The days are getting chillier — but that doesn’t mean you need to stop using your green thumb! Through the fall and winter, you can keep the growing season going by starting an indoor garden in your Chicagoland home.
Houseplants and indoor flowers can add a pleasing pop of color to any space, particularly during the gray days of fall. And the benefits of starting an indoor garden go much deeper than that. In fact, did you know that certain types of houseplants can help purify the air in your home, letting you breathe easier? Studies have also shown that that spending time around greenery and plants can help reduce your stress levels, boost your mood, and increase your overall focus and productivity.
Plus, an indoor garden can be just plain useful. If you grow herbs, greens, or vegetables, you can use them to add freshness and flavor to your cooking, all year long. Starting the growing process now also puts you in a prime position to transplant your plants and kickstart your outdoor garden when spring rolls back around.
Interested in starting an indoor garden, but not quite sure how to get going? Remember, growing plants indoors doesn’t need to be intimidating. With a little planning and strategy, you can start cultivating beautiful houseplants or tasty veggies in no time. Here are five keys to success for starting an indoor garden this fall:
1.) Pick the Perfect Plants
As you start dreaming big about your indoor garden, it’s important to find plants that are going to be the right fit for your space, and for your gardening goals.
First and foremost, think about how much experience you have as a grower, and how much time and attention you realistically want to invest in your garden. Beginners or those looking for easier, less time-intensive gardening projects might want to start simple, with resilient, attractive plants like succulents or cacti, or mighty houseplants like the Sansevieria or a common palm.
Or are you an avid home cook who’s always looking for fresh ingredients? In this case, you may want to focus on incredible edibles, like fresh indoor herbs, such as basil, chives, parsely, lavender, or mint. Plenty of vegetables can also be grown indoors, including microgreens, peppers, or cherry tomatoes.
Dreaming of stepping up your decor? If you’re in the mood for some color, certain flowers can thrive indoors, including marigolds, geraniums, and zinnia.
Once you’ve thought of your household needs, think about your space. Does your home tend to get a lot of light, or a little? Is it dry or humid? How much can you control the temperature? Factor in the environment as you start researching potential plants, and you’ll be on the right path to building a garden that lasts.
2.) Find the Right Spot In Your Home
It’s important to be thoughtful about where you grow your indoor plants, and what types of containers you want to grow them in.
During your early planning stage, scope out potential growing zones around your home. Experts recommend looking for a warm location, with access to lots of natural light. Avoid drafty areas. Look for spots with balanced humidity, where you can control the temperature. Most experts suggest that growing plants fare best in temperatures between 65 degrees and 75 degrees Fahrenheit.
But remember, different plants need different environments to thrive. If one area of your home is particularly warm, for example, you might want to concentrate on growing tropical or desert plants that prefer hotter temperatures in this room. If one space in your home is is calling out for houseplants, but doesn’t get a lot of light, consider low light plants for this area, such as ZZ plants, snake plants, or pothos.
Then, you can get creative with storage! If you’re planting seeds or seedlings, you can experiment with different indoor growing vessels — from mason jars, to recycled yogurt cups, to reusable flower pots. The most important thing is that the container is able to allow drainage, to help prevent potential damage from overwatering.
Be strategic with your space, and think about what types of planting set-ups you want to use. Do you have large windows crying out for a window box? High ceilings calling that would be perfect for hanging baskets? An empty wall that could be filled with mounted pots or flower holders? A corner that could fit a stylish plant stand or terrarium? Take some time and look into those practical solutions that will really suit your space.
3.) Be Wise With Water
Proper watering is one of the keys to growing healthy, long-lasting plants.
When planting new seeds, consider misting the freshly packed soil, to help prevent the seeds from being washed out. As you go on, remember that consistency is key. The more your plants grow, the more you should be sure to check their soil conditions regularly. One basic method to check out the soil is to stick your finger in — the soil should be slightly moist to the touch all the way down, so that the roots can grow downward. If the soil feels dry to the touch, it may be time to water again.
At the same time, try not to overwater your plants, as this can cause damage or stunt their growth. Some experts advise pouring water around the edges of the soil, rather than pouring it directly over the center of the plant, as this could lead to an excess of water building up at the base. Some plants also like to be gently misted, particularly in dry environments — but be sure to read up on your specific plant, to see if it prefers to remain dry. Some plants, particularly those with “furry” leaves, can become moldy if misted too often.
Finally, if you’re afraid you won’t be able to water on a regular schedule, look for options like sub-irrigated planters, which store water and allow plants to absorb up moisture when they’re feeling dry.
4.) Look Into Your Lighting
Along with water, light is one of the most important ingredients for growing healthy, well-nourished plants. It’s important to be strategic about getting your plants enough light.
To start, you may want to focus your growing in a well-lit space that gets lots of natural sunlight throughout the day. To help facilitate growth for certain plants, you may also want to look into setting up an artificial lighting system. Studies have shown that plants tend to react well to full-spectrum LED or compact fluorescent lights (CFLs). There are countless different options out there for grow lights, so be sure to do some research and maybe even consult with a local gardening expert before investing in a system.
Meanwhile, be sure to do some research on the types of plants you’re trying to grow! When you buy seeds or saplings, your new plant friend will likely have a tag that helps tell you how much light it needs. “Direct light” means that a plant needs six hours or more of direct sunlight per day; “moderate light” suggests that a plant needs sunlight for a few hours per day; “indirect light” means that the plant will thrive with only ambient indoor light; and “low light” means that this plant prefers to be out of direct sunlight, and only needs a bit of ambient lighting.
5.) Plan for Future Harvesting and Transplanting
Once the winter weather is done, you may want to take some of your growing plants and replant them outdoors, where they can grow even larger! As you start your indoor garden, it may help to plan ahead. If you’re beginning your growing period with seeds or seedlings, it may be necessary to repot your growing plants into larger containers throughout the season, to allow your plant to become larger and start developing longer, thicker roots. Find an out-of-the-way area to do this, to help avoid making an enormous mess.
To help move larger plants outside, it may help to look into biodegradable planters, which can allow you to put your plant directly into your outdoor garden, without having to worry about transferring containers.
When transferring plants from one vessel or growing environment to another, be sure to use a sterile potting mix soil, and add a little fertilizer to kickstart the growing process.
Looking for More Space to Flex Your Green Thumb?
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