This guide to home gardening indoors is perfect for those who have limited outdoor space, but would still love to experience the joy of having fresh produce! Keep in mind that not all types of vegetables are suitable for growing in pots or with limited access to light, but there are a few varieties that are adaptable. All of my suggestions in this guide only apply to plants that fall into this category.
To get started, let’s go over a few pros and cons to growing a garden indoors, in case you are wondering if this would be a good fit for you.
- Gives you access to fresh produce even if you don’t have a yard or outdoor garden spot
- Is a relaxing hobby
- Makes your home feel warm and inviting
- Reduces or eliminates the need to weed your garden
- Reduces or eliminates the need for pest control, as most insects only live outdoors
- Less likelihood of plant disease, by virtue of a more controlled environment
- Can take a lot of room
- Can be fairly messy
- Can be challenging, since all the factors depend on you and your diligence
- May not create a very large yield, due to limited light or space
If you’ve decided that you are a good candidate to have an indoor home garden, then you will enjoy the following “10 Steps to Indoor Gardening Success”:
Step One: Picking a Spot
Look around your home for an area that you can devote to your garden. If you don’t have any space inside your main living area, consider that this guide’s suggestions also include the possibility of utilizing a deck, an enclosed porch, a sunroom, or even a bay window. You can use whatever surfaces suits your needs, including the floor, shelves, or even a table or desk.
Step Two: Gather Pots & Trays
Next, you will need to choose containers to grow your garden in. Though this is only step number two, you will actually need to read the other steps first, because what you choose to use will depend on what you choose to grow. Some plants need more space, while others do well in small pots. You have the option of using plant stands or special holders for your pots or trays if you want to keep them well-contained, but these are not a necessity. Make sure all pots have drainage holes in the bottom to avoid root rot and mold.
Step Three: Protect the Area
When you are planting indoors, you may want to consider protecting the area that you are using to garden. The easiest way to do this is to buy plastic sheeting and cover sections of the floor or any furniture that will hold the pots and trays. Gardening is inherently messy, so you will want to guard against soil stains and water spills.
Step Four: Choose your Seeds
Probably one of the trickiest parts about gardening indoors or even on a deck/porch/sunroom is figuring out just what to plant. Not only is your space likely to be limited, but you need to choose varieties that can thrive in pots. This means that you will need to pick plants that don’t need to grow extensive root systems, don’t get too big, and don’t vine extensively. If you have limited lighting, you will also need to research if the vegetables you want to grow can handle not having full sun. Whether you choose to grow herbs or vegetables, there are lots of choices!
Step Five: Fill your Containers
You will want to choose a good quality potting soil and carefully fill your pots or trays. Don’t overfill or you will have a mess when it comes time to plant. It is a good idea to add organic material and/or perlite to your soil to make it lighter. This helps it retain water better and allows air to move more freely around the roots of your plants.
Step Five: Plant & be Patient
When you are ready to plant, double check the proper depth that each variety of seed needs. If you plant too deep, they may not sprout. Make sure to keep the soil moist and the area where you garden dark and warm (between 64-75 degrees Fahrenheit) for best success. After you sow the seeds you’ve chosen, keep in mind that most plants take several days to germinate. This could be anywhere from 5-21 days on average, so just monitor them and wait.
Step Six: Baby the Seedlings
Watch carefully for the first signs of sprouting. When you see that the first leaves, called cotyledons, are beginning to unfurl start to provide proper light to the seedlings. If you rely on window light, make sure that you turn the plants often so that they don’t get spindly as they grow in one direction trying to reach the light. Because indoor gardening often relies on indirect sunlight, this can be a major problem, so be aware and pay attention. Spindly plants tend to not be very healthy and are prone to breakage and weakness.
Step Seven: Fertilize
Though all gardening requires the gardener to monitor the nutrition of their plants, indoor gardening presents a unique challenge. This is because when plants are not grown directly in the ground, you must provide nearly every bit of food that they need. Make sure to follow the guidelines for each type of plant you are growing, as different ones may have varying requirements. For an all-purpose general fertilizer, you may want to try EarthPods or something equivalent.
Step Eight: Provide Adequate Water
Indoor plants don’t benefit from a rainstorm, nor can they grow long roots to tap into water sources deep in the ground. That means that you also have to provide all the water they need, in the amount necessary at the time, even if you aren’t at home. It’s easy to get this wrong. If you overwater, you will saturate the roots and cut off the oxygen supply to the roots, plus encourage mildew and mold. If you underwater, the plants will begin to droop and eventually get crusty and begin to die. Water occasionally, keeping the soil damp, but not wet. Plus, remember to always water at the base of the plants and do not pour water over the leaves.
Step Nine: Provide Enough Light
One of the most challenging parts of indoor gardening is providing enough of the proper kind of light for plants to grow healthy and strong. If you don’t have enough large windows or a sunroom, you may need to supplement by buying special grow lights that provide the proper kind of full spectrum UV rays necessary for plant growth.
Step Ten: Pollinate
In the great outdoors, pollination is a natural process that is accomplished by the help of the wind and little critters, such as bees and wasps. When gardening indoors, you may need to take care of this step yourself. To do so will require nothing more than a small paintbrush or a cotton swab to transfer the pollen from several of the male flowers to each female flower.
These 10 steps will get you well on your way to growing a successful indoor garden. Don’t be discouraged if you make some mistakes along the way. If you aren’t blessed with a green thumb, it can feel a little daunting at first, especially because it can be tricky to balance the needs of plants that depend totally on you.
I highly encourage newbies to start with just one or two easy varieties before branching out. The easiest garden plants to grow inside are usually in the herb category. As you get more comfortable, try adding lettuce, peppers, and tomatoes. Once you have mastered these, you may want to give brassicas, such as broccoli or cabbage a go.
Some plants that may not be suitable for attempting to grow indoors at all are vining or sprawling plants, such as some squash and melons, including cucumbers, and certain types of beans. (Unless of course, you have an amazing sunroom that you don’t mind being overrun.) Also, potatoes, though they technically can be container-grown, probably won’t give a large enough yield to bother with, unless if you just want to try them for novelty sake. Other plants that tend to grow quite large or that need lots of plants to provide proper pollination may not be suitable for an indoor garden, either. Some examples of these are corn, okra, or sunflowers.
Hydroponics (or A Fun Way to Garden Without Soil!)
It would hardly seem fair to give you a guide to indoor gardening without mentioning the fascinating art of hydroponics! This is a special kind of gardening that literally requires no soil. Many indoor gardeners rely entirely on hydroponics for growing elaborate gardens.
A hydroponic garden generally requires special equipment for suspending the seedlings in water-filled, nutrient-rich capsules, with attached grow lights over the growing table. Though this kind of setup usually requires a large initial investment, it provides a unique and fun growing environment that is totally different than traditional gardening.
If you are ready to take indoor gardening to the next level, hydroponics may appeal to you. Don’t hesitate to study into the specifics of how to nourish your plants and keep the water solution oxygenated properly. There is a learning curve in order to garden in this capacity, but for an experienced gardener, it can be a fun challenge to pursue.
Whether you decide to grow a basil plant on your windowsill, put a few hanging baskets of strawberries in your enclosed porch, pot a variety of veggies in your bay window, or set up a whole hydroponics system, indoor gardening is a fascinating and fun way to bring the natural world inside. Caring for plants is a fulfilling hobby and there truly is nothing quite like creating a meal from vegetables that you’ve grown yourself!
Melanie is mom to five energetic kids, including a sweet little toddler. She enjoys homeschooling her children from a peaceful parenting perspective and traveling with her family whenever she can.