Whether you want to grow fresh produce all year round, or you live in the city and don’t have much (or any) garden space, you’ll be pleased to know that growing your own produce indoors isn’t just possible, it’s also pretty easy to do.
Sure, you’ll have to do a few things a little differently, but as soon as you take a bite of a home-grown tomato — or cook with herbs that you grew right on your window sill – it’s more than worth it.
On your marks, get set, grow: getting started with indoor growing
Step One: Finding the right amount of space
The great thing about growing fruits and vegetables in your own home isn’t just that you get a room full of luscious green plants to look at every day, nor is it the fact that NASA thinks that plants can remove toxic chemicals from the air and make your home healthier, it’s the fact that you can do all of your growing in a relatively small space.
And when it comes to indoor growing, you’ve pretty much got three options:
A windowsill or kitchen table:
If you’re short on space but still want to grow some veggies or herbs, the kitchen table or the windowsill (with ease-of-access and natural light) is the perfect place.
Tomatoes and herbs, for instance, can be grown on a windowsill or table, no problem.
A table or bench:
If you’ve got the space and you’re looking to take your indoor growing game to the next level, you might want to set aside a table or bench in a light room that you keep specifically for gardening.
(Top tip: if you don’t have a waterproof floor, place a tarp beneath your bench or table – you’re going to get bits of mud and water dripping down. Protect that carpet!)
If you’re short on space but have tonnes of ambition, you can grow your plants quite easily on a set of shelves. Just make sure each plant is getting enough light.
Speaking of light…
Step Two: Shedding some light on the situation
As all plant nerds know, plants need lots of light to survive.
Because they photosynthesise (turn natural light into energy) to survive and flourish, if they don’t get enough light, they wilt, grow spindly or die.
And getting light is even more important if you want your plants to grow produce, as growing incredibly tasty produce uses a lot of the plant’s energy.
Time to gear up
For some people, the natural sunlight that comes through your window will be enough to help your plants flourish and grow. (Especially if you live in particularly sunny areas.)
But for most people – especially if you’re planning on growing your plants in winter or live in a building that doesn’t get much sunlight – it’s worth investing in some artificial lighting to help your plants photosynthesize and get them producing tasty, fresh produce.
What gear should I get?
There are lots of artificial lights on the market, from inexpensive incandescent lamps that you can pick up at your local big box store to the significantly more expensive High Intensity Discharge (HID) bulbs – and they all seem like they do the same thing.
However, there are subtle differences. Incandescent lamps are great for houseplants, but don’t produce enough light for plants that grow fruits and veggies. Similarly, fluorescent lights don’t produce enough energy-giving light to help a plant grow produce.
And so, you’re left with three options choice: Compact Fluorescent Systems, High Intensity Discharge (HID) bulbs or LED lights.
And, while all three will do an incredible job of getting your plants growing, HID systems tend to be bigger, bulkier and lot more expensive.
For indoor growing – especially if you’ve not got a lot of space – a Compact Fluorescent System will do just fine, too.
Although slightly less efficient, they’re smaller, lighter and produce less heat than all of the other methods, meaning you can put them closer to your plants and tuck them into small spaces.
But the best option, in our minds at least, has to be the new LED lights.
Because of recent breakthroughs in LED technology, you can now install effective grow lights that cost only a fraction of the older, bigger and hotter grow lights.
(Plus, because we’re all about doing things that are good for the environment, they’re much greener too — often using up to 90% less energy than their Fluorescent or HID counterparts.)
Ask Plantables: Why can’t I just leave the indoor lights on for my plants? Won’t that do the same thing?
Now, to answer this properly, we’re going to have to get into some plant science nerdery. Brace yourselves.
Plants are incredibly clever little things, with tiny receptors (called photoreceptors) that detect and absorb light from the sun. The way they do that is to only absorb specific wavelengths of light. The light from your regular indoor bulb isn’t on this wavelength, so is no use to your plants.
(That’s how the HID and fluorescent bulbs work, by emitting light on the same wavelength as the sun.)
Step Four: Choose your plants
Unfortunately, unless you’ve got lots of space, not all plants are right for growing indoors.
Melons, for instance, aren’t particularly well-suited to indoor growing. (If you want to try it though, don’t let us stop you. You agricultural maverick, you.)
However, things like chard, peppers, leafy greens, tomatoes and herbs are all perfectly suited to a life lived indoors. Just make sure to give them lots of love and care, and you’ll have ready to eat vegetables and herbs in no time.
(The Kit, our box for newbie growers, is also full of plants that are perfect for indoor growing. Plus, every Plantables plant is grafted to make them hardier and more versatile, which means they’re just right for adapting to a life lived indoors.)
Step Five: Show them some love
As well as a decent supply of sunlight (or artificial sunlight), your plants need three more things to grow produce like crazy: a constant temperature (of around 75oF), humidity and a constant supply of water.
Now, temperature is easy enough to control. Unless you live somewhere that’s particularly cold, room temperature is usually around 73oF, which is just right for plants to flourish.
(If you live somewhere cold – or somewhere that gets really cold – then your artificial lights act as a heater too. Just check your plants every now and again to make sure they’re not too chilly. Chilly plants don’t grow brag-worthy fruits and veggies.)
If you’re growing plants indoors, controlling the humidity can sometimes be a real pain. As the weather cools off, the air in your home has less moisture in it (especially if you have the heating on). This is particularly bad for your plants, as they rely on this moisture to thrive.
As the air gets drier, look out for the leaves on your plants turning brown, falling off or starting to wither – this is a sign that your plant needs a little more humidity.
Luckily, there are two easy fixes: either mist your plants daily with a mister, or purchase a humidifier near your plants.
Soon enough, you’ll have happy, healthy and hardy plants growing you all manner of fruits, vegetables and herbs.
Watering plants can seem like a scary and intimidating job at the beginning – too little water and they won’t flourish, too much water and they’ll wilt and stop growing.
But it’s really not that scary at all.
Just make sure to water your plants with room temperature tap water until the water starts to drip from the bottom of the pot.
That’s it. Just do that once a week, and you’ll have happy healthy plants.
(Top tip: keep an eye out for wilting. This is usually a sign of under-watering or over-watering. You’ll be able to tell which by feeling the soil, but if you can’t – check the leaves. If they’re going brown or wilting from the edges, your plant is thirsty. If your plant is wilting from the stem, it’s had too much to drink and needs to dry out a little.)
And that’s all there is to it!
It might seem like there’s a lot of information to take in, but once you’ve planted your plants and done this once or twice, it’ll all become second nature.
Give it a week or two and you’ll know just by looking at your plants whether they need more water, more light or just a little bit of mist.
And then, a few weeks after that, you’ll see just the hint of a tiny tomato or the some fresh herbs just waiting to be cooked with.
And honestly, there’s nothing like it.
We grew our first plants decades ago, and that moment when the first fruit or veggie of the season grows is still as exciting now as it was all those years ago.
(So, in ten years’ time when your apartment is full of fruit, vegetables and herbs, don’t say we didn’t warn you!)