Growing an indoor garden as a beginner can be as easy as popping a small cactus on a windowsill and watering it twice a month or as complicated as raising a full blown vegetable garden throughout your entire kitchen. No matter how big or small your garden will be, there are a few important things to know and questions to ask yourself before starting out.
Where Will You Grow Your Indoor Garden?
The first step is to decide where exactly this garden is going to go. Knowing how much space you have to work with will affect your potting and lighting options and will also play a big part in what types of plants you’re able to grow. If you have a large sunroom with massive windows and plenty of space, you can grow pretty much anything you’d like and may not need much supplemental lighting at all. If you only have a small windowsill for your garden, you might need to stick to smaller herbs or little succulents.
What Will You Grow?
The next step in planning your indoor garden will be to decide what exactly you would like to grow. Do you want a small herb garden in your kitchen to add fresh flavors to your cooking? Are you raising some little seedlings that will later be moved outdoors or into new pots? Maybe you just want a vast array of flowering plants so you can admire them as they bloom. Figure out what you will be growing first so you can understand how to fulfill the needs of those specific plants.
Some plants are much easier to grow than others and need very little attention or light. If you’ve convinced yourself that you have a black thumb and want to start out with something easy, you could try something like cacti, succulents, aloe vera plants, philodendrons, or peace lilies. If you’re going to go with something a little trickier, be prepared for any special lighting or nutrient needs they might have. Also, keep in mind that growing some plants from seeds may have different care and lighting requirements than starting with a fully grown plant.
What Will You Grow Your Garden In?
Unless you will be using a hydroponics system, you’ll need to decide on what type of pot or container to grow your garden in. You can use regular gardening pots purchased from a garden store or you can upcycle different objects from around your house to create a unique display of creativity. Whatever you use, your container should have some kind of drainage system, even if it’s just a single hole in its base, to let excess water escape if needed.
Some other interesting options could involve constructing an indoor trellis to allow ivy, jasmine, or even grapes to climb and grow inside your home. If you don’t have much space available, you could consider growing your plants vertically in a living wall. Maybe you need a little extra help in the green thumb department and want to try using an indoor garden kit that will help you out with some of the work. Hanging baskets, terrariums, or even hydroponically equipped mason jars filled with water are all possible options for your indoor garden.
How Will Your Indoor Garden Get Light?
What you’ve decided to grow and where you’re going to grow it will affect how much you need to worry about supplementing your lighting. Many house plants thrive in low light and won’t need more than a little indirect light from a nearby window. Fruiting or flowering plants are a little greedier for sunshine and ideally, they’ll need to go against a large, south facing window that receives up to 8 hours of sunlight per day. These plants need to be as close to the window as possible and even being a few feet away can severely dilute the power of the light they’re receiving.
If ample natural light just isn’t available then you will need fluorescent, LED, or HID grow lights to give your indoor garden the light it needs. For large gardens you can buy multiple lights and connect them together to cover a larger area. For smaller gardens or just a few plants, inexpensive clip lights are available that can be hooked on to most desks and shelves.
Many grow lights are full spectrum and will provide your plants with the ideal range of light to allow them to grow to their full potential. Blue light is essential for plant growth and red light stimulates your plants to produce fruits and flowers. Plants usually benefit from the full spectrum at all times, but different stages of growth for specific plants could benefit from more of one or the other at certain times. Investing in a grow light that allows you to control the red and blue lights independently could be beneficial to your garden.
How Will Your Garden Get Nutrients?
Your plants will need to absorbs nutrients from the soil they’re planted in or from nutrient rich water within an hydroponics system. Should you go with the soil option, it’s important to use potting soil rather than outdoor topsoil because the potting soil is light and fluffy enough to allow for drainage within an enclosed space. A medium weight soil is good for plants in direct sunlight as it will hold water more effectively while a lighter soil is good for shaded plants that will dry out less quickly.
Your plants will require repotting and new soil every so often in order to give them more room to grow as well as a fresh supply of nutrients from the soil. Fertilizer can be used to give the nutrients in your soil a boost but is usually not required for plants grown in low light. If you do feel that your plants require some fertilizer while they are growing or flowering, follow the directions on the bag regarding indoor plants or use about ¼ of what is suggested for an outdoor garden.
When using a hydroponics system, yor plants will receive liquid fertilizers injected right into their water supply. Plants can grow much more efficiently and effectively in a hydroponics system because their nutrients are readily available to them in the water and they don’t need to expend the additional energy navigating the soil. The essential elements your plants require are N-P-K (Nitrogen, Phosphorus, and Potassium) but there are other elements that may be present in your liquid fertilizer that will be beneficial to your plants.
Learn more about Hydroponic Nutrients and Why You Need Them
How and When to Water Your Garden?
Watering your plants sounds simple enough but there are a few things to know before you start pouring and mistakenly damage them. Some plants require plenty of water and want it soaked all the way down to the bottom of their roots while others require very little and will die from overwatering. Understand the needs of your specific plants and create a watering schedule around them.
Overwatering your plants can prevent them from accessing the nutrients they need from the soil and could kill them. Using pots with a drainage hole can help to prevent this by allowing excess water to drain off. For most plants, you can give them a little water every few days and then a good, deep watering all the way to their base every few weeks.
Some plants would prefer to be watered from their base if they aren’t partial to getting their leaves wet. Bottom watering is a technique where water is fed into the pot via the drainage hole either by filling the drip tray or placing the planter in a container of water and filling it about halfway up the pot. Allowing the water to soak up into the lowest roots will keep them uniformly moist but it won’t wash away the salt and mineral deposits that form in the soil over time. Giving the plant a deep water from the top of the soil about once a month will rinse the soil and remove these minerals.
Sit Back and Watch Your Indoor Garden Grow
Yes, watching your garden grow is actually the last step in growing a healthy garden, and it is an important one. Your plants will let you know when they’re unhappy or unhealthy with their appearance. If the leaves are brown and crunchy your plants may need more water. If they’re yellow and wilting, they may be overwatered and dying. If your plants aren’t growing bigger or aren’t flowering, they may not be getting enough light or nutrients. Pay attention to what your plants are telling you so you can adjust your techniques as needed.
Growing a vibrant, flourishing indoor garden doesn’t have to be confusing or complicated. You just need to understand the needs or your specific plants and set up your indoor garden according to these needs. With a bit of knowledge and care, your indoor garden can be a veritable jungle of foliage, flowers, and fruit.