There are a couple of ways that you can start an indoor vegetable garden for beginners. One way is to use a soil-based system. Another way is to use a modern hydroponic system that needs no soil and is ideal for the indoor-garden beginner. Here, we will look at both methods and the importance of providing enough light.
Growing anything, regardless of whether it’s in an indoor garden or outside, requires a basic understanding of the first principles of growing anything. You will need to have something for seeds to germinate in or on and enough light to sustain perpetual growth. You will also need a temperature level that will be warm enough to encourage growth but not so hot that the plants become dehydrated.
Before you even consider starting your indoor garden, there are a number of things you need to think about:
- Decide where it’s going to go
- Finding suitable containers
- Finding easy plants for beginners to grow
- How kitchen compost can help
- The room temperature
- Identifying pests
- Managing expectations
- Use soil or hydroponics
Decide where the indoor garden is going to go
Most successful projects will have had a good amount of planning in the early stages. Luckily starting an indoor garden is a relatively easy thing to do. It doesn’t have to be over complicated.
The first thing to do is to decide where you’re going to locate your indoor garden. This will require a bit more attention if you’re using a soil based system because they tend to be rather more permanent. If you go for a modern hydroponic system, these tend to be more portable. We have good news about how to set up an indoor hydroponic garden.
You don’t need a lot of space to start an indoor garden. It’s surprising what you can do to begin with in a small area, even if it’s just on your windowsill. Provided that you can supply enough light, and maintain regular watering, the position of your indoor garden doesn’t really matter.
We’ll look at the main points that you need to consider here:
The biggest mistake that beginners make when setting up an indoor vegetable garden, is that they underestimate the importance of providing enough light. It may be possible for enough light to come through a south facing window but this is something that you can’t rely on all the time.
You may look at house plants that are just there for indoor-decoration and take the view that they are growing well enough without much light. These types of plants are not expected to perform. They are not expected to produce anything and wouldn’t be effective in any indoor vegetable garden.
Having enough sunlight come through a window may be enough to start and get things going, for a beginner wishing to grow anything indoors. It may be possible to germinate seeds by relying on just sunlight but when things start to grow into mature plants that are intended to produce vegetables indoors, you will find that a more substantial light source will be needed.
The only room in a house which will provide anything near enough sunlight, will be a conservatory. This is where light can get in from all directions, including, in most cases, the roof. If you are lucky enough to have a conservatory, then this should be your natural choice as a starting place for an indoor vegetable garden.
To get the best results when attempting to grow anything in an indoor garden, you will probably need to install some sort of artificial lighting panels. This will be necessary for any serious indoor vegetable gardener. When using artificial light panels there is no compromise. It won’t matter where you place your garden indoors, with artificial light provided, you should have a successful outcome right from the start.
Indoor plants need containers
If you are going to be using a soil based system, then you are going to need containers that are strong enough to go the distance. If you use soil from the garden, you will find that it tends to be heavy. Light, flimsy containers are a waste of time and won’t be much use for an indoor garden.
You may be able to find containers that can be modified having been used for something else. If you can’t, then you will need to invest in some good quality containers. The one thing that you will want to avoid is containers that start to fall to pieces when they are full of soil. This would end up as a mess and your indoor vegetable garden could quite easily become a small disaster area.
The other thing that needs to be mentioned about growing vegetables or any plants in containers is that there needs to be drainage holes to avoid water-logging of the roots. This will also require some form of under-tray to catch and retain any surplus water.
Choose plants that are suited to an indoor garden
Not all plants are suitable to be grown in an indoor vegetable garden. You need to think carefully and select plants that are manageable indoors. One of the first vegetable plants that you should consider for growing indoors is lettuce. If you’ve never grown anything indoors before, the lettuce would be a good place to start.
Other plants that are ideal for an indoor vegetable garden include cherry tomatoes and most of the herbs that are out there. Cherry tomato plants tend to be more compact than the large tomato varieties. This makes the cherry tomato ideal for growing indoors.
Growing herbs is a very popular choice for most people who have an indoor garden. Herbs are very easy to grow and can provide a regular supply of leaves for cooking. One advantage of growing herbs indoors is that they don’t need so much light as some other plants. That isn’t to say that they will grow in a dark room but they will grow where there is, just, some light. A sunny window may be adequate for growing all your herb-needs.
To get any meaningful production of herbs, you will probably need the addition of artificial light panels.
If you’re thinking about an indoor vegetable garden, you may think about growing root vegetables. This may be a bit more of a challenge to do indoors but it can be done. You will need deeper containers to make this work. Some have had success with growing root crop vegetables indoors using extra-tough plastic bags, which will contain the heavy soil.
This will take up extra space and if you choose to go for this option, it will be like having part of your outdoor garden appear indoors.
Can compost play a part in an indoor garden?
For an indoor garden to be successful you need to use soil that’s good enough for seeds to germinate and allow the growing plants to develop a good root system. You may be lucky and have some really good quality soil in your garden. If you have, you can just take a shovel and scoop up some soil and use it straight away, for your indoor garden.
Many of us don’t have such luck with the quality of the soil in our gardens but this doesn’t matter because there are lots of ways of getting around the problem.
To germinate seeds successfully we need a light soil that’s open enough to allow for good drainage and for the root systems to develop. If you look at your garden soil and conclude that it’s not good enough for the indoor garden, it may be worthwhile buying some bags of potting compost. This will be a shortcut way of setting up your indoor garden right from the start.
There are other ways of acquiring some really good quality soil that would be fine enough for growing plants from seed. If it so happens that you have a mole in your garden, you may find that, for once, they may actually have a use.
When a mole heaves up a heap of soil, as they do, you will notice that the soil in the heap is often fine and crumbly. You need to gather the soil from these heaps and use it in your indoor garden.
Depending on how many moles you have in your garden, it is possible to gather a significant amount of good quality soil by this method. It may be necessary to add potting compost from a bag to improve the soil if needed.
There is also a case for adding compost which has been made from kitchen waste. If you do this, make sure that you use compost that has been fully formed. That is to say that it needs to be black, crumbly compost without any traces of food waste that’s still rotting.
Fully-formed kitchen compost, will provide most of the nutrients that you will need for a successful indoor garden but it will have no available nitrates. This is something which you may have to provide from artificial fertilizer.
Spending some time setting up a good quality soil will pay for doing and kitchen compost can play a big part in achieving this.
Some people find it necessary to add vermiculite and or perlite to the soil. This will help to retain moisture in the soil and help to maintain a more open structure for air movement which will benefit plants’ roots.
Room temperature for an indoor garden
The one big advantage of having an indoor garden is that you have full control over the temperature throughout the whole year. There will be no winter for an indoor garden. However, it is important to ensure that it doesn’t get too hot as this can lead to dehydration. So, maintaining a regular watering regime will be very important. If plants are allowed to dehydrate to the point where they start to wilt, this could easily become a disaster.
Indoor garden pests
Here, you may have a problem with slugs if you bring in soil from the garden. There is always the risk that there may be slug eggs in the soil which will hatch out later and start being a problem. There could also be the same problem if you use kitchen compost. It may be necessary to use slug pellets to get rid of them before they get anywhere near your seedling plants.
There is also a risk of importing aphids into your indoor garden, if you buy plants. If you suddenly find that you have an infestation of anything that’s attacking your plants, your first consideration should be to look at plants that have recently arrived.
Beginners who get started with setting up an indoor garden, are going to have plenty of enthusiasm to begin with. They will have seen the pictures of fruits and vegetables that they intend to produce. Aspirations will be in place with all the expectations that come with it. It’s important to realise that having an indoor garden requires commitment right from the start.
Experience is something that new beginners of anything will pick up over time. You need to manage your expectations, do the best you can with what you have and take a delight in whatever you can achieve by way of the fruits and vegetables that you manage to produce.
An indoor garden using soil or hydroponics?
Most people who think about setting up an indoor garden for growing vegetables or anything else, would traditionally use soil that’s suitable for roots to become established. Growing any plant in soil has always worked well and, done properly, always will. Modern technology offers an alternative to using soil.
It is possible to grow plants in an indoor garden, with the roots of the plants being in just water. This method is known as hydroponic and it’s very effective.
There are hydroponic indoor garden units that are entirely self-contained. All you have to do is to make sure the water level is where it needs to be and set the lighting to run for as many hours as the growing plants need.
If the water level drops and needs to be topped up, there is an indicator to show that attention is needed. With some systems there is also an indicator to tell you when you need to add more nutrients to the water.
The lighting system is designed to move up as the plants grow higher. When you buy one of these units they come complete with a range of seed pods which fit easily into the deck of the unit. These pods are then covered with a small transparent dome. This is to reduce dehydration of the seed pod. They stay in place while the seed germinates.
When the seed has germinated and is showing clear signs of growing, the transparent dome can be removed. The growing plant will then be subjected to the full force of the light that’s emitted from the panel of LED lights.
It’s the combination of an ample supply of water being provided to the roots of the plants and the supreme quality of light that’s made available from the LED lights, that makes modern hydroponic gardens so efficient.
You can find out more about indoor hydroponic gardening at: Indoor-farms for fresh salad.