re dealing with less space. Simply purchase a seed-starting or all-purpose potting mix, and enjoy the peace of mind that comes with pest-free, disease-free soil! As for keeping your seeds or seedlings hydrated, you can easily find information online for how often you should water any type of plant. Afraid you might forget to water your plants? We suggest starting out with two or three plant varieties with similar watering needs and adding more as you get used to the first watering schedule. Once you incorporate feeding your plants into your daily life, it will feel as routine as brushing your teeth in the morning – but much more rewarding, we promise!
Gardening has been proven to reduce stress, uplift your mood, improve your sleep, quicken your thinking, and even reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes – why miss out on these wonderful benefits just because you don’t have outdoor gardening space or live in an area with a short growing season? We are all for expanding the joys of gardening indoors, and we would love to hear about your plant-growing experiences. Share your tips and stories with us in the comments below, and keep on growing those fresh veggies, herbs, and blooms all ye ar round!