If you don't have access to suitable outdoor space but still want to cultivate a selection of fresh veggies, herbs, or other plants, you might want to create an indoor gardening system. The system you use depends on how ambitious you want to get, what you plan to grow, your budget, and the available space. Indoor gardening is ideal for apartment living, if your outdoor soil is not workable or if you don't have time to manage weeds and pests.
Learn more about creating a flourishing indoor gardening system in this beginner's guide.
What Is Indoor Gardening
Indoor gardening relates to the act of growing a selection of plants inside that you would typically grow outside. Because you can more easily control temperatures and other conditions, you can access things like veggies, fruit, herbs, or tropical plant species year-round, unlike in many outdoor gardens when the temperature determines the growing season.
Plants for Indoor Gardening
Certain plants are known for being well-suited to being grown indoors. These include:
- Veggies. Some veggies grow particularly well indoors. These include carrots, hot peppers, lettuce, and tomatoes.
- Herbs. Basil, chives, mint, parsley, and thyme are just a few herbs that do well in a sunny position indoors.
- Low-Light plants. If you want to create a low-maintenance tropical jungle in a shady area in your home, opt for low-light species like spider plants, snake plants, and certain ferns.
- Humidity-loving plants. Consider things like begonias, ferns, and peace lilies if you want plants for a terrarium or to grow in a bathroom.
Common Types of Indoor Gardening Systems
The indoor gardening system you select depends on the type of plants you want to grow, your budget, available space, and your preferred aesthetic. Below are some of the common types of indoor garden systems.
Allows you to grow your plants in containers with potting mixes. It is the closest to traditional, straightforward outdoor gardening and is an economical option, often used for cultivating a herb garden or displaying a selection of tropical plants.
Hydroponic gardens allow plants to be grown in water rather than soil. The water contains essential nutrients, and some include substrates like perlite, vermiculite, or coconut coir. It's a bit pricier than traditional soil-based setups, but it maximizes space, conserves water, and produces fast-growing, healthy, and high edible plant yields.
Aquaponics is similar to hydroponics and shares many of the same benefits, but it is less widely used. These systems involve keeping live fish in the water. Their waste is full of nutrients that help the plants flourish. If this doesn't gross you out too much, be prepared for a more pricey initial setup and ensure the plants you pick are happy in this wet environment (leafy greens are a popular go-to).
This advanced hydroponic-style system sprays nutrient-infused water on suspended plant roots rather than fully submerging them in water. This method allows plants to absorb the maximum nutrient levels promoting fast-growing, large yields. However, it is challenging and costly to set up.
Try a glass terrarium if you want to grow a selection of humidity-loving plants without taking up much space. You can select plants that are low-maintenance while still visually appealing. Terrariums come in a wide range of sizes and prices, so there should be something to suit every enthusiast.
If you have limited floor or shelf space or want to liven up a bare wall in your home, creating a vertical living plant wall could be the way to go. Select plants with similar care requirements as you will water them all together.
Indoor Garden Plant Care
The conditions your plants require vary depending on the type of indoor garden you want to cultivate and the individual species you select. Here are some general tips to consider when it comes to their care.
Where you position your indoor garden depends on the plants' light requirements. Plants grown indoors will never have access to the same direct bright sunlight they could get outdoors; even sunlight streaming through a window is less intense than it is outdoors. You may need grow lights to help create the right conditions for major sun-loving plants indoors or if you don't have any natural light in an apartment. Conversely, if you have true shade-loving plants, keeping them away from windows will be necessary.
If you aren't opting for a hydroponic setup or collecting air plants, your indoor garden will generally be best grown in a loose, well-drained potting mix. The mix can be tailored depending on what you grow, but it is often composed of peat moss, vermiculite, and perlite. This combination absorbs moisture quickly and doesn't become easily compacted. However, it will dry out quickly, so it won't work for moisture-loving plants like basil.
Of course, every plant grown indoors will have differing requirements in terms of watering. However, one of the biggest common problems for indoor gardens is overwatering. Many indoor plants die as a result of root rot.
Always research what the plant species you are growing needs. Watering your plants with room temperature water is also a good idea. Cold tap water can shock your plants.
Ensuring your indoor garden plants receive enough nutrients is important for long-term success. Although some potting soils have nutrient enhancements, the plants will use them up after a couple of months. Slow-release fertilizers are popular as they can last several months before another application is required.
Temperature and Humidity
Being able to control the temperature and humidity in an indoor environment is one of the key benefits of indoor gardening. The ideal humidity level for many indoor plants ranges from around 40 to 60 percent humidity.
If you have moisture-loving plants that need high humidity or your living space is particularly dry during the winter months when the heating is on, you could invest in a humidifier or set up the garden in your bathroom. You can also use indoor greenhouses or terrariums.
Repotting your indoor garden plants in soil-based systems annually, or when they are becoming root bound, is vital for long-term growth and health. Make sure the pot is big enough for future growth.