Guide to Indoor/Winter Gardening

Indoor Winter Garden

The ground is frozen solid, covered in a blanket of fresh snow. Branches are bare and flowerbeds devoid of life. The sky is a murky grey and temperatures have plummeted below freezing. Winter has definitely arrived. During these months, gardening becomes impossible (unless you are doing so in a heated greenhouse).

So how do you continue to get your daily dose of digging? Your frequent flowers? Your again-and-again agriculture? Not to worry! Outdoors might be off limit but you can bring the goodness of the garden to your very own home with a few simple steps. This is Fraser C. Robb's article looking at how best to tend your very own indoor garden.

Permanent Indoor Gardening

For some, indoor gardening is more than a quick-fix before spring rolls back around; it is a permanent alternative to outdoor gardening. These people tend to live where there is less sunlight, a lack of adequate temperatures or, most often, insufficient space (someone living in a block of flats, for example). But the garden can be very simply introduced into a household, and it doesn't have to take up much space.

You can grow almost anything indoors; fruits, vegetables, flowers and herbs. Here is a list of some items to try (but remember that gardening is about experimentation):

  • Vegetables
  • Herbs
  • Fruits
  • Flowers/Plants
  • Carrot
  • Basil
  • Tomato
  • Hibiscus
  • Onion
  • Parsley
  • Cherry Tomato
  • Marigold
  • Broccoli
  • Oregano
  • Dwarf Apple
  • Rose
  • Spinach
  • Mint
  • Blueberry
  • Geranium
  • Kale
  • Rosemary
  • Strawberry
  • Peace Lily
  • Red and Yellow Peppers
  • Thyme
  • Fig
  • Begonia

NOTE: Even if you do have an outdoor garden, houseplants can be especially useful for circulating crisp oxygen and allowing the house to feel more fresh. And there's nothing handier than growing an herb garden, or a tomato plant, on your kitchen windowsill.

Light is crucial when growing an indoor garden empire (only if the indoor gardening is permanent, mind you).

Plants photosynthesize light in order to grow stronger and healthier. Placing them next to a window will give them an opportunity to absorb much needed sunlight. For the darker months, or if your window doesn't catch the rays, you'll need a more dependable light source.

This cannot be achieved with an ordinary 60-Watt bulb! Instead, you'll need to invest in a special 'grow light'. These should be placed directly over vegetables, herbs and other vegetation to give them the light and heat they thirst for. There are a few different types of glow light, each with their own drawbacks and recommendations:

Incandescent Lamps; good for houseplants but not useful for much else.

  • Fluorescent Lamps; good for herbs and plants which require a lower level of light but not good for those with large light requirements, especially those which are budding or flowering.
  • High Intensity Discharge (HID) Lamps; bright, efficient and effective, these bulbs are great for most plant types (though they are considerably more expensive)
  • Making sure plants are in the correct temperature is important too. Some plants will require more heat, some less, but as a general rule of thumb try to achieve a temperature of between 16u00b0-24u00b0C (60u00b0-75u00b0F). On average, room temperature sits bang in the middle at 20u00b0C.

Watering plants is the only way they will survive. Make sure the soil is damp and that water is getting to the roots. Insert a drip tray underneath pots and seed trays to catch excess water. This will avoid soil becoming waterlogged or plants drowning. One tip for indoor watering is to remember that plants inside will tend to hold water better than their outdoor counterparts.

Humidity is a tricky one. How do you keep the plants humid in a house that generally isn't? You'll know a plant is lacking humidity when the leaves begin to wither and wilt, eventually shedding their leaves. The simple trick is to leave a tray of water in the same room as plants (not placing them in it) or mist them daily (spray them with a simple spray bottle). You could consider purchasing a humidifier too.

Finally, make sure your indoor garden plants are each tailored to an individual mix of soil most suitable for their growth. Check out this previous article on different types of soil: http://cp.frasercrobb.co.uk/news/2015/12/29/the-variety-of-soil/

Home-Made Herb Garden

Growing herbs in the kitchen is far more convenient than outdoors and it is very easy. You can grow them from seeds (always follow instructions on individual packets) or buy pre-grown herb trays from your local garden centre. All need to be grown in soil quality soil though not all require regular watering - again, double check with your supplier. Sunlight is a necessity.

You can try a few different ways to present your herbs. Plant each herb in an individual pot or tray, decorate them and label them; make them something visually stunning. Suspend herb trays from the side of the cupboard or wall to create a hanging herb tray. Even just placing them on the windowsill is perfect; somewhere in reach.

Potted Plants

There are thousands of potted plants available to brighten up your home; a peace lily on the mantelpiece; a geranium on the desk; a Venus-Fly-Trap in the kitchen. All will require different soil and planting conditions, but there are a few things applicable to all.

Most will need a similar temperature (room temperature will do) and level of humidity. All of them will need sunlight and water too. Placing them in view of, or next to, a window will increase their solar intake. Water them regularly, ensuring the depths of the soil (that is the root of the plant) are wet, though not so much so that the soil becomes liquid. Keep a drip tray underneath the plant so that excess water can filter away.

You should regularly prune plants which need it and avoid moving them around too much; let them acclimatise to one area. If a plant needs it then consider adding fertiliser to their soil mixture.

That's Fraser C. Robb's Guide to Indoor Gardening. Whether it is simply for winter or a permanent solution, these tips will boost your growth.

By Dylan Blyth

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