Indoor Gardening 101: 3 Basic Tips for Urban Gardeners

By Cherie

Whether you’re living in an urban environment without the space to create an outdoor garden or if you want to grow seedlings from the inside of your home, you can bring your green thumb inside with these indoor gardening tips:

Start Small

Unlike traditional outdoor garden plots, indoor gardens are much smaller. Use small containers — no more than three to four inches across — like yogurt cups, recycled cell-packs or pots from other plants to grow your seeds.

Seeds are much cheaper than buying plants, especially if you buy them online from sites like Seed Savers or Seeds Now. Start your indoor garden small with easy crops like lettuce and herbs before moving on to other types of plants.

According to the gardening experts at Burpee, starting your seeds indoors can lead to an earlier harvest. If you’re just starting out, Burpee recommends starting with a couple dozen plants in three to four different varieties; this way you can learn how it all works without sabotaging a large amount of your seedlings and plants if something goes wrong. And remember, different plants have different needs, so be sure to read the seed packet to learn how long it will take for the plants to mature.

Get the Light Right

Young seedlings need a lot of light, so it’s best to situate your garden near a south-facing window. But, don’t let small seedlings fall victim to the sun. Invest in window treatments that can both let light into your home during the morning hours and also help block the sun’s harmful UV rays in the late afternoon.

If you’re growing in a basement or an area of your home without south-facing windows, it’s best to use artificial light. Many gardeners use specially made light setups that can range between $500 and $800. But, you can achieve the same results with shop lights that can be purchased from any home-improvement store. Hang the shop lights from the ceiling with open link chains and S-hooks, and be sure to keep them three to four inches above your plants. Use fluorescent bulbs because they emit less heat than standard styles. Incandescent-type bulbs will not work.

Check the Water and Temperature

Gardening expert Melinda Myers tells Popular Mechanics that indoor gardeners must check the soil moisture daily. One foolproof way of measuring the soil moisture is by sticking your finger into the soil to make sure it is moist all the way through. Watering is one of the gardening tricks that is the hardest to master. Myers recommends making drainage holes in the bottom of your growing containers to avoid over watering. She also suggests using a spray bottle to lightly mist your growing seeds and plants because too much water could wash out the seed.

Keeping the room at the perfect growing temperature can also be difficult. The room temperature should be kept between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. If you’re growing in your basement or your garage, you may want to invest in special heating mats.

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