With frigid gusts of wind and falling snow currently occupying the outdoor environment in much of the United States, now is the perfect time to move your vegetable garden indoors. But before you begin to rely on your indoor plants for fresh produce, there are a few things that you need to go over. The best way to ensure indoor gardening success is to consider four things before you even begin planting: space, light, temperature, and humidity.
Pick a space
One limiting thing about growing inside is finding a place to put your plants. Some of the smaller ones, like herbs and tomatoes, can be grown on your windowsill or on a small table. Others will require you to set aside a specific “gardening” area that includes either a large table or a linoleum floor so that if there is runoff from the plants, it will not ruin your home. Shelves are also a great place to put your plants because they provide a lot of space without taking up much room in your house or apartment.
Pick a light
For those who think that you can grow indoors and just rely on the sun streaming in through the window, you are sorely mistaken. Especially in the winter months when sunlight is scarce, growing plants requires the purchase of some sort of artificial light source. If you were planning on using a regular house lamp, think again. Your plants aren’t going to reap the benefits of that type of light, which is why purchasing a growing light is essential. These plant-specific lights mimic the wave lengths of the sun, thus encouraging plant photosynthesis. The good news is that there are a variety of options, some that can be bought at affordable prices, that are offered at most local hardware stores.
Incandescent lights are the least expensive but will most likely leave your garden small, and possibly unfruitful. A better choice is opting for fluorescent lights or high-intensity discharge lights (HID). There are also a number of bulb choices for these lamps, so it is important to consider what you want to grow before you make a purchase.
Fluorescents produce a lot of light, but need to be kept close to the plants to produce results. Whereas HIDs can get too hot, most fluorescents are cool to the touch, so keeping them about six inches from the plants will not burn your produce. Lettuce, spinach, and herbs grow well under these lights.
HIDs are the brightest and most efficient growing lights, but they are also one of the most expensive options. You can also purchase high-pressure sodium (HPS) bulbs, which produce a red-orange light that promotes flowering, or metal halide lights (MH), which omit a blue-white color that promotes leafy but compact growth. Most growers encourage a combination of lights to produce the desired results.
Control the temperature
With the freezing cold temperatures outside and the stifling heat inside, controlling temperature can be more challenging than you may think. The important thing to consider when picking where to place your plants is choosing an area that stays relatively temperate. Somewhere between 65 and 75 degrees is the best for most plants. Though heartier plants can take a little more heat or cold, you will find that those that are grown in too hot a climate will be small and weak, while those that grow in the cold will have trouble turning green, and may lose their leaves early. Use a thermometer to check daily and ensure that your plants are in the right environment.
Control the climate
We all know that the winter months can be some of the driest of the year, which poses a particular problem for plants. If you notice that your leaves are turning brown, or your plants look withered and are starting to lose leaves, consider increasing the humidity. This can be done by running a humidifier near the plants. Humidity can also be easily increased by lightly misting your plants daily. Another great way to promote growth is to put an oscillating fan on low near the plants, which will ventilate them.
Planting your garden in a nutrient-rich potting soil is essential for indoor growing. The soil in your backyard will be frozen and heavy, and may also have hidden weeds and insects that will stifle or kill your plants. Instead, opt for an organic potting mix. Or, if this isn’t your first indoor garden, many growing enthusiasts think that growing hydroponically, which means without soil, can be beneficial. If you choose this option, consider getting some outside help from place like the Hydroponics Glossary to get you started.