Some of us are unable to have an outdoor garden for one reason or another; however, we can still have one indoors. It's not as difficult as it might seem, and the plants grow just fine! So if you've had it with the fresh vegetables available in supermarkets and elsewhere, especially during the winter, listen up! Following are some tips passed on by professionals.
This is the basic tool for growing your vegetables indoors: a supply of wicking. It may not be easy to find, but it will be worth the search. Fiberglass wicking is recommended, but others might work just as well. It looks like ordinary rope. What you get in return is no watering and lettuce all winter (or any other vegetable you might crave). The wicking isn't easy to find; ask at your garden store or do a Google search. The number of wicks you will need depends on the size of your container. The cord should be cut into ten-inch lengths with three inches thoroughly frayed. Make a hole in the bottom of your planter and push the good end through from the inside. Spread the raveled part of the wick so it will cover as much surface area as possible. Use about one wick for each 10? x 10? area. It's better to have too many than not enough. The frayed ends should cover about half of the bottom of the planter. The wick should hang down about five inches below the planter. Now you’re ready to pour in the potting soil. Once the soil is in the planter, set it in your second container, which has a couple of inches of water in it.
Preparing the Planter
Your planter can be made of wood, plastic, or any other material not toxic to plants. You might find a flat at your garden store that would work just fine, or you might be able to build one the size you want. You might even want to use several garden-store flats for the various vegetables you want to grow indoors. The planter can be a plastic dishpan or a larger plastic container you might find at a hardware store. Another possibility is a plastic wading pool. For your growing medium, equal parts of peat moss, leaf mulch, and topsoil are recommended. Milled sphagnum moss is an excellent planting medium, according to the experts. You can get this at your garden store. Soak the moss in water and spread a thin layer over the soil in your container. The seeds will be scattered over this layer of moss and another thin layer will be spread over the seeds, putting the plants in a moist blanket. Remember that you will need another container enough bigger than your planter so the planter will fit in it. The second one can be shallow. Again, you might be able to find exactly what you need at a hardware store.
Plant your crop with whatever vegetables you want to grow and then put it under some lights. How many you need will depend on the size of your planter. Grow lights are the best. However, you might use half grow lights and half fluorescent if you want to economize. These should be on about 14 hours a day; however, you will need to experiment and make adjustments as your plants emerge and begin to grow. Also, it's wise to make your lights adjustable as to height. If they’re too close to the plants, the plants will wilt; if they’re too far away, they will stretch to reach the light and will become thin and stringy. Talk to experts at your gardening store before you purchase your lights. They will be able to help you make decisions about the right lights to choose, and the best arrangement for the particular plants you want to grow.
Setting up this system will take a while, but you can use it year after year, even the wicking. Remember to sterilize your soil each year as well as the moss so your plants will not get sick. Maybe the best thing about this system for growing a garden indoors is that you won't need to worry about how much water to use. The right amount of moisture is delivered by the wick at all times; all you need to do is keep water in the reservoir. Add an organic fertilizer from time to time to keep your plants well nourished. A recipe for sterilizing the potting mixture: Put it in a container four or five inches deep and bury a small potato in the middle. Heat it in an oven at 200 degrees. When the potato is done, the soil will be sterile. This system for growing plants indoors can also be used for starting plants for an outdoor garden in the spring.
By TTS Cofounder Botanical Chef Omid Jaffari