Starting an indoor garden is a fun but oftentimes confusing process. There are a lot of things to keep in mind from temperature to lighting, and it can be a bit overwhelming for a first time gardener. Even experienced gardeners can sometimes use a little help; more often than we’d probably like to admit.
In this article, we’ll try to make that journey to starting an indoor garden that much easier. We’ll look at 4 easy tips to help you keep your houseplants not only alive, but thriving. Each of the below tips is critical to growing healthy plants, and if you master all of them there’s nothing stopping you and your garden.
Make Sure To Provide Proper Drainage
First, it’s always important to start your plants with a good foundation. The container is your plant’s home, and a proper home is crucial to their long term health.
In particular, almost all of your gardening containers should include a method for draining excess moisture. In many cases, this will take the form of drainage holes built into your container. These holes allow excess water to drain out of the soil, and this helps prevent issues like root rot. Certain containers, like terra cotta, also help with drainage by being naturally porous.
Outside of that, you can also do things like adding pebbles to the bottom of your container. This gives space for water to drain to that is out of reach of your plant’s roots. This in turn keeps them from getting too waterlogged and suffering the consequences.
This method is often used for containers made of glass, like mason jars, that would be difficult to drill holes into. It provides the needed drainage to keep your soil at the proper moisture levels.
Whichever method you use, always make sure that you have proper drainage in your containers. Otherwise, water gets trapped in your soil, and this will harm your plant over time.
Know When To Water Your Plants
Building off the above, providing the correct amounts of water is also crucial to long term plant health. Too little and your plant will wither and die. Too much and the overly moist soil can become a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi that can harm your plant.
The first step to proper watering is to understand your plants. All plants are a bit different, and that can change how much water they need and when. Cacti, for example, only need a dose of water every couple of weeks. Waiting that long, however, with many other plants will be a death sentence.
In general, for most indoor plants, you want to water when the top few inches of soil is dry to the touch. In most environments, that’s going to be every couple of days. Keep in mind the above though, and adjust for your particular plant’s needs.
You should also keep in mind the activity level of your plants. Plants that are actively growing are going to need more water than those that aren’t. Many plants will go dormant in the winter, for example, and will need less water during this time. On the flip side, those that are flowering will often need more.
Lastly, keep in mind the stage of life your plant is in. Many seeds and seedlings like the soil to be a bit more moist. Keep this in mind, and also understand when your watering habits should change based on the age of your plants.
Give The Correct Amounts Of Light
Many people assume that sticking their plants in a bright spot close to a southerly facing window is best, but that’s not always the case. Like watering, many plants have different needs for light. Too much or too little can be detrimental to your plant’s growth.
Many plants will actually be harmed by too bright of light. A good number of flowering plants generally like more indirect light or even partial shade. Planting these varieties in a spot that gets bright, direct light all day long can burn out the leaves and leave the plants dry and brittle.
That’s not to say all plants are like this though. High light plants, like tomatoes, need those hours of direct sunlight to obtain enough energy to produce fruits. Putting them in a lower light area will lead to weak growth, and little to no harvestable fruits.
Also, don’t neglect the usefulness of grow lights. Newer models are quite energy efficient, and can be set to provide different colors of light. This makes them a great option regardless of where in its growth your plant is. It’s also a convenient option, especially in the winter or when growing very light hungry plants.
Like watering, lighting needs are plant specific and it’s important to learn about what your plants want. Match your planting location to your plant’s needs and you’ll find them that much easier to grow.
Choose a Good Potting Mix
Our last easy to implement tip is to start with the right potting mix and soil for your plant. There are tons of options out on the market, and you can always make your own, so it can be a bit tricky for a first time gardener to choose the right one.
The first step, when growing in containers, is to make sure to choose potting soil and not garden soil. Potting soil is lighter and fluffier, and this makes it better suited for container growing. It’s less compact than garden soil, and this helps promote proper drainage. If you use garden soil in a container you’ll find that it is far too compact and doesn’t allow water to drain properly.
You can see this difference yourself by picking up similarly sized bags of each at your local hardware store or nursery. The potting soil is going to feel much lighter and airier, while the garden soil will feel heavy and compact.
You should also be aware of specialty soil mixes and how important these are to your plant’s growth. Certain plants will do just fine either in a specialty mix or a standard potting soil. Others absolutely need the speciality blend to thrive.
Succulents and cacti, for example, absolutely need their special cacti soil in order to survive. This soil has much larger pieces of material in it, and drains significantly faster than traditional potting soil. This helps ensure that your plant doesn’t sit in water, which is especially dangerous for drought tolerant plants like cacti.
On the other hand, certain specialty blends, like citrus mixes for lemon trees, are not entirely necessary. While they can provide extra nutrients, a skilled gardener can do just as well with a traditional mix. It can help, but isn’t absolutely necessary like it is for cacti.
In most cases, a traditional soil mix is going to be perfectly fine. The devil is always in the details though, so make sure to research your plant and understand if it has any special needs pertaining to its soil.