Indoor Garden Made Easy

Indoor gardens cleanse the household air and improve the aesthetics of your indoor space. Most importantly, indoor gardens provide you with a wealth of healthy organic foods. City dwellers may also find indoor gardening especially useful due to the limited outdoor space.

However, indoor gardening has several challenges which may cause a lot of frustration especially when you don’t have a clue about how to deal with them. Therefore, it is vital to do comprehensive research about different indoor gardening techniques, plant varieties and their need and how to face the challenge of pests and diseases.

Why should you have an indoor garden?

  1. An indoor garden gives you more control over environmental factors such as air, humidity, water and temperature which has a huge impact on the final results of your indoor garden.
  2. Indoor plants are generally less susceptible to most pests and diseases that usually affect plants in outdoor gardens.
  3. Plants create a healthy living environment by filtering out chemicals and toxins in the air.
  4. An indoor garden beautifies your home with a wide variety of colors and shapes.
  5. There are no weeds and gardeners can grow what they want including fruits, vegetables and the regular house plants.

Key elements of an indoor garden

  1. Light

Light is necessary for photosynthesis which is critical for the plant’s survival. Without adequate light, plants grow spindly and tall and they might not even flower or bear fruits. However, plants differ in their need for light. Understanding the light requirements of the plants you are growing indoors will help you determine their most ideal location.

  • Sun loving foliage plants and most flowering plants should be placed within three feet of sunny south facing windows. Some plants require direct light and at least 6 hours of direct sunlight.
  • Plants that require indirect light should be kept away from the pounding sun at all times. This could be 3 to 5 feet away from south facing windows. This ensures that the plants only get ambient light.
  • Some plants thrive in low diffused light and such plants don’t need direct sunlight. Such plants can do quite well in rooms that never get much light. Such plants can also be kept within a foot of north facing windows or 6 to 8 feet away from south facing windows.

Shrubs, trees and buildings can block light and this must be taken into consideration when trying to figure out where your plants should be located within your home. Moreover, you may need to move plants closer to the window during winter months in order to compensate for the general decrease in light.

2. Temperature

Most plants thrive at temperatures of between 65 and 75F with a variance of about 10F either way. In case the temperatures are too high, your plants will be weak and small. On the other hand, temperatures that are too cold may cause yellow leaves that eventually fall off prematurely.

Your indoor garden plants should experience day to night temperature fluctuation of 10F. Most plants especially flowering plants require a period of dormancy each year before the set buds and flowers. In order to stimulate the dormancy period (resting period), you should cut back on fertilizer and water during early winter and late fall, when the duration and intensity of light is lowest. You should only step up the fertilizer and water once day length starts increasing. This is a good way of stimulating healthy new growth

3. Watering indoor garden plants

Plants that are grown in containers usually dry out quickly as compared to their soil-grown counterparts. Therefore, they require frequent watering. Moreover, it is recommended that you use room temperature water and always add enough water until it starts running through the container’s drain holes. This ensures that the entire root ball is properly moistened. However, you should not allow water to collect under the plant because it can lead to disease or rot.

Use a moisture meter or your fingers to feel the soil to ensure that you are not under or over watering your plants.

Signs of under watering

  • Wilting along the outer edges of the leaves.
  • Wilting foliage
  • Brown edges or tips along the leaves
  • Flowers and leaves drop prematurely

Signs of over watering

  • Wilting from the stems towards leaves
  • Discoloration
  • Lower leaves drop prematurely
  • Wilting foliage
  • The plant might stop growing

Avoid using chemically softened water because it contains harmful chemicals.

  1. Air and humidity

One of the most common challenges for indoor gardening is the lack of humidity. Most plants thrive at a relative humidity of about 50%. Air tends to be drier during winter than during summer and the problem is compounded further if you run the heat at home. When the humidity is lower than 30%, plants are unable to absorb sufficient water through the roots in order to keep up with water that is lost through the leavers.

How can you identify a low humidity problem in your indoor garden?

  • Leaves turn brown at the tips
  • Plants look puckered or withered
  • Leaves fall off prematurely

Tips to increase humidity in indoor gardens

  • Mist your plants daily (this should not be done with plants that have hairy leaves because the water will hang around longer and this might cause disease)
  • Place a tray of water near the garden but avoid putting plants in the tray.
  • Use a humidifier or environment controller to humidify or dehumidify the area depending on your needs.
  1. Drainage

Your pots and containers should have holes to drain out any excess water. In case water collects at the bottom of your pots, it can easily cause root rot which might even kill your plants. You can place plastic or clay saucers underneath the pots to prevent any excess water from spilling onto your furniture, carpet or floor.

However, some decorative pots and containers do not have drainage holes. This makes it difficult to know how much the plants in such pots should be watered. Therefore, watering such plants requires more skill than is usually required when watering plants in the normal traditional pots that have holes at the bottom. However, you can still use these beautiful pots successfully by simply avoiding overwatering your plants.

Choosing the right container size for indoor gardening

Plant containers are mainly used for holding the right amount of soil or growing medium for indoor gardening. Therefore, the container should always match the size of the plant. A plant that is too small for its container looks out of proportion and might even grow poorly because the growing medium stays excessively moist for long periods of time.

A plant that is too large for its container also looks out of proportion and they exhaust nutrients and water faster which means you must work harder so as to keep them alive. Such plants become root bound (the roots fill up the container, causing stunted growth) and they might topple over because the container does not have enough weight and stability to hold them up.

  • A 24 inch diameter container can hold large pepper, cucumber, artichoke, indeterminate cage and tomato, summer squash and other combinations of herbs and vegetables. When growing indeterminate tomato plants, be sure to choose cages that fit inside the containers.
  • An 18 inch diameter container will hold broccoli, large cabbage, all greens in multiples, small pepper, small egg plant, cauliflower and determinate tomato.
  • 14 inch diameter containers can work for cabbages, non heading lettuce (3 or 4 plants), Spinach (3 or 4 plants), arugula (3 plants), collards and any herb
  • 10 inch diameter container will hold small herbs, lettuce and strawberry.

However, you should understand that not all containers are tall and round. Most shallow rooted plants including lettuce can thrive in containers that are wider than they are tall. However, vegetables generally need deep containers and plants such as pumpkin and zucchini well benefit from containers that are both deep and broad. You can also use half barrels for bigger plants such as squash and tomatoes.

The right soil for your indoor garden

It is vital for your potting soil to be tailored to the type of plant you want to grow. For instance, rosemary and succulents such as cactus prefer well-drained, coarse soil that is one-third sand. Ferns and African violets prefer soil with high humus content. This can be achieved by simply adding shredded bark and leaf mold to the soil. Grow your seedlings in a moisture retentive and light soilless mix. Most orchids thrive in nothing but sphagnum moss and fir bark.

Your indoor potting mix should be composed of vermiculite, perlite and peat moss. These mixes resist compaction and absorb moisture very well, but they dry out quickly. Since soilless mixes do not contain any nutrients, it is vital to provide the plants with a regular supply of fertilizer. One of the main advantages if using soilless mixes is that they are sterilize and there is no chance of introducing disease or pest problems.

You can also add organic components to your indoor growing mix. These components include finished compost, leaf mold, rich garden soil or compost mix. The ideal growing medium contains 10% to 20% organic matter in order to ensure that the growing medium does not dry out as fast as the soilless mixes. Therefore, you should reserve a small spot in your outdoor garden where you can collect soil for your indoor garden. This is a great way of making the indoor growing medium fertile by introducing important nutrients and beneficial microorganisms.

The most important consideration when you are blending or purchasing your potting soil is ensuring that the potting soil is light enough in order to provide pore space for water, air and healthy root growth and development. Overhead watering over a long period of time results in a compacted and unhealthy root zone. Therefore, your potting mix contains plenty of vermiculite, sharp sand and perlite to ensure that the roots get enough soil for healthy growth. This allows water to drain freely because the soil has 10 to 20% air.

Nutrients for your indoor garden plants

Fertilizer is very essential for the success of your indoor garden. The easiest way of fertilizing potted plants is preparing a good nutrient solution and simply pouring it over the potting mix in order for the fertilizer to be absorbed by the roots quickly and add what is missing. The potting mix becomes depleted of nutrients because they are constantly being used up by the plant and leached out by water. On the other hand, the faster your plants grow, the more water, and fertilizer they require. As watering increases, so does nutrient loss and leaching.

Fertilizer should be applied at least once every two weeks for potted plants in indoor gardens provided they are growing in compost-rich potting mix that retains nutrients. However, if you prefer applying fertilizer with a nutrient solution whenever you water your plants, make sure you use about a fifth of the recommended amount.

Organic fertilizers are derived from numerous plant sources which make them ideal for potted plants. Moreover, they are just as effective as chemical fertilizers and supply the required nutrients as well as a wide range of minerals, vitamins, amino acids and micronutrients.

It is also important to understand that plant nutrient requirements change according to the stage of growth. For instance, annual bedding plants require high nitrogen fertilizer in the initial stages to promote growth and development of leaves, and then switch to high phosphorous, low nitrogen solution to promote and encourage blooming.

General maintenance of your indoor gardening plants

In order for your indoor garden to be successful, you must ensure proper upkeep of your indoor garden. Ensure that the plants get regular amounts of water and sunlight. On the other hand, the soil temperature should not drop below 21C  (70F). Plants should be split or transplanted into larger pots when they become too large.

Plants that are wilting, have brown spots or are dying should be separated from the rest to prevent the spread of disease and pests just in case they have them. On the other hand, incorporating fertilizer or compost into the pots every few months is a good way of supplying your plants with vital nutrients.

PH (probable hydrogen)

Getting the right pH is one of the most important considerations when growing plants in your indoor garden. When the PH (probable hydrogen) is too high or too low, plants lose their ability to absorb vital nutrients trough their roots.

Different nutrients are absorbed at different pH levels. Therefore, some plants thrive in alkaline soils and others require acidic soils. Nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, sulfur and magnesium are absorbed at high pH levels (slightly alkaline conditions), while plants that require nutrients such as copper, zinc, magnesium, boron and iron thrive at lower pH levels (slightly acidic). You can test the pH level of your soil sample at most garden centers or buy a pH test kit from hardware store or nurseries in order to test pH on your own.

Top 10 problems with indoor gardens and their organic cures

  1. Rust: It is found on various mature plants including beans, asparagus, onions, carrots and corn. Infected plants usually develop brown powdery spots on stems and leaves. Infection can be prevented by providing good air circulation. Remove and destroy all seriously affected plant parts or entire plants. You can dust your plants with sulfur to keep the problem from spreading or prevent infection.
  2. Wilt: Affects many vegetables in indoor gardens including tomatoes, potatoes, melons and pepper. Symptoms include plant parts turning yellow and wilting plants. The problem can be avoided by planting resistant cultivars and soil solarization.
  3. Powdery mildew: The upper surface of infected leaves becomes covered in a gray or white powdery growth. Plants that are seriously infected turn brown and eventually drop. Fruits ripen prematurely and have poor flavor and texture. Improve air circulation by pruning or staking plants. Plants that are heavily infected should be destroyed.
  4. Downy mildew: It affects most vegetables and usually appears as a purple or white downy growth along stems and on the underside of leaves. Indoor gardening plants should be watered early in the morning to give them ample time to dry throughout the day.
  5. Late blight: This problem occurs later in the plants’ growing season and the symptoms often appear after blossom. Gardeners should look out for a white fungal growth or water soaked spots on the underside of the lower leaves. You can select resistant cultivars to prevent the problem and always dispose of infected tubers and plants.
  6. Mosaic virus: It affects a wide variety of plants including tomatoes, beans, and peppers. The virus causes blotchy yellow and green veins or foliage. Viral diseases such as Mosaic virus have no cures and the best bet is taking preventive measures such as controlling pests ( especially leaf hoppers and aphids) and planting resistant varieties.
  7. Anthracnose: Melons, cucumbers and tomatoes are most often affected by the disease. Symptoms include pods and fruits with dark, sunken spots. You can use sulfur spray to control the diseases in your indoor garden.
  8. Bacterial leaf spot: Small, water-soaked spots appear in the leaves of infected plants. Bacterial leaf spot does not have a cure.
  9. Alternaria blight: The main symptoms include black and brown spots on leaves before they die and fall off. You can also find dark sunken spots on tubers and fruits. Organic seed treatment and proper seed selection are some of the available prevention measures. Infected crops must be disposed of properly.
  10. Dying: In case your indoor gardening plants are dying after providing all the necessary requirements and conditions, the underlying problem might be the pH of the potting medium. Therefore it is vital to test the pH of your indoor gardening potting medium and adjust accordingly.

this is a guide that you can use to either lower or raise the ph in your growing space


Pounds of Limestone Needed to Raise pH (per 1,000 Square Feet)
4.0–6.5 60 161 230
4.5–6.5 50 130 190
5.0–6.5 40 100 150
5.5–6.5 30 80 100
6.0–6.5 15 40 60
Pounds of Sulfur Needed to Lower pH (per 1,000 Square Feet)
8.5–6.5 45 60 70
8.0–6.5 30 35 45
7.5–6.5 10 20 25
7.0–6.5 2 4 7

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