Indoor gardening can mean totally different things to different people and it is definitely not a one-size-fits-all kind of activity! So how do you know if some form of indoor gardening is right for you? Let’s explore some of the various possible categories of the wonderful hobby of growing plants inside your house!
Who? Beginners First
For those of you who haven’t really gardened much yet, sometimes indoor gardening is a simple way to teach yourself some of the basics, without the huge chore of a large traditional garden. The great thing here is that you can keep it simple while still enjoying the joy of watching your plants unfurl their leaves and bring forth little blossoms.
My suggestion for beginners is to start with some herbs on the kitchen windowsill. If you enjoy the thrill of snipping off a few leaves for your recipes here and there and don’t mind the small upkeep of your mini-garden, then you may want to later expand. In the meantime, use the experience to practice your potting, fertilizing, and watering, which are your three main chores.
Don’t get discouraged if you have some plants die along the way, just try again and try to learn from your mistakes. Indoor gardening does have a few challenges, but can be very rewarding to the beginning gardener!
What? Garden Starts
In this section, we are referencing the possible need to start seeds indoors that you intend later to plant outdoors. If you don’t have a greenhouse and live in a colder climate, you can begin the germination process inside your home. This will allow you to control the temperature of the seeds and increase your chances of having successful seedlings.
You have the choice to start your seeds in little pots or seed pouches. But I especially like to put them between the layers of a damp, folded paper towel. It is important to control the moisture level as well, so use plastic wrap or little plastic baggies to keep the seeds moist. You will also need to keep them in a warm, dark place during the first few days. Check on them often and when you see them sprout, carefully place the sprouts in a small container of soil.
You can keep your small seedlings indoors until they are big enough (or it is warm enough) to plant outdoors. Make sure to provide plenty of light and turn them often so that they don’t get long and spindly while reaching for sufficient light. Also monitor their water needs and make sure the soil doesn’t become dry to the touch, but rather just stays moist (not wet).
Once you are ready to plant the babies outside, you will first need to “harden them off.” This means that you will slowly introduce them to direct sunlight and wind and colder temperatures for just a few hours per day. Make sure they start in a more sheltered area and increase their exposure by only 2-3 hours each day. Soon they will be hardy enough to transplant outside and won’t be so shocked by the differing conditions.
When? Wintering Indoors
In this section, we are addressing the desire to grow plants in the wintertime. Obviously an indoor garden is not subject to the normal seasons of an outdoor garden, so you are free to enjoy year-round produce, assuming you keep your house at a comfortable temperature. Because winter tends to come with shorter days and less light, you will likely need to invest in growing lights if you haven’t already.
Another part of winter gardening is the possibility of needing to bring potted plants indoors before the first hard freeze. If you have any varieties of perennial plants that you want to grow year-round that cannot handle the cold weather, a great option is to make space inside an enclosed porch or another area that receives sunlight. This way, you will provide a protected environment without the risk of the plant succumbing to harsh temperatures.
Where? Small Spaces
One unique characteristic of most indoor gardeners is the fact that the majority of them are dealing with small outdoor spaces. If you don’t have a large area outside, you might choose to grow indoors (or at least on a small porch or balcony). But more than that, oftentimes this correlates with small indoor spaces as well. Many apartment dwellers or occupants of tiny homes turn to indoor gardens out of sheer necessity!
If you live in a small space or can merely only afford to give up a small area of your living space to gardening, then you fall into this category. Those with limited space will want to maximize their effort by choosing plants that give a lot of bang-for-your-buck. Plants that produce a high yield relative to their size are always a good choice. Leaf lettuce, tomatoes, and peppers are fun to grow and give a fair amount of harvest for their space.
Dwarf varieties that don’t grow tall or determinate plants that max out at a given size are great options. On the other hand, indeterminate plants continue to grow taller and don’t have a maximum size. One caveat is that determinate plants set all their fruit at once so your harvest will come in one big wave. Considering the fact that a small indoor garden likely won’t leave you with piles of too many veggies at one time, this is still a viable option. It does mean however that you will want to plan ahead for new starts sooner than if you plant long-season varieties.
The types of vegetables that typically have determinate or “bush” varieties that are useful for indoor gardens are typically such things as tomatoes, peppers, and peas. Other types such as beans, potatoes, squash, and cucumbers simply tend to need too much room for a small indoor space.
If you have only the most limited space imaginable, you will likely want to stick to herbs or succulents that do well indoors but don’t need more than a small to medium pot to grow successfully.
Why? Garden Challenge
Are you an experienced gardener and ready to try something more advanced? One fun hobby to tackle would be an elaborate indoor hydroponics set-up. Because this unique kind of gardening relies on a nutrient-rich solution of water and fertilizer and skips the soil altogether it does require specialized equipment and growing lights to create the right environment.
This can be done in a relatively small area, but if you have more space in which to spread out, such as a spare room or a basement, it brings the benefit of being able to produce a sizable amount of produce indoors.
So there you have a whole array of various scenarios that might lead you to try and enjoy indoor gardening. If any of these sound appealing, then you may be a great candidate for utilizing your home to grow an array of wonderful vegetables, herbs, or other plants. Have fun finding your groove and most of all, use this experience to enhance true relaxation in your space!