Growing an Indoor Garden
Growing an indoor garden may be your only route for fresh fruit and veggies
Growing an indoor garden depends on whether you have a greenhouse, a sun room or an enclosed room as your growing space. In all cases, you will need a container or containers for the plants, whether for hydroponics or for dirt. Circulation of water and nutrients is important as is proper lighting and air circulation. Of all indoor spaces, the greenhouse is the best as it is usually located where natural sunlight is the best. Followed by this is the sun room, of which south facing ones are the best. If you have a partly or fully enclosed space, you will have to provide lighting, of which there are three main types being halogen, fluorescent and the newly emerging bright LED panels.
For hydroponic systems, you will need a system to circulate the water and nutrients. You will need some sort of trellis to support the plants as the roots will be suspended in water. Nutrients will have to be supplied by yourself on a sliding scale where you don't need much for seedlings to increasing amounts for plants in continual growth. Most plants will adapt well to a hydroponic growth environment. There exists a small fully self contained hydroponic kit that will allow growing of plants from seed to maturity in just about any circumstance. This might be a great way to get started and for gaining experience.
For "dirt" containers, you need drainage and water that will not create the accumulation of salts. Collecting rainwater is best, followed by soft water, filtered water and last by tap water. In all cases, adequate lighting is important and this can be sunlight or artificial lighting of sufficient amount. Some people chose halogen lights, but these generate a lot of heat, so circulation of air is vital., which means investment in fans, duct work and vents.
The halogen light burns bright, but gobbles up a lot of power and raises the temperature of any location indoors. Typically they are used now for large enclosed spaces like arenas and large malls. They also have the reputation for being used in illegal grow-ops. If you use these, you will need a cooling system, especially in the summer. In the winter, heat from such lights may help in heating as well. Fluorescent lighting is the next choice, and the tube of choice is the one that emits light in the red and blue part of the spectrum, which are the frequencies that drive photosynthesis and give plants life and growth. These will often have names like gro-lites of growing tubes. If you are cutting edge, new high intensity LED light panels are compact and power wise. They give off a lot of light, are cool and consume very little power, something for those on a power budget. The unit cost is high at this time due to the newness of the product. For an enclosed and cramped space, these would be the best.
Indoor gardening can be done with improvisation
A nutritious plant medium will be needed for the dirt growers. This will have to be tended as in a regular garden to prevent depletion after a few crops. There are many plant soil products out there, but if you want something light and lacking in clay, choose a mix of vermiculite, peat moss and compost. Plant seedling in peat pellets can be transplanted directly into the plant soil that is in a suitable pot or constructed container like a raised bed garden. Depending on what you are growing, you will have to space your plants for optimal growth and maturation. You may also be able to companion plant to economize on space. Carrots and onions work well together as each protects against the insect pests of the other.
You may want to consider fast growing crops like radishes, spinach, parsley and bok choy. You might want to consider spices like oregano, thyme, chives or basil, which are all easy to grow and gives you an ongoing fresh spices. Organize the garden in the greenhouse scenario with the tallest plants to the north and the shortest to the south. In the sun room, the same applies. In the enclosed space, the concern becomes the proximity of the lighting and an adequate supply.
Seeds can be started in moistened peat pellets and then transferred to the growing medium when the roots start to show. Some seeds work by sprouting between moistened paper towels and planted directly when they sprout. This method is good for the hydroponic growers where the seedling can be placed directly in some support medium in the hydroponic setting.
As a rule, any plant grown for more than a week indoors will not be able to survive the assault of UV radiation from the raw outdoor sun. This is because indoor plants in greenhouses or in sun rooms do not get exposed to UV radiation due to it being blocked by the glass. Yes, these plants will get sunburned just like people not exposed to sun for several months. Any plant that is adapted to indoor growth should remain there, even in a cloudy outdoor environment. If you do transplant from indoor to outdoor, do it gradually by giving plants limited exposure to begin with and slowly increase the time outdoors. Plants coming from outdoors to indoors will have to be screened for pests to prevent an indoor outbreak.
Insect pests can be handled by either using nature in the form of insect predators like lady bugs in wars against aphids. A solution of insecticidal soap is also useful applied as a spray for pests like spider mites that can destroy an entire garden if left to their devices.
These are a few ideas for an indoor garden.