Dear Reader-

Here at PlantCatalyst® we’re passionate about agriculture and we love to read articles about a variety of agricultural practices, issues and trends.  To that end we’ve begun asking writers to submit blogs that our followers might find interesting.  This next blog in our series is for those of us in the northern hemispheres who have to wait out the long winter until we can plant our gardens again.  The blog, written by New York writer Rebekah Wright, provides some indoor gardening tips and is only available on our PlantCatalyst® social media pages. We hope you enjoy it!

How to Grow an Indoor Garden

As you enjoy the harvest from your summer garden, you’re likely experiencing some bittersweet emotions. Sure, there’s nothing more rewarding than savoring the fresh squashes, tomatoes, and cucumbers from a productive bounty. Yet as you eat the last bite of fresh lettuce, you’re no doubt lamenting the loss of warm weather and the ability to exercise your green thumb.

Don’t think you need to stop gardening just because the temperatures are dropping. It’s easy to create a productive, relaxing indoor garden. Whether you live in a small, cozy apartment or a large, spacious house, indoor container gardens can be grown to suit any horticultural need.

Where should I grow my container garden?

Indoor plants need the same nurturing as outdoor varieties. Select a sunny location of your house (such as a window sill) to place your plants. East or west facing windows are generally the best. If you don’t have a large amount of natural light, or if you find your windows provide too much of a chilly draft, you can also supplement the effect of natural sunlight with artificial indoor grow lights.

Try not to place your plants near a vent or fan. These can provide a drying effect that is detrimental to most plants. In addition, don’t select a location that experiences vast temperature fluctuations, such as a garage or attic. If you find that your plants are not staying warm enough, you can also purchase a soil heat mat.

How should I grow my container garden?

Once you have selected a location with plenty of sunlight, consider the type of container you’d like to use. You can use multiple small, plastic planters, or construct a large window box. In a window-box setting, for example, you could plant several rows of plants with a large plants situated at each end. In this container, you could insert a tomato plant at either end and rows of smaller vegetable such as peas or carrots in between.

If you choose to use individual plastic or ceramic planters, you have a variety of options, You can devote one planter to a single plant or species, or intermingle them. To do this, plant a large plant (such as a tomato or eggplant) in the center of the planter, and sprinkle a ring of smaller crop seeds around the rim.

When planting seeds or plants, make sure you are giving them at least ten inches of fertile soil. Make sure you use rich soil, such as potting soil or organic matter from a compost or vermicomposting bin. Because the soil won’t be turned over naturally as it would outside, make sure you supplement it regularly with worm tea or other natural additives. This will ensure a beneficial carbon-nitrogen ratio and aid in the overall health of your plants.

Make sure you water plants regularly. This goes without saying for most avid gardeners, but plants need lots of water, even if they aren’t exposed to direct elements! If you find that you regularly forget to water your plants, consider installing a drip system.

In addition, try to select plants that provide adequate drainage. Plastic containers provide the best moisture retention, but terra cotta planters are often more attractive. Wooden planters, too, tend to be more attractive, but are more prone to rotting as a result of the excess moisture.

You can create holes in the bottom of your planters to help improve drainage. Under no circumstances should you ever utilize a planter that has been chemically treated, as it could kill your plant.

What other options are available?

Another type of indoor gardening is hydroponic gardening. This is a bit more complicated than traditional container gardening, and requires you to use fertilized water and a non-soil starter for your plants. This allows the gardener to produce a higher volume of plants in a small amount of space, but also requires more technical and financial ability to get started.

What types of plants should I grow?
Some plants will fare much better than others in an indoor setting. Those that do exceptionally well include lettuce, spinach, strawberries, chives, cabbage, peas radishes, and carrots. However, with some extra attention and diligence, you can grow virtually any type of vegetable (with the exception, perhaps, of large vegetables such as corn!). Even celery can be grown in a container!

To make your life a measure easier, consider planting dwarf varieties of species, such as “Tom Thumb” lettuce or “Little Marvel” peas. These plants are more accustomed to growing in crowded settings.

Lettuce will grow well in any kind of container, and under most conditions. It is a great plant for a beginning indoor gardener, because it has shallow root systems and takes only six weeks to mature. It can produce multiple cuttings, allowing you fresh lettuce for months on end. In addition, because it is not being exposed to driving rains or wind, it very rarely needs to be washed with the same diligence as outdoor-propagated lettuce. Bonus!

Some plants, such as peas, are not only a great way to increase your nutrition throughout the winter months, but also the aesthetics of your indoor space. Peas, beets, and similar vegetables produce eye-catching flowers, making them an optimal choice for a small indoor setting.

What types of plants should I avoid?

There are very few plants that indoor gardeners should avoid altogether. However, consider your space, time, and fertilization ability when selecting plants. If you don’t have a lot of natural light or space, it might not be possible to grow more than a few varieties of plants.

In addition, some plants, such as cabbage, require higher amounts of nitrogen for optimal health. As a result, you will need to provide organic fertilizer more diligently. If you don’t compost or make worm tea, this can be a challenge. Avoid plants that will be overly taxing–gardening should be relaxing, not an additional stress on your time and abilities!

Why should I grow a container garden?

Indoor container gardens allow you to grow a large amount of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and ornamental plants. Although you likely won’t be able to equal the harvest of an outdoor summer garden, you can grow enough of an indoor garden throughout the cold winter months to satisfy your organic produce needs. If you’re successful, you might even be able to transplant some of your healthy plants outdoors once the weather warms.

And the most important feature of all? You get to keep that green thumb active all year long!