How To Grow Plants Indoors Easily Without Spending a Fortune
Many people want to know how to grow plants indoors effectively and what plants can you grow indoors.
After deciding that you want to produce your own tasty, fresh and nutritious food, you suddenly realize that there are problems…
Perhaps you have very limited space outdoors in which to grow. Some people have no garden at all, particularly those who live in apartments. If you do have some room outside, you need to consider the issues of sunlight and the length of the growing season.
Climate is also a factor. Put simply, some areas of the world are simply not cut out for growing anything much in a regular fashion.
The obvious solution is to move your operation inside. It could be that you want to grow from start to finish indoors. For others, an indoor garden can act as a starter for plants which will be transferred outside when the weather becomes better.
We will look here at the equipment you need, some great choices of plants and also at how to achieve optimal growing conditions.
1. Starting Out
There are two main considerations before you get going: space and light.
Essentially, your indoor grow operation can take as much or as little space as you have available. You can grow effectively with as little as a table or windowsill at your disposal.
If you choose to use a dedicated table, it’s best to place it where you have tiled flooring. Water will obviously drop down and you do not want to spoil your carpet. If you have no tiled area then pop down a tarp or a rug as protection.
Shelves are another smart option. They are a wonderful space-saver. If you opt for this approach then lighting is absolutely key. Each shelf needs to benefit from sufficient light. It may be necessary to use multiple lights, one for each shelf.
Before we move on to specific lighting options, a few general pointers about the science behind this need…
In order to photosynthesize, all plants need light. They need to photosynthesize to survive and flourish. With insufficient light, your plants will become spindly and tall rather than healthy. The leaves may fail to fully expand. Fruit and flowers may not appear.
Before you ask yourself, “What is the best light to grow indoors?” here are some things to bear in mind.
- Place the light as close as possible to the plant. Ensure, though, that it is not so close that it will burn the leaves.
- A standard light bulb is no good. Why? Plants have photoreceptors. These absorb only given wavelengths of light. When you buy a light it needs to have the same wavelengths as the sun produces.
- As a rule, 14-16 hours of sunlight (whether real or simulated) is perfect for plants and vegetables. If you are confronted with thin stems, small leaves and a plant lighter in color than expected, this is an indication that more light is required.
- The flowering and budding of plants is controlled by a hormone called florigen. Short day plants need somewhere in the region of 10 to 13 hours of light. If you give this type of plant too much then the florigen can be destroyed. This, in turn, can prevent them from blooming. With long day plants, lighting requirements are higher. This can be anywhere from 14 to 18 hours daily depending on what you are growing.
2. Choosing The Grow Lights
There is just no way around the issue of supplementary lighting if you want to grow plants efficiently indoors.
Even if you place your plants right next to a window facing in a southerly direction they will struggle without a helping hand. Spending a little money here is a necessity rather than a luxury.
With so many grow lights on the market in so many different varieties, the choice can seem overwhelming, though. Understanding the simple science behind it helps.
We measure how white the output of a given light is in Kelvins (K). The higher this number, the cooler (or bluer) it seems to be. As the number gets lower, it appears warmer (or redder).
Blue is great for vegetative growth.
Think about getting the best of both worlds with full spectrum lights. These emulate natural sunlight and range between 4000K and 6000K.
Note: It often makes sense to purchase a complete kit. If you elect to buy the bulb only then you will need to factor in cords, ballasts and reflectors which are compatible with the bulb. Unless you are highly knowledgeable in this area, play it safe and look for a package with everything included.
We’ll look now at the 4 main kinds of bulbs for growing plants indoors…
On the plus side, these lights are cheap and very readily available. You can pick them up at any nursery or hardware store. They are fine for a houseplant but for indoor gardens they are not the most capable option. They give out more heat than light. This will cause your power bill to soar while also causing them to burn out quickly.
Think twice before buying this type of lamp.
If you are looking to grow herbs or other plants which do not need too much light then fluorescent bulbs are a worthwhile choice.
They use one-quarter of the energy of incandescent lights while offering ten times the lifespan. They also produce considerably more light. They are not too expensive either.
Fluorescent lights are fantastic for starting seeds and growing plants or herbs. They are not suitable for any fruit-bearing plants.
Look for compact fluorescent lights due to their size and efficiency.
2.3 High Intensity Discharge (HID)
This type of light is larger and pricier. It is favored by commercial growers.
There are several variants available but home growers should select metal halide (MH) lights paired with high-pressure sodium (HPS) for the most balanced growth.
Each bulb will last up to 10,000 hours so, although not cheap, it’s a worthwhile investment. You will benefit from a superior intensity of light for your indoor garden.
2.3 LED Grow Lights
These lights are compact, highly efficient and extremely light.
They are also expensive.
Plants can only absorb red or blue light. Configure your LED lights to emit only these colors of light and no energy will be wasted.
Think about how seriously you wish to grow indoors and consider spending some money for the best results. You can’t really go wrong with LEDs.
3. Prepare Other Equipment
Once you’ve decided on the best lights for your needs, think about the following:
- Timer: Although not strictly necessary, it will make life simpler. Plants need sleep just like humans. Don’t leave things to chance and, if it is not included in the kit you buy, pick up a decent timer.
- Rug: If you choose a rug backed with rubber, you can protect your floor from any spillages.
- Fan: You want air properly circulating around your plants and a fan is essential. A fan will also help to eliminate common problems like unwanted pests and leaf mold. Be prepared.
- Support cage: You need a handy way to attach your lights to your Tower Garden. A cage is ideal.
4. Choosing The Best Plants To Grow Indoors
You can grow a wide range of different plants indoors. One thing to watch out for and avoid is choosing something which will grow too big!
Many gardening beginners ask, “What is the best plant to grow indoors?” There are many factors to consider and no clear-cut answer to this. Read on, though, for some general advice and ideas.
Try to consider the humidity, watering and light needs of plants and go for ones with similar requirements to grow together.
It’s also wise to start growing from seeds indoors. If you decide upon outdoor transplants then you run a high risk of introducing diseases or pests. Be cautious.
If you are just starting out, leafy plants along with herbs and greens are a sensible way to begin. Experiment by all means but steer clear of fruit-bearing plants. They will not be exposed to the wind or bees for pollination. It is possible to undertake pollination manually but it’s not straightforward. Stick with what works best.
Here’s a quick and handy list of what gets good results indoors…
• Salad greens
• Citrus fruits
As you can see, that’s a very diverse set of options.
5. Other Factors
Now that you have chosen what to grow and have your lighting sorted out, there are some other factors to take into consideration.
Most plants fare best in the range of 65 -75 degrees Fahrenheit.
If it’s too hot then the plants tend to be weak and small. When it’s too cold, yellow leaves appear.
Most of our homes are not too humid. This can be a serious challenge if you are gardening indoors.
Look for withered plants, the ends of leaves turning brown or leaves falling. If any of these situations arise you may need to increases the humidity levels.
How can you do this?
- Put a tray of water near your indoor garden
- Mist plants frequently
- Pack your plants tightly together to create a microenvironment
- Buy a humidifier
5.3 Growing Medium
Soil from outside is not appropriate for growing indoors.
You can buy many commercial organic mixes specifically for this purpose. Look for a mix which stays loose and drains well. Make sure there is enough organic matter, though, to hold in moisture and nutrients.
You can choose to use hydroponics. This is gardening minus the soil. We will look at hydroponics in more detail in a forthcoming article.
5.4 Nutrients and Fertilizers
If you are growing plants indoors then you’ll need to give them a boost with some fertilizer. Most of the nutrients from the soil are quickly taken up or can be leached out during the process of watering.
There are many fertilizers, both organic and hydroponic, designed expressly for your indoor garden.
Last but by no means least is taking proper care of your plants.
You have poured a lot of time and money into growing indoors so it’s essential to maintain things correctly.
If you are growing in containers then you’ll need to water the plants more often than those grown directly in soil.
Use water which is at room temperature. Make sure that you add enough water but do not go over the top. It’s a delicate balance. Use either your finger or a moisture meter to establish that you have things in order.
- Wilting foliage
- A plant that stops growing
- Lower leaves dropping
- Dry soil
- Brown edges to the leaves
- Flowers or leaves dropping too soon
- Wilts along outer tips of leaves
We hope that this overview of how to grow plants indoors has been useful and enjoyable.
Any guide like this can only cover the basics of each area so read more in-depth tutorials on this site.
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Pay attention to the above advice. Do your research. Be prepared to spend time and money getting set up and then enjoy the ability to grow a wide range of plants, flowers, herbs and vegetables indoors.