Consider growing your plants inside when the winter blues hit and you’re dreaming of fresh greens from a summer garden. Not only do houseplants clean the air and elevate any indoor interior environment, but they’re also great for providing delicious, organic foods.
People who live in cities or do not have a good spot for gardening in their yards may find indoor gardening projects especially useful. Plants do not need to take up a lot of space — a windowsill can do the job just fine. Some of the plants in the indoor vegetable garden may eventually sprout into seedlings for an outdoor garden in the spring.
Indoor gardens can be set up anywhere in the house or even on a table. They grow practically any kind of plant. Tomato gardens can be set up on windowsills or anywhere on a table. Those with a bigger space or who are more dedicated may want to build a special table or bench just for the garden. Set up a concrete floor to catch any inevitable drips, or spread a tarp under the table.
Shelves provide lots of surface area for planting while taking up very little space. Make sure they receive adequate light by placing a separate grow light on each shelf, if necessary.
Plants can only photosynthesize with light and cannot survive in the absence of light. Without enough direct sunlight, they cannot grow leaves, which are unable to fully expand and do not bear flowers or fruit.
When plants are grown near windows in the winter, they may not receive enough direct light to thrive. When you plan to purchase a grow light, there are a few things to consider. Plants contain photoreceptors that absorb certain wavelengths of light. A light bulb needs the same wavelengths of the sun’s rays to work, so every other light bulb is ineffective. You should place the light as close as possible to the plant without burning its leaves.
Vegetables and other plants thrive with around 14-16 hours of natural light or another source of light. There are a couple of signs it isn’t getting enough light. It can have smaller leaves, thin stems, and lightened leaves.
Florigen, a hormone, controls the budding and flowering of plants over a long day cycle. Long-day plants require about 14 hours of light for robust flowering and reproduction. Florigen in short-day plants can be destroyed if they receive too much light. As a result, blooming can be lost.
Choosing A Grow Light
You can find a lot of indoor grow lights for sale, and it can be confusing to figure out which one would work best for you. Here are a few suggestions on which type to get.
Incandescent lamps are relatively inexpensive and available at hardware stores and nurseries. While they work well for growing houseplants, they are presently not the best option for an indoor garden.
Fluorescent lights are best for growing herbs and other plants that do not require much light. They are not recommended for flowers or plants that are budding because they do not produce enough light. Local hardware or garden supply stores carry them at a reasonable price.
However, they can be just as bright and efficient as the new compact fluorescent lamps. In some instances, they might be even better than the fancier high-intensity discharge lamps. They produce less heat than HID and incandescent lights, so the compact fluorescent can be placed closer to the plant. Compact fluorescents are also smaller and more efficient than older forms of fluorescent lighting, making them suitable for all plants.
HID Light Bulbs produce the brightest and most efficient light available, but they can be quite expensive since one 1,000 watts grow lamp can supply as much light as more than fifty 40-watt fluorescent bulbs.
A variety of HID bulbs are available:
- High-Pressure Sodium
- Metal Halide
- Low-Pressure Sodium
- Mercury Vapor
All indoor gardeners need are High-Pressure Sodium and Metal Halide bulbs.
A high-pressure sodium bulb produces a red-orange glow that may help enhance flowering. Because of their longer lifespan than metal halide lamps, HPS lamps are more cost-effective. If you need only one light, you should stick with a different fixture, because it doesn’t produce enough blue light for leafy growth.
Metallic Halide (MH) Bulbs promote leafy growth and keep plants compact. These bulbs have a blue-white hue. One bulb can last upwards of 10,000 hours and offer 125 lumens per watt, while standard fluorescent lights are rated 39 lumens per watt and incandescent lights are rated 18 lumens per watt. Start plants with these bulbs when they’re young. Switch to high-pressure sodium bulbs for flowering.
The bulb is just one part of a grow light. The reflector, cord, ballast, bulb, and other parts are available separately or you can buy the whole system which only needs to be plugged in.
You will need a light that is the correct size for your plant. This depends on the mounting height of the reflector and the size of your indoor garden.
It can be challenging to grow indoors when you don’t have enough humidity. Winter months tend to be drier than summers, and if you have a heat source running in the house the problem is even higher.
Your home has a low-humidity problem if:
- Leaves on your plants are turning brown
- Plants seem to be withered or puckered.
- The leaves of plants fall off
Your plant isn’t getting the humidity it needs, even though you’ve researched how much humidity it needs.
To increase humidity levels:
Plants should be misted daily, or even more often if needed to avoid disease. Hairy-leaved plants should not be misted this way since the moisture cannot escape and could cause disease.
Make sure you place a tray with water near your garden but don’t put plants in the tray, since this may cause them to wilt quickly and you may have to adjust the tray accordingly. Fill the tray with lava rocks to raise the surface area for evaporation.
- The closer the plants are together, the higher the relative humidity is.
- Use a humidifier.
- Invest in an environmental controller that will humidify or dehumidify based on your needs.
For most plants, temperatures between 65°F and 75°F are ideal. A variance of 10°F either way is probably fine. Whenever plants are exposed to too high temperatures during the summer months, leaves will fall off and become weak. Conversely, when plants are exposed to too low temperatures, leaves will turn yellow and eventually fall off.
Medium for Growing
Planting medium found outside is not ideal for indoor gardens because it is usually too heavy and contains pests and weed seeds. Look for an indoor-specific mix instead. A good growing medium should remain loose and have drainage holes while still containing enough organic matter to hold nourishment and moisture.
You can purchase commercial mixes or make your own.
Try hydroponics instead of growing indoor plants in soil mixtures. Simply put, this means you are gardening without potting soils. Plant roots rest on the moist soil to absorb nutrients and hold them in place. Whenever plants are grown hydroponically, you provide the nutrition directly to them. Rather than encapsulated in soil, the nutrients are readily available.
Some advantages of hydroponics include:
- Plants grow faster because they can get to water and food easier.
- Roots don’t need to become root-bound in the media or the containers to be larger.
- Plants start in a disease-free medium and are less likely to become infected.
- If plants do become sick, the disease is usually in one plant, not all of them.
- It is easy to tell when your plants are about to wilt, so you’ll know when to water them.
You can grow most types of plants in an indoor garden — as long as the size doesn’t go beyond ten inches. However, think of edible plants requiring similar light, humidity, and watering requirements.
- Salad Greens
- Tomato plants
It doesn’t have to stop there; as mentioned above, almost any range of plants can be grown in a container, whether it’s fruits, flowers, herbs, or vegetables.
Depending on the type of plant, it will need to be acclimated before bringing it indoors, and then they will need additional acclimating when they are placed outside in the spring or fall.
Relocating Plants Outdoors
Before plants and seedlings can permanently live in an outdoor space, they need to be “hardened off.” Hardening off allows for a thicker cuticle, reducing moisture loss, and ensuring plants can withstand harsh weather conditions. The steps below will help acclimate indoor plants to life in the great outdoors.
- Seven to ten days before transplant time, place your outdoor plants in a shady spot or cold frame for three to four hours.
- Keep the plants indoors each night, increasing the amount of time spent outdoors each day by 1-2 hours.
- Place plants in the morning sun for 2-3 days, and then move them into the shade in the afternoon.
- After 7 days, plants should be able to stay outside all day and night if the temperature stays around 50°F. You need to transplant your seedlings or plants in about 7-10 days. Water thoroughly and transplant on a cloudy day if possible.
Transferring Plants Inside
If you want to move plants inside during the winter, you need to put them into containers before bringing them inside, just like a plant going the other direction needs acclimation.
Now that the garden is established and flourishing, it’s time to water your crops, stake them, prune them, and otherwise maintain the landscape. Our expert guides will ensure that the crop is healthy and successful.
Plants grown in containers should be watered frequently as they dry out more quickly than plants grown on earth. Always use room-temperature water for your potted plants and make sure your container dries completely. Do not let water collect in plant saucers or under the plant — this can lead to rot or plant diseases.
Make sure you are not over or under watering plants by feeling the layer of soil with your fingers or using a moisture meter.
- Color change
- Dropping lower leaves
- Plants may stop growing
- Wilting from stems to leaves
- Withering foliage
- Dry soil
- Prematurely dropping leaves or flowers.
- The leaves first wilt at the edges.
- The leaves have brown edges.
- Wilted foliage
Because nutrient levels in the organic potting soil or growing medium are taken up or leached away by plants that grow inside, additional nutrients or fertilizer will need to be added.
Plants growing in an indoor space require organic fertilizers and hydroponic nutrients. Each package of fertilizer has its instructions for how much and how often to apply it.
Here’s how to make compost tea with your compost if you compost at home:
- About 1/3 of a bucket should be filled with finished compost.
- Fill the bucket with water until it is full.
- Don’t let it freeze! Leave it sitting for a couple of hours, or even for a day or two.
- Strain the mixture into another container with a cheesecloth or a fine screen.
- Add water until the liquid is the same color as weak tea.
- To use the compost tea, spread it all over the soil around your plants.