Nothing tastes better than freshly picked herbs, vegetables and fruits, but you don’t need a big garden or the perfect climate to be successful. With an indoor garden, you can harvest healthy produce all year round. Indoor gardening is slightly different than caring for flower beds outdoors, so keep reading – the following tips and secrets will help you get started. Before you know it, you’ll be enjoying fresh food from the indoor garden you’ve grown yourself.
RELATED: 10 Easy-to-Grow Vegetables For Beginner Gardeners
1. Choose the right containers.
The pots and containers you use for an indoor garden should be large enough to give plant roots enough room to grow. As a general rule, “greens” such as lettuce, spinach, and kale need at least 5 inches of soil depth for root development. Peas, beans, cucumbers, peppers, and other small bushes or vine plants need a soil depth of at least 7 inches. Root crops such as beets, carrots, turnips and potatoes need more space to grow. For them, select a container that will accommodate a soil depth of 12 inches.
2. Get the right soil.
It might be tempting to fill your containers with soil from outside, but don’t; you could bring microscopic pests and diseases with the soil and end up damaging your plants. Ordinary dirt also tends to compact, making it difficult for a plant’s roots to develop. Instead, opt for a light, sterile commercial potting soil, such as Burpee Organic Potting Soil (available on Amazon). A potting mix does not compact, so plant roots can grow deep and strong.
3. Choose your plants according to the space available.
Not all fruits and vegetables are suitable for indoor gardening as some require too much space to grow. Examples are corn, okra, and indeterminate tomatoes, which can grow up to 10 feet in height. Select dwarf varieties of peppers and other vegetables, determinate (bush type) tomatoes, herbs and slow-growing fruits, such as strawberries and figs.
4. Get the right light.
Most fruits and vegetables need at least six hours of direct sunlight per day, so a south-facing window is a good choice. If you don’t have a sunny window, you will need to supplement with another powerful light source, such as the VIPARSPECTRA Pro Grow Light (available on Amazon) to ensure healthy, strong plants. You can also use a reflective grow tent, such as the GIANTEX grow tent (also available on Amazon) to reflect the light from your grow light and maximize its benefits.
5. Grow (literally).
If indoor space is limited, put the concept of vertical gardening to work for you. It only takes a few small pots to fill a windowsill, but you can grow additional fruits and vegetables if you arrange the pots vertically. This can be as simple as placing containers on boxes or racks of varying heights to elevate the pots in the back high enough that those in the front don’t block their light. Or, you can use a pre-made vertical garden stand, such as Outland Living’s Vertical Garden Bed (available on Amazon) to grow additional plants when indoor space is limited.
6. Try a trellis.
Climbing plants, including string beans and cucumbers, take up a lot of space in an outdoor garden where they have room to spread, but you don’t need as much space to grow them indoors. indoors if you train them on a strong trellis. When growing heavy fruits and vegetables, such as squash and cantaloupe, wrap the tendrils of the plant around the trellis as they grow. You may also need to make fabric “slings” and tie them to the trellis to support the product as it grows.
7. Water regularly.
Fruits and vegetables grow best when the soil is moist but not soggy. When roots are alternately wet and then dry, this retards root development and increases the risk of flower drop before produce can develop. Check the soil daily by pressing a finger on top, it should be springy and slightly damp. If it’s dry, it’s time to water. Alternatively, you can use self-watering pots, such as these GARDENIX DÉCOR Self-Watering Planters (available on Amazon) that come with reservoirs that you only refill every seven to 10 days. The pots will distribute just enough water to keep the soil consistently moist and you won’t have to worry about watering too much or too little.
8. Maintain a stable indoor temperature.
Many popular fruits and vegetables grown outdoors in the summer, including tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers and squash, like heat, around 75 to 80 degrees for daytime temperatures. If you use a sunny window, it will often give off an adequate amount of heat, but if you air-condition your home and the temperature is below 70, add some extra heat to the indoor garden with a small space heater. Cool-season plants, like lettuce, kale, and spinach, prefer daytime temperatures around 65 to 70 degrees, and they will languish and wilt if the temperature exceeds 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
9. Protect yourself against parasites.
Even when you use sterile potting soil, there is always a risk of insects migrating from other areas of your home and then invading your indoor garden. Pests such as fungus gnats can wreak havoc, feeding on plants and killing them. Avoid using chemical pesticides, but if you notice any type of pests on your plants, spray the soil and foliage with an organic pesticide such as neem oil (available on Amazon). Alternatively, you can make your own safe pesticide by combining 2 teaspoons of Dawn dishwashing liquid with 1 liter of water in a spray bottle and spraying it on the plants. When spraying for pests, strike foliage and soil, but do not spray developing fruits or vegetables to avoid altering their flavor.
10. Control indoor humidity.
High humidity levels increase fungal growth, and when plants are crowded together, as they often are in containers, the humidity level increases. If moisture is condensing on indoor windows or the air feels sticky, chances are the humidity level is too high and your indoor garden is at increased risk for fungal disease. Opening a window can help, or you can direct a gentle breeze to the plants with a fan. Running a room dehumidifier such as the SHINCO Dehumidifier (available on Amazon) or running your home’s air conditioner will also help remove moisture from the air.
Because they grow in a soilless mix, your indoor garden plants depend on you to supplement the nutrients they need to reach their potential and produce a bountiful harvest. Choose a fertilizer made specifically for fruits and vegetables, such as Miracle Gro’s Shake ‘n Feed Plant Food (available on Amazon), and follow the label directions. You should apply fertilizer every two weeks, but a time-release fertilizer like Shake ‘n Feed only needs to be applied once every three months.
12. Get help from hydroponics.
If you’re interested in the idea of growing your own indoor garden but don’t have the space or time to commit to caring for it, you might consider using an all-inclusive hydroponic system, such as the Ecoogrower Hydroponic System. (available on Amazon) which has a reservoir filled with water rather than potting soil. This type of hydroponic system circulates the water in the reservoir to prevent it from stagnating and automatically notifies you when it’s time to add more water or fertilizer. The system also comes with its own grow light so you can grow delicious produce even without a window nearby.