How to Start Your Indoor Garden

Walking through a local farmers market, you’ll find an assortment of homegrown fruits and vegetables. As one season yields to another, that delicious produce disappears. However, not everyone has to resort to the produce section of a local grocery conglomerate. Even in small spaces like apartments and dorm rooms, an indoor garden can thrive. Regardless of whether or not you have a green thumb, indoor gardening is a great hobby that can save money on herbs and vegetables.

Gardening 101

There are two methods of indoor gardening: hydroponic (where the plant’s root system resides in water), and soil-based. Both types can grow healthy plants–provided they receive sufficient nutrients and light. It may seem strange, but hydroponic gardening is no more complicated than soil-based gardening. All you need is hydroponic fertilizer, water, and a container that will support a growing plant.

Essentials

Indoor plants prefer to grow by windows where light can trickle in. If no windows are available or you need additional light, try artificial lights. Fluorescents are the least expensive option. There are others — such as HID, full-spectrum and LED grow lights — but they can get expensive. Do not use regular incandescent lights; they don’t offer the spectrum of usable light that plants need to thrive.

Here are some other essential items for successful plant growth:

Potting soil made specifically for indoor gardens. This soil contains vermiculite or pumice for water drainage.

Fertilizers that are all-purpose or for hydroponic gardens. Liquid fertilizers are the easiest to use. You can also buy organic fertilizers such as fish, bone meal and seaweed. Some indoor plants only need to be fertilized two or three times a year. Over-fertilizing will harm the roots and cause the plant to suffer. If it’s healthy and growing, it’s probably fine and doesn’t need to be fertilized.

Potting containers, gardening gloves, mulch and a trowel are other useful items, depending on what growing method you use.

Plant Options

You don’t need a ton of space for an indoor garden. It can be as simple as some windowsill herbs. Most herbs don’t grow very large or require constant sunlight, and can be pruned with few complications. Fruiting plants take up more space and often require lots of sun.

There are many vegetables and herbs that can do well indoors, such as lettuce, peppers, parsley and chives. When planning your garden, read the seed packets of the plants you’re considering. They’ll provide specifications such as the height and width of the plants at full maturity, sun tolerances, and other useful information.

Environment

When you decide to grow an indoor garden, don’t forget the environment of your living space. Temperatures for most indoor plants should be around 60°F–80°F, and most require around 50–60 percent humidity. In the months when heaters or air conditioners are worked to death, humidity and soil moisture may be difficult to maintain. One way to avoid low humidity is to place pots in a larger tray that collects excess water. The water in the tray will evaporate, creating a more humid environment.

To keep your perennial plants happy, don’t forget to re-pot them when their root system outgrows their old digs. Periodically replacing the soil is essential as well, because nutrients are used up over time.

Growing an indoor garden can be a fun, challenging and money-saving hobby that can produce all year. Plus, plants are natural air purifiers, so your living space will be cleaner and healthier.

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