Gardeners can have mixed feelings at this time of the year. Some start getting antsy, looking for something green to start or plant. Others see this as a time of rest, a time to enjoy the fruits of our labors. For those of you who just want to kick back and enjoy the time off for now, this article is not for you. But, for those of you who are itching to grow something right now, read on, because where there is a will, there is a way.
Lighting technology has not only allowed humans to thrive in warmth and light during cold winter days and long winter nights, it has also allowed us to create year-round growing environments for plants that are usually grown outdoors. In fact, most above ground food crops can be grown this way.
Hydroponic growers have been very successful growing crops year-round indoors with good lighting and growing systems. You may have seen Tracey’s blog post on how easy it can be to start a hydroponic garden. While there are many people out there enjoy growing hydroponically (including many of our customers), there are those of us who prefer to grow in a soil or soilless medium, and keep it simple.
To grow a food crop indoors in soil, all you need is a heated space, a good grow light, and a few accessories. What you’re doing is creating an artificial environment indoors that mimics the plants’ ideal growing environment outdoors. The beauty of this is that you can control the environment and minimize insect and disease problems that you may have outdoors.
Here’s a list of what you need to grow successfully indoors:
A good grow light – There are many good lighting set ups available that will allow you to grow anything from lettuce to tomatoes indoors — from High Output fluorescent lamps to High Intensity Discharge incandescent lamps.
- Containers to grow in – These can be something as simple as a standard starter tray, nursery pots, or my favorite, Smart Pots. Another setup that I like is the Float & Grow tray system.
- A space where you can control the environmental conditions
- A soil (Foxfarm Ocean Forest) or soilless (Black Gold Natural and Organic) medium to grow in – You will have less disease and insect problems with a soilless medium but will have to manage the nutrient input more.
- A small fan to keep the air moving
- A timer for your light and fan so you don’t have to manually manage turning them on and off every day
- Possibly a heat pad for starting the seeds
The first thing that I would recommend growing indoors is micro greens because they’re easy and rewarding. The Float & Grow system works very well for this. It minimizes your water input by floating the roots in a water basin. Greens love this. You can harvest several crop cuttings from the same plant throughout the winter months. For you braver souls, you may want to try tomatoes, peppers, or cucumbers. This will require a lot more space and higher output lighting, but you can do it.
Indoor gardening provides another benefit as well. It brings that outdoor environment indoors to some degree, and provides that good feeling you get when you’re working in a garden. I always feel great when I’m in my plant room, admiring the growth, snipping some greens to make a fresh salad. This is what we garden for!
Indoor growing is fun, easy, and rewarding. Get started now on your winter gardening! Need the tools to grow with? Come see us at Fifth Season Gardening and we’ll get you on your way.