Everything you need to start gardening indoors
Indoor gardening can be simple, bountiful, and rewarding—just like outdoor gardening. Almost all of the principles of outdoor gardening apply to indoor gardening, just in slightly different ways. In this article, we’ll examine how to begin your indoor garden, while also highlighting these key differences. Even if you don’t have access to an outdoor space, you can grow to be kind!
1. Choose a Location
Because of the obvious space constraints, choosing the right location for your indoor garden is important. Fortunately, there are many different styles of indoor garden, so you’re sure to have some location that can host a garden. Container gardening—the practice of planting in containers filled with soil—is the most obvious and straightforward solution. By looking online or at your local hardware store you can find containers designed for nearly every surface: windowsill, desk, coffee table, etc. Even better, consider making your own containers. There are many ways to upcycle and recycle used goods. This will save you time and money, and will help the environment by reducing waste! However, if you’re truly space constrained, you can opt for vertical gardening by either investing in or building vertical gardening containers. There are other options too, like purchasing kits specifically designed to hold indoor gardening. For most beginners, though, a few standard sized containers will be sufficient!
2. Know Your Lighting
Plants rely on light to grow. But, when growing plants indoors, it can be a challenge to make sure they receive adequate sunlight. Try to observe how much light your selected area gets on a typical day. Seed packets will typically specify how light-loving a plant is (or, as always, you can look online). This guide shows how much direct sunlight different types of plants need:
- Full Sun: 6–9+ hours of direct sunlight daily.
- Partial Sun: 4–5 hours of direct sunlight daily.
- Partial Shade: 2–4 hours of direct sunlight daily.
- Full Shade: <1 hour of direct sunlight daily
To ensure proper lighting, you can also invest in an artificial light source. These can include incandescent lamps, fluorescent lights, and High Intensity Discharge (HID) bulbs. Incandescent lamps are cheap but not particularly powerful. Fluorescent lights are also inexpensive and are more powerful than incandescent lamps, but are best suited for herbs and other plants that don’t require much light. HDI bulbs are powerful and often adjustable, and recommended for light-loving plants.
3. Pick the Right Plant
Assuming you’ve decided on a location that has a light source, you can pick what you want to grow. Of course, your choice should be informed by your location and light source—and vice versa—because different plants like different conditions. You’ll be able to look at the back of seed packets to see lighting and container specifics. Alternately, consider Googling this information for a plant you think you might like to grow. One of the main differences between indoor and outdoor gardening is that you have more control over a plant’s environment! For that reason, it’s less important to consider things like typical outdoor planting and harvesting schedules, assuming you keep indoor garden conditions fairly stable. That being said, some plants tend to do better than others when grown indoors. Here are some examples of fruits and vegetables that are known to do well:
Arugula ,Avocados, Basil, Beets, Carrots, Celery, Chives, Cilantro, Garlic Greens, Ginger, Kale, Lemons, Lettuce, Mandarin Oranges, Potatoes, Radishes, Scallions, Spinach, Strawberries, Swiss Chard, Tomatoes… and more!
4. Plant Nutrition
Plants can’t grow if they aren’t properly fed and watered. To that end, it’s important to ensure that your plants receive adequate nutrition. As a beginner, there’s no need to worry about potentially complicated things like hydroponics (unless, of course, you really want to!). First, you’ll need soil. It’s important to note that outdoor soil mixes and indoor soil mixes are often different. Try and look for a soil mix that’s designed for indoor use, and that’s appropriate for the type of plant you want to grow. A quick Google Search will usually show you if a plant needs a special type of soil (for instance, some plants prefer more acidic soils). This is also a great opportunity to use compost! The “Improving Your Garden” section below includes an article on composting. Second, you’ll need to properly water your plants. Signs of overwatering include drooping, stunted growth, discoloration, and lack of foliage. Signs of underwatering include dry soil, brown leaf edges, and wilting. It’s once again important to ensure that you’ve looked up the proper amount of watering for the specific plant(s) you’re growing:
- Dry Soil Plants – Soil feels dry to the touch.
- Moist Soil Plants – Soil feels moist to the touch.
- Wet Soil Plants – Soil feels spongy to the touch.
It’s important to note that plants grown indoors dry out more quickly and therefore need more water. If you want to measure the exact amount of soil moisture a plant contains, you can utilize a soil moisture sensor.
5. Enjoy, Improve, and Share!
Once your crop is growing, it’s important to harvest it at the right time! This is another difference between growing indoors and growing outdoors—typical outdoor harvesting seasons are not necessarily applicable to indoor plants. Instead, look up (either online or on the seed packet) signs that your specific plant is ready to be harvested. By harvesting at appropriate times, you can ensure better crop yield and flavor. You can also keep a journal of your progress, recording what went well and what can be improved. It can be fun to look back on your gardening journey—and your notes will help you grow even more next time. Additionally, you can look at the “Improving Your Gardening” section below for information on projects and strategies to garden even better. Hopefully, you’ll have produced more than you yourself can eat. If that’s the case, please look through the “Sharing” section located above for tips!