Indoor gardening | Community and lifestyle

Gardening has experienced a renaissance in the past couple of years. Spurred on by the pandemic, gardening has become a way for people to stay busy at home while keeping stress at bay. The love of getting your hands dirty also continued to attract new gardeners this year. As the gardening season draws to a close, you can still enjoy gardening throughout the winter months by bringing the garden indoors. Indoor growing can be done in a greenhouse, or a less time-consuming option is to plant a container garden.

Greenhouses come in a variety of sizes and costs range from $200 to $10,000. Some greenhouse styles can be ordered online. Greenhouse cultivation requires time and attention to detail; like outdoor gardening, its success mostly depends on you providing the perfect growing environment.

The essential elements for greenhouse cultivation are: sunlight, soil, humidity and fertilizers. Although no one controls the sunlight, you can move the plants around to see if they thrive in different areas of the enclosure. Unless your greenhouse is designed for the coldest winter days, it will likely require a heat boost. This can be accomplished with a passive solar system.

If veggies are what you want, know that not all veggies will grow in cooler temperatures, but peas, winter lettuce, broccoli, spinach, kale, and potatoes won’t. don’t care. The greenhouse is also the place to start plants from seeds that will be planted in the ground the following spring.

Although not mentioned as an essential, containers used for growing plants should allow for drainage; otherwise, the roots will rot, fungus will grow, and the plant will die. The standard terracotta pot is porous, allowing air to keep the soil from becoming soggy, and the hole in the bottom drains excess water.

Drainage also plays an important role in soil selection. Joan Buckles of Pleasant Nursery, 4234 Wabash Ave., suggests “a quality potting mix that’s light, not heavy, so it drains.” Soil helps nourish the seedling and support the root system of the growing plant.

Water is essential, but in just the right amount. Candy Scheuermann, garden center manager at Green View, 3000 W. Jefferson St., cautions against loving your plants too much. In other words, don’t overwater, but when the soil feels dry to the touch, it’s time for another drink.

A balanced fertilizer provides nutrients for healthy growth, and last but not least, a greenhouse needs wind. A gentle breeze created by a regular box fan will circulate the air inside the greenhouse, which will keep the plant surface and soil dry, inhibiting fungal growth.

Of course, this is an oversimplified guide to greenhouse growing, but it highlights the fact that growing a successful greenhouse garden takes dedication.

Another option for growing indoors is a container garden. This type of garden can be small enough to display on the kitchen windowsill or large enough to require its own growing space. Scheuermann explains that the “grow space” is the place in your home closest to the window that receives the most sunlight. Scheuermann said container gardens are ideal for growing herbs such as basil, oregano and rosemary. She keeps her vegetable garden in the kitchen for a quick mowing while she cooks.

More importantly, growing indoors requires a lot of light. Scheuermann suggests using a grow light specifically labeled for growing plants indoors. Grow lights can be purchased at a hardware store or online and range in price from $24 to $99.

The same principles of drainage apply to the container garden as to the greenhouse garden, including being careful not to overwater the plants. Container garden plants can be started outdoors and brought indoors when the nighttime temperature drops below 50 degrees, and certainly before it hits 40 degrees. Buckles suggested spraying each plant with water before bringing it indoors to kill the insects.

In addition to the herbs mentioned by Sheuermann, Buckles added parsley, chives, bay leaf and mint to the list as good candidates for container gardening. She enjoys cooking with fresh herbs throughout the winter and having mint to add to tea.

Buckles noted that the parsley plant will wilt when it needs water, and although chives grow indoors, they cannot be harvested indoors. But all is not lost, the plant can be put back outside in the spring and it will harvest.

If dwindling daylight tends to get you down, cheer up with an indoor garden. It is possible to enjoy many types of plants all year round.

Holly Whisler is a freelance writer in Springfield who enjoys indoor and outdoor gardening.