You might think you need acreage to have a garden plot. Nonsense — if you have sunshine in your apartment, you can start an indoor version.
Container growing offers unparalleled convenience. You don’t have to slog through the weather to tend your crops — you can do so from the comfort of your climate-controlled abode. Here are five tips on starting an indoor garden that will have you making fresh tomato sauce and passing out blooms to all your friends in no time.
1. Get Your Water Tested
Plants have a lot in common with animals. Both require a place to live, grow and reproduce safely from the worst of the elements. They also need food and water. This final necessity might do more to influence the health of your indoor plants than any other. However, it’s a factor many novice gardeners overlook until they find themselves wondering why their spider plant fails to thrive.
The first thing to determine is whether your water comes from a well or a municipal water supply. One advantage of the former is that your liquid remains free of sanitizing agents as it comes up from an underground source. Elements like chlorine, chloramine and fluoride can slow the growth of your plants and impact the flowering cycle.
However, that doesn’t mean you’re out of the woods if you have a well. Such groundwater sources often have high levels of arsenic, lead and sulfur contamination. Additionally, the water might be rather hard, containing magnesium and calcium. These minerals are responsible for accumulating on plumbing surfaces, causing clogs.
The first water quality you must determine is your pH level. This scale measures how basic or acidic your water is. An overly alkaline pH can lead to mineral loss in your soil and poor harvests from your indoor garden crops.
Your water also contains beneficial bacteria, unless it comes from an overly clean municipal source. This riddance inhibits the processing of organic compounds for plant availability. You might have better luck harvesting rainwater to use for your plants — doing so also cuts down on waste. Before doing so, ensure you’re legally allowed to use a barrel in your jurisdiction. Some places restrict collection out of fear of providing breeding grounds for mosquitos.
Understanding your water quality starts by reading your bill. Your municipality should publish a quality report you can access. You can also purchase PPM meters, although they won’t tell you the precise mineral content of your water. For the best results, you should refer a sample to a lab for testing.
2. Choose the Right Location
You might end up with more than one indoor garden — and that’s perfectly OK. Different species have varying needs for sunlight. Your golden pothos may adore hanging by a sunny window, but your primroses have another preference. Honor it if you want the best results.
Discovering your various plants’ penchant for light or shade is as simple as reading the instructions that come with most varieties. The internet is also a glorious resource for all things horticulture. You can even find plant identifier apps that will diagnose possible diseases and recommend the best course of treatment.
Your kitchen windowsill is the ideal place for a herb garden. You might not need to travel beyond your grocery store for supplies. Many fresh soft herbs will sprout in water, allowing you to keep them going that way or plant them in soil for improved longevity.
Don’t overlook your bedroom as a location for shade-loving plants. In the 1980s, NASA studied houseplants to see if they could provide sufficient oxygen for supporting life in space. They discovered that these herbal wonders also scrub toxins like formaldehyde from indoor air — meaning you might breathe more comfortably at night, especially if you’re sensitive to allergens.
3. Select the Perfect Pots
Your plants are beautiful, and much like the right outfit can accentuate your natural beauty, the correct pot can showcase your collection in style. Will you mix and match or go for a monochrome look? You have several options.
You’ll find that plastic planters are the most affordable and lightweight option. You can carry a stack of them home from the store without ever breaking a sweat. However, this material may fade in sunlight and attract and store heat, leading to premature wilting of your plants. You may also need to replace them after a couple of seasons, particularly if you use them in sunny locations.
Clay pots and planters offer superior longevity and can also help you if you’re a novice gardener. This substance controls moisture levels, keeping your plant roots from suffering rot if you accidentally go a bit too heavy with the watering can.
Disadvantages of clay pots include the cost, weight and size. They may also break if you drop them. However, they’re your best long-lasting and eco-friendly bet for an indoor garden that grows season after season.
4. Invest in Beginner-Friendly Plants
Your plant choices partially determine your indoor garden’s success. For example, you probably don’t want to start with orchids if you’re new to horticulture. These plants look elegant but have a longstanding reputation for being finicky about their treatment.
Golden pothos is an ideal starter plant for sunny locations. Succulents also make easy-to-care-for choices for lining the brightest windowsills of your home. Bamboo and peace lily plants work well in darker bedroom areas, as they prefer the shade.
5. Keep Your Hobby Going on the Cheap
Once you establish your indoor garden, it’s relatively simple and inexpensive to add to it using materials you already have. One way to do so is by propagating live herbs from cuttings. Soft-stemmed herbs such as basil and oregano require little more than water, although you can buy liquids to encourage root growth. Woody-stemmed herbs take a little more prompting, although you can still use this technique by cutting stems from newer growth that hasn’t hardened yet.
You can also amass a bumper crop of the vegetables you use most often in the kitchen. It’s simple to save the seeds from plants like peppers and tomatoes, dry them and use them to start new seedlings. You won’t even have to drive to the farmers market once you establish your indoor garden on your balcony.
Start an Indoor Garden
You don’t need acreage to enjoy growing things. Use the five tips above to start an indoor garden that fills your home with joy.