3 Ways to Get Started with Indoor Gardening
Winter can be a depressing time, particularly here in the Northeast. The days are short, the nights are long, and it’s way too cold to go out and smell the fresh air. Plus, all those tasty, fresh vegetables that lined your countertops in the summer are gone, replaced either with flavorless hybrids that are designed to travel around the world, or poverty-inducing “organic” produce that still doesn’t capture the flavors of home-grown. But fear not, there are actually ways to grow your own fruits and vegetables during the winter months by gardening indoors. Sure, you probably can’t plant tons of zucchini, eggplants, or watermelons, but even a little fresh produce is enough to raise your spirits and your cuisine. Plus, you’d probably be surprised at what you can plant in a small space using these methods.
Indoor Container Gardening
This is traditional gardening, only indoors. All you really need are some seeds or plants, pots, indoor potting soil, and a source of light– a window that gets lots of
In smaller pots (6” – 8” dia.), you can grow pretty much any type of herb: cilantro, dill, chives, oregano, basil, and thyme. You can also start seedlings for your outdoor garden in the spring.
Medium (8” – 12”) pots are great for mesclun and other leaf lettuces, as well as mature herb plants, cherry tomatoes, and carrots.
Large (12” or Bigger) pots are where the really exciting action is! You can grow tomatoes, beets, cucumbers, peppers, and yes, even eggplant if your pot’s big enough. If you are pressed for space and can’t fit too many different types of pots, you can even grow a large plant in the center (tomato or pepper plants work well because they grow up instead of out), and plant herbs or leafy lettuces all around the perimeter of the container.
Container gardening is great for beginners because it requires little investment to get started. If you plant flowers or vegetables outside in the spring, then you can easily clean and re-use your containers indoors in winter.
Hydroponic gardening has really come on to the mainstream for indoor gardeners in the last 10 years. Products like the AeroGardenfrom Miracle-Gro and a wide array of systems from smaller sellers have helped make hydroponics easier and more affordable for indoor gardeners.
In hydroponics, plants grow in water, not in soil. Seeds are planted in an aggregate like rock, or porous foam, where roots can grow down into the water. Since soil is not used, a solution is added to the water to give the plants the nutrients that they need to grow, and the water is continually circulated to keep it oxygenated and prevent algae growth.
A grow light is also required for hydroponic gardening, but many systems like the AeroGarden have a light integrated into the design, so itis pretty much turnkey. Integrated hydroponic systems can be expensive, ranging from high double digits up to several thousand dollars for large growing platforms. You also have to factor in nutrient mixes, seeds, growing pods, and replacement light bulbs. But, over time, the investment can pay off by lowering your grocery bill and providing you with high-quality vegetables, fruits, and herbs.
Did you know that fish and plants can live together in a symbiotic relationship that helps both to thrive? I’m talking about aquaponics, and it’s one of the coolest ways to grow your indoor garden. The plants clean the fish tank and take harmful elements out of the water. The fish, meanwhile, feeds on the microscopic organisms produced by the plants, and releases waste that is turned into nitrogen that fertilizes the plants.
In theory, you can grow just about anything with aquaponics, but the reality for hobbyists is more limiting. The bigger the plants that you grow, the more and bigger the fish you need. Most homeowners aren’t going to want a tilapia or trout farm in their living room so that they can grow their tomatoes and lettuce. You can, however, purchase a system that grows herbs and microgreens and only requires a single beta fish to fertilize the water. These aquaponics systems are relatively inexpensive and hassle-free. One additional benefit of them is that they are a great tool for teaching kids about gardening and the getting them interested in science.
If you’ve ever bought “fresh” cut herbs at the store, then you know they tend to live about as long as a fruit fly. Wouldn’t it be nice tobe able to cut it off the plant as you need it? We’ve given you three options that make it easy to get started in indoor gardening. Whether you design a fullscale indoor garden to provide the majority of your fruits and