Gardening is a fun and rewarding past time enjoyed by many all over the world. There’s something empowering about growing your own plant or food, and reaping the benefits of your hard work! While some people love getting outdoors and gardening not everyone has that luxury. If you don’t have the room or the climate to grow a magnificent garden outside your home you can bring that garden inside and have it be just as wonderful. Today we’ll look at the first steps to starting an indoor garden.
However, it can be a bit daunting to know where to begin. There’s so much information out there, and so many different plants one could potentially grow. It can difficult to parse all this information and figure out what is going to work best for you. To help mitigate potential information overload, we’ve put together a simple guide to help get the beginner started. While it definitely is only skimming the surface of some topics, it’s more than enough to give someone the information they need to begin growing their very own garden in their home. So let’s jump right into it, and by the end you’ll have all the knowledge you need to start growing your very own indoor garden.
Benefits Of Gardening Indoors
Before we get into the guide let’s stop and look at why you might want to garden indoors. Some of these are obvious, but many also apply even to those with the space outdoor to garden.
1. It’s climate independent: One big reason to garden indoors is that you aren’t at the mercy of the weather. If you live in an area that experiences harsh winters it really cuts down on the time you have garden each year. An indoor garden doesn’t have this limitation, and lets you garden year round. Many gardeners will build a “hybrid garden” where they’ll spend some time outdoors then bring their plants inside when it gets cool.
2. It’s space efficient: Another great aspect of gardening indoors is that it can be incredibly space efficient. Small plants and herbs can be grown in small pots on a windowsill for example, so even a tiny apartment can add some green to their space. You really can tailor your garden to your available space and even take advantage of vertical gardening to really make the most of your space.
3. You Control The Environment: A good point that many outdoor gardeners envy is the complete control over the environment. When growing indoors, you get to decide exactly how much water or sun the plant gets, and also have control over things like temperature and humidity. These are things that outdoor gardens typically have less control over.
Overall, there are a lot of benefits to growing indoors. So much so, that many people maintain both an indoor and outdoor garden at the same time. There really is no wrong way to garden.
Choosing Your Plants and Containers
The first step to getting your garden up and running is picking the right plants and a good location for them to thrive. You’ll also need to keep in mind what you plant them in as certain containers will make the whole process easier that others. Most plants will do perfectly fine indoors, although some are better suited for it than others. If you’re a beginner it’s generally a good idea to pick a plant that is well suited to indoor growth to make things a bit easier.
Pick Your Plants
There’s a wide variety of plants you can pick from to satisfy the desires of every gardener. Whether you’re looking to grow something you can look at, or something you can eat, you’re sure to find a plant that fits your needs.
First, figure out why you want to grow the plant; do you want it to look nice, serve a purpose for cooking or maybe be an edible on it’s own? This will help you narrow down your choices. Once you have that question answered there will likely be hundreds of plants that could be potential candidates. Below, we’ve listed some popular ones that are suited for even first time gardeners for a variety of different purposes.
These plants will add some color and life to your home. If you’re looking for decorative plants these are some of the best.
Peace Lilies bloom a beautiful white flower and are perfect for growing indoors! They are very easy to maintain, and can be grown even in low light conditions. This makes them perfect for even out of the way rooms in a house that might not get enough light to grow other plants.
Hibiscus come in a variety of colors and make a beautiful addition to any home. These are another popular plant, although they do require a bit more sun than a peace lily. Many gardeners hybrid grow these meaning they will plant them outdoors in the summer, and then bring them to winter indoors.
FOR VEGGIES LOVERS
Next up we have a range of edible plants. These options are great to eat alone, but also go great in a variety of recipes.
Carrots are a fantastic vegetable to grow indoors and are perfect for a variety of dishes. One thing to keep in mind, like many vegetables the sun requirements are high for carrots. For winter months with less intense sunlight it’s oftentimes a good idea to supplement this with a grow light for a few hours. We’ll talk about artificial lighting a bit later in this article.
Another easy to grow vegetable is eggplants, which are delicious on their own or great for adding to various dishes. One thing to keep in mind here is temperature, too cold will kill the plant. This isn’t usually a problem indoors, but take care that the area around the plant isn’t too drafty or this could cause problems.
FOR THE COOKS
Lastly, we have a section for herbs. Herbs are perfect to spice up many recipes, but are also great for gardeners as they can often be grown in small spaces.
A great addition to many recipes is chives, which are also a very easy to grow indoor plant. Chives are also a very space conservative plant, and can be grown in very small pots. This makes them a great choice for those were space is at premium.
Mint is a great herb for not only cooking, but is an excellent addition to many types of drinks. Mint can also be grown in small area, but will grow quickly and take over its pot. For that reason, don’t grow it in the same pot as other plants.
This is only a small sample of what you could potentially grow. If nothing on the list interests you don’t worry, there is a ton of other plants you can grow! The important thing is to find something that you enjoy growing and can commit to working on. Gardening does take a fair amount of work and consistency to see the best results; it makes it much easier to stick to it if you’re excited about what you’re growing.
For those still not sure what to grow you may be looking for something easy to grow. Many first time gardeners are looking for easy plants that are hardy and won’t die from a little neglect. For those in this boat a couple options to consider are:
Hopefully that should be enough to get even the most indecisive person started.
There are a ton of containers that you can plant your plant in, but the most important thing to keep in mind is proper drainage. Most containers for indoor use will have drainage holes at the bottom which will allow the water to seep out of the soil. This is important as soil that retains water can lead to root rot which can kill your plants.
For some containers that you can’t have drainage hole (like mason jars) you can fill the bottom of the plant with small pebbles. This will allow the water to drain to the bottom of the container without subjecting the roots to excess moisture.
For starters, pick up a few clay pots that are large enough to fit your plants. These are great as they are widely available, extremely cheap, and are very porous which will naturally help to prevent overwatering. They’re a great first container to start with.
Where to Garden
After you’ve decided what you garden you’ll need to pick a spot where to garden. Probably the most important thing to consider is light. Each type of plant requires different amounts and intensities of light, so make sure that you do a bit of research to know what your particular plant needs. You don’t want to put a full light plant in a shady bedroom as it surely will die. In general, things like fruits and veggies will require the most light, while flowers and herbs can range from little to a lot for their lighting needs.
Depending on which plant you’ve decided to grow you’ll need varying amounts of light to achieve optimal growth. Most plants need a good deal of light for several hours a day, but there are many varieties which will do just as well in lower light conditions. It’s important to do a bit of research on what your particular plant needs, and plan the growing space accordingly.
For most plants you’ll want to pick a nice space near a window that gets a decent amount of sun a day. Do also take note of how direct the sun should be on the plants, some plants like indirect light or they may start to wilt.
For those that don’t have the luxury of bright windows, or perhaps want to grow more than their window space allows, there is always the option of setting up artificial lights.
There is a bunch of varieties designed to simulate different amounts and intensities of light. Once again you’re going to want to do a little bit of reading here and match your type of light to the plant you’re looking to grow.
Here’s an example of a small grow light perfect for a couple of plants.
This is just one example of a small grow light for indoor gardens. There are a lot more of various sizes and shapes, so you’re certain to find something that fits your needs and space.
The key is to make sure that the light is far enough away from your plant, and is on for the correct amount of time. In general, LED lights can be placed 12 inches away from a plant as they don’t get too hot and won’t burn your plant. For lights that give off heat you’ll want to put them further away or they may fry the plant.
For those heavily utilizing growing lights it may be wise to also invest in a light timer. This is a simple device that handles turning the lights on and off and helps to simulate a more natural environment. It’s also very convenient for the forgetful gardener.
Also, consider the size you want your plant to grow. Most plants can be grown from a wide range of sizes from small cups to large pots. It’s important to know how large of an area you have for the plants before you make your choice to ensure that the sizing will work with your space. Most plants have an average range that they grow between.
Also be aware of any associated maintenance costs of pruning or trimming a fast growing plants. While many plants are capable of being contained to a smaller size than they’d naturally grow to, some require a good deal of maintenance work in order to maintain that size. If you’re looking for a more low maintenance approach it may not be the best fit to get one of these fast growing plants.
So you’ve got your plants all picked out and planted and it’s time to make sure your plant is as healthy as possible. This generally involves a schedule of watering, possibly fertilizing, and generally keeping an eye out for any visible issues. One of the great things about growing plants is they often have visual cues that something is wrong.
The problem is that different plants have different meanings behind a visual problem. Wilting leaves might mean too much water or too little. It might also mean that it’s getting too direct light, or not enough light to begin with! If you notice something wrong with your plant doing a quick search on the symptoms to see what the possible causes could mean before proceeding.
Seed Vs Plant
One thing to keep in mind is the different needs for a seed vs a full grown plant; if you’ve chosen to start out your growing endeavors from a seed that is. Generally, seeds or seedlings will require differing amounts of water or light than a full grown plant. Keep this in mind, and be ready to change your habits once the seedling matures. It’s also good to note that the margin for error is a bit lower when starting with a seed. While most plants are quite hardy and can deal with some neglect, you may not be as lucky with a seedling. So keep your eyes on them.
Water is essential to every type of plant. The big difference though is that how much to water a plant varies greatly between the different types. Generally, watering when the soil is dry to the touch is a good rule of thumb, but always do a bit of research on what your particular plants needs. If you’re a bit forgetful (or over/under water) from time to time you should be fine, most plants are quite sturdy. Just don’t make a habit out of it.
If you’re very forgetful, or perhaps need to travel away from home often, then here’s a couple of good plants to grow indoors that require low amounts or infrequent watering.
Now just because they’re low water doesn’t mean to neglect them! But, they can survive a bit of a drought brought on by a forgetful gardener.
One of the biggest problems a gardener can have is pests, and indoors is no exception. There is a large amount of different insects and other pests that can seriously harm your plants. To make matters worse, a lot of these pests can spread extremely quickly, so it’s important to be on the look for the warning signs of a potential infestation.
The first sign of a potential pest problem is the visible site of the bugs They could be anywhere from the soil, to the stem, to leaves, really anywhere on or near the plants. Just because you don’t see any bugs, doesn’t mean they aren’t there. Also keep an eye out for general sickly looking plants or areas of the plants. This could include mis-colored leaves, holes in the leaves, or damage to any parts of the plant.
The exact symptoms will differ from bug to bug, so do a bit of research if you suspect there is a problem. Certain types of plants are know to attract specific pests, so reading up on the common ailments to the plant you selected can help you determine the culprit. This is especially true in the case where the damage is apparent, but there are no pests visible.
If you do find pests on your plants check out guide to natural pest control techniques that can help you quickly get rid of them.
Fertilizing your plants is another very important step. This is especially true for plants growing indoors in containers as generally the soil becomes less and less nutrient filled as your plants absorb it. It’s generally easier to add a bit of fertilizer every once in a while than to completely replace the soil.
There are tons of different fertilizers on the market most of which will be perfectly fine. For indoor use it’s generally advised to choose an organic one as these are generally safer for the plants and keep chemicals out of the home. You can also go the route of making your own compost to use as a nutrient rich fertilizer. Be advised though that is decaying material, and can often times bring a smell along with it. This makes it tad bit unpleasant for indoor uses.
For a fertilizing schedule it once again depends on the type of plant you’re growing. A general rule of thumb is once a month for indoor plants, but this is by no means an absolute. Learn about the specifics of your plant and when/how to fertilize and be careful not to overdo it. This is especially important if you’re using a non-organic fertilizer as it can fry the plant.
While not strictly fertilizing, changing out the soil is also important to keep the plant healthy. Soil will naturally lose nutrients, and will become compact which will restrict water flow. That’s why it’s important to repot your plant from time to time. Usually once a year is good. If you’re moving the plant from outdoors each season, then this is a great time to swap out the soil.
Depending on your plant the time has finally come to harvest your plant. For non-edible plants a similar process of pruning is likely to be part of your plant care routine. Regardless of the type, some of trimming process is vitally important to optimal growth of the plant. By cutting back the plant itself you’re actually helping the plant to thrive. It can help to strengthen the plant by promoting a good foundation from which to grow from. It’s also good to cut back any dead parts of the plant.
Pruning is also vitally important for controlling some of the pest issues above. Many times, the infestation starts localized to a single part of the plant. A vigilant owner can then catch it before it spreads, and remove part of the plant. This allows the unaffected parts of the plant to continue to grow on healthy and happy.
For those that have chosen to grow edible plants this is the point where you’ll get to reap the rewards! Each time of plant has different specifics on when it ripens or when the best time to harvest your herbs are. Do a bit of research but remember all the points above for pruning and trimming apply here as well.
Starting an Indoor Garden
Now, armed with the knowledge to get started go out there and get to gardening! There’s no better way to learn than to do, don’t be afraid to make mistakes and never be afraid to ask questions. Get out there and create the garden of your dreams! Starting an indoor garden can be done anytime of the year, there’s never a wrong time to jump into this wonderful hobby.