Friday, July 26, 2019

Tips for Starting Your Indoor Garden

When’s the last time you ate a garden tomato in February? While it’s frosty and grey outside, enjoy the bright colors of fruit, vegetables, and herbs you’ve grown yourself.  There are so many benefits to indoor gardening:

     Save money in the long run. Fresh herbs and vegetables are usually more costly in the winter months.
     Eat organic and be proud of eating something you grew yourself.
     Eat very, very local!
     Benefit the environment (limited packaging and transportation costs)
     Educate the kids in your life as they watch the life cycle of their food
     Relieve stress with the calm, quiet nature of gardening all through the year

Check out some basics on indoor gardening below, and consider ordering this book for all the info you’ll need, The Indoor Gardening Guide.
Photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash

How much space do I need for indoor gardening? 

The space you’ll need is based on the plants you want to grow. Smaller plants such as herbs don’t require a lot of space, but growing larger plants, such as tomatoes will require a lot of room, including height. Ultimately, you get to decide how much space to dedicate to indoor gardening! You can figure this out by answering these questions:

1)    If I could grow anything, what would it be?
2)    Which plants are most important out of this list?
3)    How much space does it take to grow the top items on my list?
4)    Do I have more space to add some lower priority items?

Did you know?
     You can grow almost anything indoors, all year round with the use of extra lights, which is helpful during the darker, winter month.
     Try growing on shelves to save floor space - you may need an extra light for each shelf
     It’s easiest to grow plants together that require similar care

Easy all-in-one option:

If you have space in your basement or other out-of-the-way area, consider a grow tent. These help you provide the right conditions for your plants and enable you to grow summer vegetables in the dead of winter! Lights and environmental controls are built right in.

If you’re in the Plymouth, MI area, stop by the Grow Kings storeroom to see tomato plants in their grow tent. You can also get expert advice on how to get things set up in your home.

Grow King’s Grow Tent in Plymouth, MI with tomato plants

Where in your home is an ideal location for an indoor garden?

Your plants need:
Light: A grow tent is ideal, but a sunny window may suffice during the spring and summer.
Water: You may want to prioritize a tile floor or lay a tarp to minimize damage from the water
Protection: Choose a location that is safe from too much foot traffic and is out of reach from small children and pets. Also, try to avoid locations near vents for air conditioning and heat, or considering closing nearby vents.

What materials do I need for indoor gardening?

While some plant types may need specialized materials, most plants will need the following:
  • Pots: pick a generous sized pot for each plant. In general, the larger the size of the edible part of the plant, the larger the size of the pot you will need. For example, a tomato plant would do well with a 5-gallon pot, whereas cilantro can get by in a 1-gallon pot, depending on how much output you want (get a larger pot or multiple pots and more seeds if you’re really into cilantro!).
  • Potting soil: Not just any dirt will do. To make up for the lack of natural processes outdoors (think worms, decomposing leaves, etc.), choose a potting soil with lots of nutrients and great texture for your roots to find a home in.
  • Seeds or seedlings: Seeds are cheaper, but a little harder to grow. Seedlings (i.e., baby plants) will get going faster and are hardier, but do cost a bit more. In both cases, you often get what you pay for.
  • Light: Read the instructions on your seeds or seedlings packaging as some plants need full sun. Be prepared to boost the light in your home with extra bulbs or a lighting system.
  • Fertilizer: Even outdoor gardens need extra food, and so much more indoor gardens. Try this specialized formula from Grow Kings to give your plants the best. Beware of over-fertilizing, by the way, as well as overwatering!
  • Small trowel: especially necessary for transferring seedlings
  • Scissors: get a pair of high-quality scissors that you only use on your plants. They need to be super sharp to avoid damaging the plant when you prune or harvest.
  • Watering can: Unless you have several 5-gallon pots, choose a small one for better control.
Photo by John Bogna on Unsplash

How much time does indoor gardening require?
Indoor gardening does not take much time. In contrast with outdoor gardening, you don’t typically have to weed!

  • Watering: Check the water levels every few days (or more often if you’re in a dry climate or in winter, when the air is more arid). Feel the soil with your fingers to detect dryness or use a moisture meter for more objective feedback. Beware of overwatering, which can cause rot and disease. If you will be away from home for multiple days, plan to have someone stop by to check your plants. This is another time when a moisture meter comes in handy!
  • Fertilizing: Read both your seed/seedling packaging and the fertilizer packaging to make a wise plan for how often to fertilize. Overfertilizing can “fry” your plants.
  • Pruning and thinning: Keep an eye out for dead leaves or overcrowding in your pots. For example, if you sow carrot seeds in a pot, you will need to thin them once they develop 1-3 inch shoots. This is on a plant-by-plant basis, and doesn’t usually require a lot of time.
  • Harvesting: This is the best part! Enjoy the fruits of your labor (literally) by carefully removing the fruit or clipping the leaves. It is recommended that you rinse whatever you harvest, even though this is some of the cleanest, healthiest food you will ever eat.

Steps to get started (let’s review):

1)    Make a list of your favorite plants to eat and prioritize a few to start with
2)    Research the specific needs for your top choices, considering the size of the pot, the needs for light, and the needs for water and fertilizer
3)    Purchase the needed items
4)    Plant away and care for your plants regularly
5)    Enjoy the bounty of your indoor garden!

Helpful tips and hacks

     Try starting with a few plants and expanding gradually. No need to worry about seasons if you plan to keep your plants in a grow tent or use extra lighting to make up for the lack of sunshine in winter.
     Make compost tea to water your plants! This is a super nutrient-rich and all natural way to give some extra love to your plants. Here’s how:
     Pick a container you won’t need for a few days. The size depends on how much tea you need.
     Fill the container 1/3 full of compost
     Fill the remainder of the container with water
     Let it sit for 1-4 days
     Strain it through cheesecloth or burlap
     Use immediately
     Herbs are some of the easiest plants to grow inside. Choose types you often use in cooking to start with.

Indoor gardening is an excellent way to bring nature into your home, to provide your family with healthy food all through the year, and to slow down a little and enjoy the simple things in life. Start small or go all in, but enjoy your new venture as an indoor gardener!