Gardening indoors is not so much an alternative to outdoor gardening, but rather another way to garden. You work in smaller spaces and will have fewer problems than your outdoor plots, and you can do all the work while in the comfort of your home. Plants can grow on shelves, plant stands, from ceiling hooks, and in pots on the floor.
The plants grown indoors will be relatively pest free, therefore easier to grow organically. There will be no reason to apply chemicals for insects and organic fertilizers are easy to use – and rabbit pellets are not offensive to your nose.
The types of containers you use are totally up to you. Plastic are less expensive, but less pleasing to the eyes. They also only last two or three years before the plastic starts deteriorating and breaking apart. Ceramic pots are more expensive to start but will not have to be replaced unless they are broken. Wooden planters are also nice looking and may be less expensive than ceramic. You may find some nice and unusual finds in thrift stores and swap meets as well, and probably reasonably priced.
Whatever pots you choose, they must have proper drainage. If you use ceramic, be sure there is a drain hole in the bottom. You will also need to put an inch or two of gravel or broken pottery in the bottom to allow the water to drain without losing your soil. If you use gravel, place a couple of pottery shards, or some large flat rocks directly on top of your drain hole to keep the gravel from floating out with the water.
You will also need to consider where will drain. Wal-Mart and home improvement centers sell plastic saucers of various sizes that will accommodate this need very well. I bought several sizes a few years ago very cheaply. Even the largest were less than five dollars. They were also clear, so they can match any pot.
You can always buy potting soil from your local garden center or nursery, but there may be other avenues in your area. When you are looking for those options, make sure that what you are getting is “clean fill” dirt. Clean fill dirt is soil that is free from debris and contaminants. This is usually the case when someone is putting in a driveway, pool, or other landscaping project where they are digging into their property. It is not so on excavation or construction sites. So check carefully before having dirt hauled home.
Sources for Free Soil
Craigslist – Everyone’s favorite bargain shopping site has an area where you can look for free clean fill or post an ad for your fill dirt. People are sometimes surprised at the amount of dirt they need to get rid of when doing a yard project. This might be a boon for your containers and a blessing for them, too. They may also have some dead container plants they want to get rid of. It never hurts to ask. You may just end up with something they thought was yucky that you can add to your compost pile.
Landscape Companies – Using these as a source is a bit more of a challenge, since most will want to keep the dirt for their own future use. But, a phone call to those listed in your area may just yield you the soil you need, and you’ve only let “your fingers do the walking.”
The Dump – The dump in your area may be another source for free dirt. Many have composting facilities and, with any luck, they may just give their finished compost away free. If it’s not free, it’s probably reasonably priced. Call around to dumps in your area to see if they offer this or if they know of a local facility that does.
Tons of Dirt – This is a site that connects those who have dirt with dirt seekers. This might just be your answer. You can sign up and access maps and listings for free. If the soil isn’t free, it should be inexpensive. It is easy to use, and you may find someone nearby with just what you’re looking for.
Free Dirt – A site similar to the one above, you plug in your zip code and it gives you a list of places that offer free dirt. Each listing you click on will give you more details on what they have available, such as quality and amount.
You can also Google “clean fill dirt” or something similar to find something in your area.
Location and Lighting
Choosing a place for your indoor garden will require thought. Many garden plants need full sun – that means sunlight for six to eight hours a day. Making your containers mobile will allow you to move them into prime locations throughout the day. Lacking this ability, you will need to pick your sunniest location or plan to use grow lights to supplement your plants.
Choosing What to Grow
Having done this before, I have found that tomatoes, peppers, beans, and eggplant are self-pollinating. These would be my first choice for planting indoors. Squash are easily hand pollinated, if you know the male flowers from the female flowers. These would be one a more experienced gardener could try.
Windowsill Herb Garden
Indoor gardening gives us the option of having fresh herbs year round. They make foods more flavorful, and many are medicinal, too. Choose your favorite varieties and find some beautiful, quart-sized containers to plant them in. One or two small plants per container will allow them room to grow. You can harvest often so that you have a constant supply. And as long as you keep them trimmed back before they begin to produce flower buds, they won’t go to seed.
If your countertop gets sun most of the day, this may be your option for indoor gardening. Lettuces and other greens will grow well in containers, as will your herbs. If necessary, you may use grow lights to provide the needed lighting. There are several companies, like AeroGarden, that offer convenient kits of differing sizes and seed mixtures for countertop gardening. These kits come with built-in grow lights and easy-to-follow directions.
If gardening inside appeals to you, pick some containers, get your soil lined up, choose your plants or seeds, and grow … grow … GROW! Happy Gardening!
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