Indoor gardening can be an extremely fulfilling and therapeutic practice. In addition to making your home a pleasant place to be, there are also emotional health benefits to growing your own plants. All you need is some water, seeds, nutritious soil or solution, light, and most importantly, dedication. If you’re looking to get into indoor gardening, chances are you’ve got a lot of questions. Here’s a complete guide for beginners with everything you need to know.
What You Need To Start
To begin your indoor gardening venture, consider the following questions:
What type of plants do you want to grow?
Deciding which plants you’d like to grow depends on what you’d like to gain from gardening. You may be looking to start a small herb and vegetable garden to grow your own produce, or you may want to grow some flowers to decorate your home. Plants have individualized needs that may require either a little – or a lot – of maintenance, so you should start off with a plant you are certain you can care for. For beginners, some great plants to start off with are succulents, spider plants, cacti, and aloe vera.
How much space do you have, and where will your indoor garden be?
You get to decide how much or how little space your indoor garden will take up. Plants of all kinds, including vegetables and fruits, can be grown on a windowsill or table. If your space is more confined, shelves can hold multiple plants while saving floor space. It’s Important to consider the lighting features of the indoor space where you plan to garden, as light greatly affects a plant’s growing process.
What Will Affect Your Plant Growth
Growing plants indoors isn’t much different than doing so outdoors, but it does require a little more care and discipline. Using the appropriate containers/pots, being attentive to light and temperature control, and utilizing the proper growing medium, you will be rewarded with a healthy, dynamic garden indoors.
Light (and Specific Types, Too)
In order to grow and produce oxygen, every plant needs light. Without adequate light, plants will develop spindly leaves and won’t bloom to their full potential. Many house plants, such as pothos, philodendrons, and peace lilies, thrive in low light and can survive with indirect light from nearby windows. Fruit and flower plants, however, require more sunshine and need to receive several hours of sunlight each day. But if you don’t have access to much sunlight in your indoor space, there’s no need to worry. Thousands of fluorescent/LED grow lights are available to provide your plants with all the light they need.
- Incandescent Lamps – The most cost-effective option, incandescent lamps cost just a few dollars and can be used in conjunction with natural light in any room. These lamps have high-heat bulbs, so they should be placed a few feet’s distance from plants and used cautiously.
- Fluorescent Lights – The most popular choice among indoor gardeners, fluorescent lights are budget-friendly and offer a greater light spectrum for all-purpose use. They produce less heat than other grow lights, so they are safer and more versatile. Traditional fluorescent bulbs are recommended for seed germination and vegetative growth.
- Compact Fluorescent Lights – These lights are best for bringing supplemental light to low-light conditions. Because the bulbs produce less heat and are less intense than other plant grow lights, you may need to purchase multiple bulbs for plants to grow healthy and adequately.
Growing medium refers to the system of gardening you use for an indoor garden. Unlike traditional outdoor gardening, indoor gardeners have the option to try soilless systems – growing mediums that do not require the use of soil. These alternative growing mediums require extra research and equipment, but can nonetheless result in a healthy, nutrient-rich garden. Besides soil, you may want to think about growing your plants in moss, gravel, clay, or pine bark.
The Right Temperature
Plants are sensitive to weather changes, and sudden shifts in the temperature of their environment can harm growth. Cool weather plants, such as leafy greens, daisies, and hardy vegetables, need temperatures of around 40-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Warm weather plants, such as tomatoes, peppers, and sunflowers, need to be in 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit. You should also be attentive to the humidity levels in your home. Plants can lose their leaves in dry environments, so consider investing in a humidifier or mist spray bottle if your space contains dry air.
Nutrients and Fertilizers Needed
Plants need to absorb nutrients in soil or in a nutrient-rich solution if you’re using a soilless growing medium. Organic fertilizers are available that contain the necessary macro and micro nutrients your plants need to survive. Most contain a mixture of the three primary macronutrients: nitrogen, potassium, and phosphorus. They will also need important minerals like calcium and magnesium. Depending on the plant you’re growing, the soil might need secondary micronutrients like iron and zinc. As a general rule, houseplants should be fertilized every 2-3 weeks in the spring and summer, and should be left alone in the winter during their rest period.
Watering Your Plants
Plants grown in containers indoors can dry out quicker than soil-grown plants. For this reason, indoor plants require more frequent and more careful watering. Some plants can go weeks without water and others need it everyday, so be sure to research what your specific plant needs. For indoor plants, use room-temperature water and pour it into the plant container until water runs through the drain holes. Using one finger, gently press down on the soil to feel its water content.
A plant is underwatered if it the soil is dry, the tips of the leaves are wilting or turning brown, the leaves drop prematurely, or it begins to shrivel or shrink.
A plant is overwatered if it is discolored, the leaves are wilting or dropping downward, or you do not notice any growth.
Seeds to Start Off With
Planting your own seeds can give your more fruit and vegetable options while saving you money. For optimal germination and plant growth, you should choose seeds that are grown in regions with similar conditions to your indoor space. Some of the easiest seeds to start off with are hardy vegetables like broccoli, brussel sprouts, spinach, and cabbage. Individual seeds will have instructions and care details on their packaging, including how deep in the soil they should be sowed, how much water and sunlight they’ll need, and how long it will take for them to sprout.
Non-Traditional Indoor Gardening Setups
Beginners with less free time or less mobility should consider looking into one of two soilless gardening systems: hydroponics or aquaponics. These systems are intended to be low-maintenance and space saving, while also promoting sustainability by minimizing water use. The plant-growing process is certainly different than that of traditional soil pots, but it is possible to maximize growth and reap the same benefits as more traditional garden setups.
Hydroponic gardening is a sustainable growing system where plants are cultivated by liquid nutrient solutions rather than soil. Depending on the type of plant, hydroponic growing can conserve water by over 70% more than traditional gardening. It’s easier, cleaner, and more accessible for those who are bound by physical disabilities. Many hydroponic systems are available with optional automated control, ensuring your plants are never over- or under-watered.
Aquaponic gardening combines the hydroponic system with aquaculture, a term that refers to the process of raising fish and other aquatic animals. In an aquaponic system, nutrient-rich water from the fish tank itself is used as natural fertilizer for plants. In turn, plants act as water purifiers for fish. Compared to traditional agriculture, an aquaponic system uses about 1/8th the amount of water to grow plants that aren’t compromised in quality.
How Indoor Gardening Helps You
Growing plants in your home is rewarding in many different ways. When you incorporate gardening into your lifestyle, you can benefit from the positive long-term changes that will improve your health and help the environment.
When growing vegetables, fruit, or herb plants indoors, you can grow fresh produce all year-long without worrying about harvesting season. Using lights, heaters, or humidifiers for environmental control, it’s possible to grow your favorite foods from right inside your home. Your produce will always be fresh, organic, and reliably sourced.
Beautify Your Home
Plants act as attractive decor for any home. Bringing a little bit of nature into an indoor space can turn the mundane into something beautiful. You can arrange your plants in ways that are most beautiful to you and make your home a pleasant environment.
Growing vegetable and fruit plants in your home is more sustainable than purchasing produce from a supermarket or grocery chain. It’s local, so you help save energy from transportation methods, and you reduce the use of plastic packaging that produce often comes in.
In a process called photosynthesis, plants retain carbon dioxide and water to produce oxygen. As they release oxygen, they act as natural air purifiers for your home. Some plants are especially effective for cleansing indoor spaces of airborne toxins, including English ivy, snake plants, and aloe vera.
Tending to the plants in your indoor garden can have massive benefits for emotional health. Many gardening tasks – such as watering, potting, and cropping – can become a therapeutic practice once incorporated into daily life. Taking on a nurturing, compassionate role as a plant parent can also help reduce feelings of loneliness and isolation.