Indoor Gardening Tips and Tricks

What Can You Grow doing indoor gardening?  Try an Indoor Garden with these Tips and Tricks, You have options.

Choose plants that will grow under artificial light, mature quickly, and stay compact enough to grow in containers without outgrowing their space. Most leafy greens, herbs, and a few root vegetables will grow very well inside under lights. Many things I have grown successfully inside during the winter months in a cool basement some with little to no sunlight.

How it’s Done

1 Build or assemble your grow light system and locate in a cool area such as a basement or spare room. Try to keep it away from wood stoves and other heat sources because warm temperatures will cause the plants to bolt, or go to seed prematurely instead of producing a continuous harvest.

2 If growing from seed, follow sowing instructions on the back of the seed package and keep soil evenly moist until the seeds germinate. Also see 10 steps to starting seedlings indoors. Purchased herb seedlings may need repotting if roots are showing through the drain holes.

3 Keep the lights about 2-inches above the plants. Adjust the lights as the plants grow. Plants grown under artificial light need at least 12-16 hours of light each day. I set my Power Strip Timer for 16 hours on, then 8 hours off.

4 Water twice a week or when the soil surface feels dry.

5 Harvest and enjoy fresh, nutritious edibles throughout the cold, winter months.

Tips

These vegetables all require well-drained soil and partial sunlight. For best results, place a grow light near your vegetables during the winter months to boost your garden’s yields and avoid overwatering.

Lightning

Sunshine

Decoding those perplexing tag instructions on light.

• Does the tag says direct light, the plant needs six or more hours of bright sunshine a day, hitting it head-on.

• If the tag says moderate light, the plant needs bright, direct sunshine only part of the time—about four hours a day.

• Or If the tag says indirect light, the plant needs to be kept a few feet away from pounding sun at all times. It wants only ambient light.

• Does the tag say low light, the plant needs no direct sunshine and little ambient light. It’s happy in a room that never gets much sun.

Here’s a rundown on what is available, how much it costs, as well as the pro’s and con’s of different types of plant lighting.

Watering

Refill the watering can (or milk jug or any container you like) each time you finish watering, then leave it out as a reminder. This will also allow the water to come to room temperature and give additives (like fluoride) a chance to dissipate. Keep needy plants in plain sight so you don’t forget about them.

Thoroughly saturate the soil until water comes out the bottom of the pot. (If the water is not reabsorbed within a day or so, empty out the saucer.) When you can, take plants to a sink or a tub and give them a soaking; most plants love this.

What To Grow?

Lettuce greens

Lettuce is surprisingly easy to grow and does not take up much space, making it an excellent choice for a sunny window. Look for lettuce mixes marketed as cutting lettuces or leaf lettuce varieties. With these, you can harvest the leaves and the plant will grow back, giving you more lettuce for half the work.

Start your seeds in a pot or a plastic bag with drainage holes. Fill with moist potting soil and sprinkle five to 15 seeds on the surface. Cover them with 1/8 inch of soil and mist them with a spray bottle until the surface is damp but not soaked. Place them in a sunny window or under a grow light and keep nice and moist. Thin the seedlings once they germinate, leaving the strongest to grow into delicious, fresh lettuce.

Kale

Once a garnish and now a superfood, kale is a great vegetable to grow indoors. Like arugula, you can harvest the bigger leaves and leave the small ones for a later harvest. Plant a few seeds in a medium-size pot and cover with 1/2 inch of soil. Keep the soil moist and thin to one plant per pot, as kale can get pretty large.

Garlic

Garlic has very particular temperature needs, to form bulbs, but you can easily have a steady supply of garlic tops, or greens that can be used instead of scallions. You don’t need a large container for garlic sprouts. A depth of about 4 inches should suffice. Simply plant the individual cloves about 1 inch deep and water regularly. The cloves should sprout in about 1 week.

Let them grow to 8 to 10 inches before you begin harvesting. Cut off what you need and leave the rest. You generally only get one flush of growth from each clove. They may sprout again, but the quality declines, so start new cloves when you begin harvesting the current crop.

Tomatoes

I was surprised at how long my tomatoes lasted indoors the first time I moved a potted plant inside. Had I added fertilizer, I suspect it would have lasted even longer. Tomatoes do well in containers, but they do like sunlight so make sure your tomato gets the best seat at the window.

I highly recommend starting your seeds in a seed flat (egg cartons work well too) and transplanting them into a large pot when they are a few inches tall. This gives them sturdy roots. Trellis your tomato with a stake to offer further support and fertilize every two weeks.

Carrots

You won’t get monstrous carrots from an indoor garden, but with a deep enough pot you can enjoy fresh carrots year-round. Shorter carrot varieties need a pot at least eight inches deep and longer varieties require 12 inches to reach their full size. Choose a moistened organic potting soil mix and fill your container up to an inch from the top. Plant your seeds 1/4 inch deep.

Keep your carrots in a sunny windowsill and keep them moist but not wet. Once they germinate, thin them so that each carrot is at least an inch apart from its neighbor. Plant a new batch of carrots every two weeks to keep them coming all year long.

Hot Peppers

Even though pepper plants collapse at their first brush with frost, they are tropical perennials. Sweet peppers have never done well for me indoors, although you can certainly give them a try. Hot peppers have been very successful for me. I have started new plants from seed and I have dug and potted plants from my garden in late summer, to bring indoors for the winter. You won’t get a huge harvest, but they will fruit.

Use a container that is at least 8 inches tall. Hot peppers will need at least 10 hours of light each day. Don’t over water. Allow the container to dry out between watering. The plants are self-pollinating, but you may need to help them along. You can either jostle the plants to shake the pollen from one flower to another or use a cotton swab to dust each flower with pollen.

Lemons

Lemons are technically not a vegetable, but they go well with so many dishes that it seemed criminal to omit them from this list. Dwarf lemon trees make beautiful houseplants. They also provide full size, juicy lemons that pair nicely with meat and vegetable dishes, not to mention a hot cup of tea in the winter.

While you can start lemons from seed, most potted citrus enthusiasts buy a dwarf citrus tree from a nursery. It takes a long time to grow a productive tree from seed, and professional nurseries use a grafting process that keeps potted lemons small enough to grow inside.

Mushrooms

Why They’re Healthy: Mushrooms aren’t just flavorful; they’re also a good source of fiber and vitamin C as well as antioxidants and cancer-fighting compounds .

How to Grow: The easiest way to grow mushrooms indoors is to purchase a kit or grow them in a laundry basket.

Ginger

Ginger is an attractive plant that looks a little like bamboo. The best way to start ginger is to pick some up at a natural food store, as these tend to use fewer chemicals. Even then, you’ll have to soak it in water for a few hours to remove any growth inhibitor chemicals on the plant.

Place your root in a wide, shallow container and barely cover it with soil. Keep it moist, sit back, and watch it grow.

Scallions

Scallions, also called green onions, give you that onion taste without the space requirements. You can start them from seed or you can pick up some scallions at the grocery store or farmers market. If they still have roots attached, stick them in the soil, burying them up to the top of the white bulb, and watch them grow. Harvest the tops periodically.

Avocados

Why They’re Healthy: Avocados are chock full of healthy fats in addition to vitamins E and B6 and carotenoids, which are high in vitamin A and have been linked to a reduced risk of cancer, heart disease, and eye degeneration. No wonder these fruits are one of our favorite superfoods!

How to Grow: It’s possible to grow an avocado tree from an avocado pit, but doing so may not yield edible fruit. If you want to eat what you sow, it’s best to purchase a dwarf avocado plant (varieties that yield the larger green-skinned fruit or the more common black-skinned fruits are equally good) . To tend for your tree, add some sand to the bottom of a large, well-draining pot before filling it with regular potting mix and planting your tree. Water the tree regularly but make sure the soil is never soggy — avocado roots don’t take well to being waterlogged. Prune the shoots regularly, and be sure to place the tree in an area with high ceilings — even dwarf trees can grow higher than 10 feet!

How to Harvest: Green varieties are ready to harvest when the fruits’ skin turns slightly yellow, while darker varieties are ready when their skins have turned almost black. Ripe fruits can be left hanging on the tree for a few weeks, but any longer than that and they’ll start to lose their flavor and texture.

Mint

Why It’s Healthy: Beyond being tasty, this bright green herb can aid digestion. Mint tea has also been known to soothe hangovers.

How to Grow: Start by purchasing seeds or starter plants and a large, deep pot (about 10 inches in diameter) — mint will sprawl. Fill the container with potting soil and plant the seeds or starter. Place the container in an area that gets plenty of sunlight and water regularly, making sure the soil doesn’t dry out.

How to Harvest: Gently snip a few leaves from each plant, making sure not to remove all the leaves from any one plant.

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