I love eating fresh vegetables grown from my garden. Unfortunately, I live in an area where we have all 4 seasons, so I only get to enjoy my garden for a few months a year.
But then I stumbled upon the trend of indoor gardening. By learning to garden indoors, I could enjoy vegetables and herbs from my garden all year long and save money too!
Today, more and more Americans are turning to indoor gardening, also known as hydroponic farming, as a way to enjoy fresh and healthy food and reduce their grocery bill.
This is because indoor gardening can be done anywhere. You can pick up a ‘green’ light at the local hardware store and set up an area for yourself somewhere in your home.
It’s not conducive to growing traditionally huge plants like corn, but there are several advantages to growing your own vegetables, mushrooms, and herbs by indoor gardening.
All you need is some water, some reasonably nutritious soil, seeds, and good light. Mother Nature takes care of the rest as the plants themselves know how to grow.
If you want to try your green thumb with hydroponic farming, here is your complete guide to set you up for success!
Your Complete Guide To Indoor Gardening
Key Factors for Indoor Gardening
In order to be successful with indoor gardening, we need to get some basics covered first. Once you understand these, the rest of the process becomes much easier.
Some plants require more light than others. In natural conditions, light is provided by the sun. When cultivating indoors, you have two options: grow your plants near a window that can be reached by the sun or use artificial lighting, commonly known as grow lights.
When using the sun to help grow your plants, you want to choose windows with a southern exposure since they will get the most sun.
If you don’t have southern facing windows, then using grow lights are required.
Grow lights and grow light kits aren’t as simple as buying a light bulb and calling it a day. Different plants and vegetables need different types of light in order to grow to their full potential.
To keep things simple, you need to look into 2 types of grow light kits, warm spectrum and cool spectrum.
Warm spectrum grow lights have a lower number on the scale, usually around 3000K. This type of light is ideal for cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers or any other fruiting plant.
Cool spectrum grow lights on the other hand have a higher number on the scale, usually around 6500K. This type of light is ideal for seedlings and leafy vegetables.
Finally, there are different types of grow light bulbs too, from your traditional incandescent, to fluorescent and LED.
To save the most money, opt for LED. The price to buy these may be higher, but they will last longer and use a fraction of the electricity.
Plants like humans are susceptible to temperature variations. Sudden temperature changes can harm growth or even kill your plants.
In general, the optimal temperature for plant growth is between 70°F -75°F. When deciding which plants to grow, check the temperature of the area where you plan to grow them.
You can buy a thermometer with minimum and maximum temperature range alerts to help you monitor the right conditions.
But if you have a central heating and air conditioning unit for your house, you should easily be in the optimal temperature range.
And don’t worry if your ideal temperature is higher or lower than this optimal range. Your plants will still grow in cooler or warmer weather. It is just that the range cited are the perfect growing conditions.
Growing medium is the term used in indoor gardening for what we simply call soil when it comes to outdoor gardening. The majority of the growing mediums used in indoor gardening are “soilless” mediums, meaning they use something other that actual soil.
The reason for this is when you grow indoors, the soilless growing mediums have more nutrients to help your plants thrive. The only downside to these alternative growing mediums is they are less forgiving.
In other words, you need to stay on top of your garden to see success. For this reason, many people choose to go with soil as their growing medium.
If you do decide on a soilless medium, the most popular include expanded clay, peat moss, coco coir, gravel, and perlite vermiculite.
Indoor Gardening Supplies
What else will you need to make hydroponic farming a success? Aside from the items listed above, having a soil moisture tester is essential, as are the right tools.
Luckily you can easily get the above online or at a local hardware store.
For the best soil moisture tester, we like this one from Amazon.
When it comes to gardening tools, full size ones won’t do. You need smaller versions. Here is a great set that allows you to buy all the tools you will need in one purchase.
Now that we have the basics covered, let’s look at the types of gardens you can create and grow indoors.
Another critical aspect when hydroponic farming is space. To take full advantage of your space, many people choose vertical gardens. With vertical farming, you plant your veggies in vertically stacked layers.
You can create your own vertical growing system with some basic materials, or you can take the shortcut and buy one. Here are some of the best vertical growing systems:
- 5 Tier Vertical Garden Tower: This set is made of very durable polypropylene and can grow up to 20 plants. It comes in black which keeps light away from the root and helps avoid algae growth near the root zone. Its flow-through design protects from over watering, root rot, and other diseases. It can be bought at Amazon.
- Vertical Wall Hanger: This vertical garden allows you to plant up to 36 different vegetables, herbs, flowers or other plants in a small area. The wall hanger is a self watering system, so you can save time by only watering the top row. Best of all, it is lightweight and can be hung almost anywhere, both indoor and out. It can be bought from Amazon.
Because of space limitations, most people choose to go with a vertical garden indoors. If you have the space however for a horizontal garden, you can find many great options out there.
The best is a shelf system that allows you to grow many plants without taking up a lot of space. Here is the best option on Amazon.
It is a little pricey, but you get everything you need, including planter trays and the grow lights.
Finally, don’t overlook the power and beauty of window boxes. While you won’t be able to grow a large quantity of vegetables with a window box, you can grow a nice assortment of herbs.
Indoor Gardening Ideas
You now know the basics to indoor gardening and you know what type of garden you are going to grow. All that is left is deciding on what to plant.
In this section, we will highlight various herbs and vegetables you can grow indoors.
Indoor Herb Garden
Growing an indoor herb garden is the best first step for indoor gardening for beginners. They are simple to grow and maintain and help develop the skills needed to move onto indoor vegetable gardens.
Plus, herb gardens can help you cut down on your grocery bill by helping you to stop buying expense herbs at the grocery store!
Perennial herbs, such as rosemary, oregano, thyme, chives, bay laurel and mint are easiest to grow from young plants that you buy at a garden center.
Basil, oregano, parsley, thyme, and tarragon are all excellent herbs for growing indoors. These herbs want to live, and so they’ll work very hard to make sure that happens.
If you want to keep your herbs longer after you harvest them, you can dry them. Drying your herbs doesn’t take that much effort.
You can do it in the oven or naturally by setting them in the sun. Either way, for the price of some seeds and a little setup, you can start a great indoor garden in your apartment or other small living space.
Let’s see some tips for growing some of the most popular herbs:
- Mint: With dozens of flavorful varieties available, mint plants usually grow rambunctiously. Start your peppermint plant with seeds, keep the soil moist and give them moderately to intense light.
- Basil: A critical herb for cuisines around the world and a favorite pairing for tomatoes, basil is easy to grow indoors. Plant seeds or purchase small plants and pot them in fertile, organic potting soil. Basil loves heat and bright light, so give it a southern or western window or use a grow light. Avoid cold, drafty spots, especially in the winter. Basil is not a long-term houseplant. You can expect to keep and use it for several weeks until the stems start to grow woody. To ensure a steady supply, plant a new batch of seeds every few weeks.
- Oregano: A must for Italian, Mexican, Central American and Middle Eastern cuisines, oregano is a member of the mint family. Grow oregano as you would other mints. Water when the surface of the soil is dry, but don’t let it dry out. Give the plants moderate to intense light.
- Parsley: Parsley can take a while to start growing, so your best option is to buy a small plant and tend to it. It needs full sun and moist soil for optimal growth. It is important to note when the parsley plant begins to flower. At this point, the leaves will begin to taste bitter, so pull the plant and use or dry the remaining leaves.
Indoor Vegetable Garden
While planting an indoor herb garden is a great first step, planting an indoor vegetable garden is where you will really see some savings on your grocery bill. Unfortunately, not all vegetables are ideal for indoor gardening, simply because of space.
But this doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy many of your favorites.
Here is a run down of some popular vegetables and fruits you can easily grow with your indoor vegetable garden.
- Squash: Despite what you may have heard, squash can be grown indoors. Crookneck and butternut squash are the most appropriate for indoor growing. Use a pot of 12 inches deep with a diameter of 24 inches. Make sure the container has drainage holes. Plant at least three seeds per pot, leaving a few inches between them. Water on a daily basis. Seed usually germinate in 10 days.
- Tomatoes: The best tomato varieties for growing indoor are Petite, Red Robin, Toy Boy, and Tiny Tim. Use a pot with a depth of six inches and good drainage. Plant the seeds about ¼ inch in garden soil. Seeds usually germinate within 5 to 10 days. The best temperature to germinate is between 70 F to 80F. Make sure the plant receives between 14 to 16 hours of light per day.
- Bell Peppers: Plant three seeds in each pot. Bell peppers require a nutrient-rich growing medium, mix vermiculite, peat moss and coarse sand in equal proportions. Place the pot in a room with a temperature between 65°F and 75°F, where it can get direct sunlight. Seeds will germinate in about ten days. Bell peppers mature in 70 to 90 days.
- Lettuce: Use a pot of at least four inches deep. Place the pot in direct sunlight or use a lamp to stimulate growth. The most suitable lettuce varieties for indoor growing are Tom Thumb, Baby Oakleaf or Black-Seeded Simpson. Seeds will germinate in around 12 days. Most lettuce varieties mature in 45 to 55 days.
- Cucumbers: Cucumbers are vines, so make sure to create a climbing structure and place it in the pot. Use a large pot as cucumbers need a lot of space during development. Make sure the temperature is between 73°F and 79°F. Cucumbers also need a lot of direct sunlight, so you should place your pot near a window. Seeds will germinate between 3 to 10 days.
Indoor Mushroom Garden
Another favorite for many are mushrooms and since they aren’t a herb or a vegetable, we decided to list them separately. Here is how to grow an indoor mushroom garden.
Mushrooms are low in calories and fat, high in fiber, and contain a high amount of potassium, therefore they are a healthy addition to any diet. Mushrooms can be easily grown indoors with the right light and temperature conditions.
The best variety of mushrooms for indoor gardening are Oyster, White Button, and Shiitake, and they tend to be the easiest to grow too.
From there, here are the steps to grow your mushrooms.
- Step #1. Get mushroom spawn. Mushroom spawn is sawdust permeated with mushroom mycelia, essentially the root structure of the fungus. It can be bought online for as low as $10.
- Step #2. Sterilize the growing substrate. To avoid the mycelia from competing for nutrients with another micro-organism in the substrate, you should sterilize the growing medium before inoculating with the spawn. Some growing medium comes already sterilized, so you may not need to do this step. The easiest way to sterilize your medium is by heat. Put your medium in a heat-resistant container and use a pressure cooker or microwave, make sure the temperature reaches well over 200°F.
- Step #3. Prepare the substrate. The mycelia in your mushroom spawn need to spread into the substrate thoroughly before producing mushrooms. A warm temperature encourages this growth.
- Step #4. Place the substrate into the proper environment. If the substrate has been adequately colonized it should be entirely covered with what looks like white fuzz. Once the substrate is colonized, you should move it to an environment that is dark and cool (about 55°F). A basement should work.
Harvest your mushrooms when they are fully grown. If everything went well, you should see small mushrooms appearing after 3 weeks.
To encourage growth, keep their environment moist, cool and dark. You now you are ready to harvest when mushroom caps separate entirely from their stems.
Indoor Garden Kit
If hydroponic farming is something you want to do, but you don’t want to spend the money for all the supplies, your best option is to look into an indoor garden kit. These kits allow you to grow a couple plants indoors and come with everything you need.
Typically, all you have to do is open the box, plant the seeds, water, and turn on the grow lights that are included.
Since you are only growing 2-3 plants, very little space is needed. And as an added bonus, indoor garden kits are great for kids too.
Here are a couple great options to consider.
- Herb indoor garden kit: The AeroGarden Sprout LED Kit allows you to grow 3 different herbs from your counter. You can learn more about this option by clicking here.
- Vegetable indoor garden kit: The AeroGarden Farm Plus Hydroponic Garden allows you to grow both herbs and vegetables in one unit. It even allows you to adjust the height of the grow lights to give you more vegetable options. Like the kit above, this one comes with everything you need out of the box. You can click here to learn more.
- Tomato indoor garden kit: If you love tomatoes, then this kit is for you. It comes with everything you need and lets you grow 4 different types of tomatoes. You can learn more by clicking here.
There is your complete guide to indoor gardening for beginners. I recommend you buy an indoor gardening kit to make the process much easier and less time restrictive. Then simply decide on what you want to grow and get started.
By choosing to grow your own herbs and vegetables, you will gain satisfaction and save money at the same time.
Always remember the secret to hydroponic farming is leaving plants alone. Once you give plants a little water, enough light, and some nutrients, you’re good to go.
For a small investment of time, you can have enough greens, mushrooms, and herbs to last you all year round.