Even if you live in a city or in a small apartment with no outdoor space, you can still have fresh vegetables and fruit, grown in your very own home. All it takes are a few simple supplies, a little equipment and the desire to have a garden.
If you’re a beginner, it’s generally better to start with only very basic supplies. Additional items can be added as they are needed.
Start with a plant shelf with well-spaced (2′-3′) shelves or a closet with enough floor space to set up an indoor garden. Just make sure there is enough room for your plants to reach their full potential.
While you will be limited somewhat by growing indoors (i.e., no corn; sorry), there are still plenty of options and varieties available. Dwarf, determinate and container varieties are the best choices for growing in a small space. These plants are easy to grow and well suited to the limited space and environment of an indoor garden.
Container lettuces such as Sweet Baby Romaine and Garden Babies Butterhead are ideal for growing in pots.
Container tomato varieties such as Super Bush and Litt’l Bites Cherry do extremely well in small spaces.
Container squash like Astia have a more compact and non-rambling vine which is ideal for an indoor garden.
Baby cucumbers rely on vertical space and grow well in a container but they also require up to 5 feet of vertical support.
Rosemary, basil and thyme are great for growing in containers in your kitchen window where they’ll be handy for culinary creations.
A limited amount of floor space needs to be compensated with ample container depth so the roots can still have plenty of room to grow. Any container with holes in the bottom (to facilitate drainage and minimize the chance of root rot) will work.
A simple, all-purpose potting mix is the easiest way to start. However, if you’re interested in mixing your own, it can be done relatively easily with some compost, coconut coir, perlite, peat, and/or vermiculite. Mix any or all of these to suit your needs.
There are a few options when it comes to indoor grow lighting.
A window that gets at least 6 hours of direct light per day will work.
Metal Halide and High Pressure Sodium bulbs (the two kinds of HID bulbs) both require a ballast. You can get a small, 150W self-ballasted HPS system for $75 that will easily produce a stellar herb garden with no help from the sun.
Generally more energy efficient than HID systems, fluorescent setups produce less heat than HID systems, as well. Fluorescents are very good at growing herbs and leafy greens. However, for fruiting plants, added sunlight or HID light will result in better yields.
Superior to HID in energy efficiency and heat production and better than fluorescent systems at growing fruiting plants, LED setups are a newer wave in indoor grow lighting. However, the initial cost can be somewhat prohibitive and they may not be a good choice if you are on a tight budget.
Fertilizers are generally only needed about once a month if you are growing in soil. Simple, all-purpose fertilizers with NPK ratios of 5-5-5, 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 are easy to use and work well for a variety of fruits and vegetables.
It isn’t necessary, but a heat mat can help germinate seeds faster.
A fan is another item that is nice to have but isn’t necessary. A small fan can help disburse any excess heat created by a grow light setup. Air circulation also encourages evaporation, which keeps the plants cool and helps control mold and fungal infections.
To get the dwarf or container varieties of fruit and vegetables you want, you’ll probably have to start your plants from seeds. Make sure your pots have holes in the bottom (for drainage), add moistened soil to the containers and put seeds into 1/4″ holes, a few inches apart.
Use a spray bottle to mist the seeds until they sprout and become established plants. If you are using a heat mat, leave it on continually until the seeds sprout. If you are not using a heat mat, remember that the temperature still needs to be kept relatively high (around 80 degrees). Keep the soil moist, and within 5-10 days, and sprouts should appear.
The sprouts should ideally get 12-16 hours of light each day. After about a week, pull the stragglers so there is about 12 inches between each plant. Once the plants are fully established, you can switch from misting to watering whenever the top 1 inch of soil is dry. Water until it starts coming out the bottom holes of the container. For determinate and container varieties, you’ll it normally have fruit and vegetables to harvest within 65-80 days.
Herbs can be easier to grow and will tolerate a wide range of conditions, but they are harder to start from seeds, so you might want to find starts at a local nursery. Starting herbs from seed is similar to starting vegetables from seed but keep these differences in mind:
Background information for this article was provided by Rogue Hydro. Learn more about them at RogueHydro.com.