If you’re a vegetable gardener, you probably already know what a fun and rewarding activity growing your own plants can be. But while few things are as tasty as fresh tomatoes, sprouts, and carrots, chances are good you hang up your gardening gloves and start buying your vegetables from the grocery when the weather turns chilly. However, there’s another option: taking your garden inside.
While the convenience factor of growing produce inside is certainly a plus, this approach also cuts down on waste because you won’t overbuy at the store. The other great thing about indoor vegetable gardening is you have total control over the plants, so there’ll never be any mystery about what nutrients are used to help them grow.
When deciding what to include in your indoor garden, it’s important to pick plants with similar light, humidity, and watering needs. For starters, plants harvested for their leaves (e.g. microgreens and lettuces) tend to thrive more indoors than those harvested for their fruit (e.g. peppers and cucumbers).
But no matter what you choose to grow, your indoor vegetable garden can prosper as long as you have a good plan. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
Light is life.
Low lighting is undoubtedly the biggest challenge when it comes to growing any type of plant indoors. Luckily, you have lots of lighting options, many of which use very little energy thanks to innovations that include LED (light emitting diode) bulbs.
When considering where to place your garden, don’t forget about using natural sunlight. Putting the garden near an east- or south-facing window is always a good start. However, remember that many days are not long enough to provide your garden with adequate sunlight, so you’ll probably have to supplement with inside lights. Timers for your lights can also come in handy, as plants may need differing amounts of light over the course of growth.
Understanding basic light levels and how different plants respond to them is your first step to indoor gardening success. Fruiting plants will need the highest levels of light, while shade-tolerant herbs and leafier varieties typically require less. Just be sure to do a bit of research about the plants you’re growing to figure out their needs.
A comfortable home.
Finding the right containers for your indoor vegetable garden is crucial. The most important factors to think about are drainage and size, but also be sure to choose containers that are aesthetically appealing, if that’s important to you.
With any indoor plant, a hole at the bottom of the container is vital, as it allows water in the soil to drain freely so adequate air is available for the root system. While different plants have different drainage needs, most will do poorly in stagnant water or constantly wet conditions. The right idea is to keep a close eye on your plants, and to adjust your watering schedule accordingly.
As for size, larger plants will require big containers so roots can grow and develop. A container that’s too small will stifle growth and can hurt the plant. Always err on the side of too large when it comes to containers if you want your plants to thrive.
The right medium.
Indoor vegetable gardens will almost always require potting mix—not garden soil. If you just use soil from your yard, you’ll have no idea what kinds of spores, bacteria, plant-eating insects, weed seeds, and other unwanted stuff might come along with it. Additionally, potting mix is usually made with indoor drainage in mind, and is your best bet for retaining the nutrients your plants will need to grow.
A healthy diet.
Fertilizer is even more of a necessity when growing indoors since most of the nutrients in your growing medium are quickly used by plants or are leached out during watering. Fortunately, there are plenty of options when buying organic fertilizers and nutrients. Many of these options contain formulas tailored for specific varieties of plants, so be sure to read the labels.
One more quick tip: If you compost at home, you can prepare a compost tea to feed your plants. This is an environmentally friendly option that can also save you some money on fertilizer.
Your in-home ecosystem.
A general rule of thumb for indoor plants is that they’re comfortable in the same conditions as humans. That means a temperature somewhere between 70-72°F is usually ideal.
In addition to temperature, something else to consider is humidity. By maintaining a humidity level of 40%-50% in your garden’s location, you can help prevent droopy leaves and browning tips. With Indiana’s hot and humid weather—especially during the summer—you might find that a dehumidifier can help your plants reach their full potential.
If you can’t tell, our team at Engledow loves all things green and growing. And as much as we enjoy talking about indoor vegetable gardening, we’re also experts in landscape design, hardscaping, turf care—we even do event planning for clients across our region. If you want to learn more about our services and what we can do for you, let’s talk today.