City-Friendly Indoor Gardening
City-Friendly Indoor Gardening
Just because you live in a city or small apartment with no outdoor space, you can still have fresh vegetables and fruit, grown in your very own home! If you're a beginner, it's generally better to start with the basics and add as needed.
SPACE: A plant shelf with well-spaced (2'-3') shelves or a closet with enough floor space, where ever you set up your indoor garden, make sure there's enough room for your plants to reach their full potential.
SEEDS: While you will be limited somewhat by growing indoors (i.e., no corn; sorry), there are still plenty of options and variety. Dwarf, determinate, and container varieties are going to be your best bet when growing in a small space.
- Container lettuces such as Sweet Baby Romaine and Garden Babies Butterhead are ideal for growing in pots.
- Container tomato varieties such as Super Bush and Litt'l Bites Cherry do extremely well in small spaces.
- Container squash, such as Astia, are meant to have more compact, non-rambling vines.
- Baby cucumbers rely on vertical space, so, while they can grow in a container, having 3'-5' vertical supports is necessary.
- Herbs such as rosemary, basil, and thyme are great for growing in containers in your kitchen window where they'll be handy for culinary creations.
CONTAINERS: When sacrificing floor space, you'll need to compensate with container depth so the roots can still have plenty of room. Any container with holes in the bottom (to facilitate drainage and minimize the chance of root rot) will work. However, we at Rogue Hydro are partial to Smart Pots and Air Pots because of their amazing ability to encourage root growth and keep root systems cool.
SOIL: A simple, all-purpose potting mix is the easiest way to start. However, if you're interested in mixing your own, it can be done relatively easily with some compost, coconut coir, perlite, peat, and/or vermiculite. Mix any or all of these to suit your needs.
LIGHTING: There are a few options when it comes to indoor grow lighting:
- Windows that get at least 6 hours of direct light per day
- High Intensity Diode (HID) systems: Metal Halide and High Pressure Sodium bulbs (the two kinds of HID bulbs) both require a ballast. You can get a small, 150W self-ballasted HPS system for $75 that will easily produce a stellar herb garden with no help from the sun.
- Fluorescent systems: Generally more energy efficient than HID systems, fluorescent setups produce less heat than HID systems, as well. Fluorescents are very good at growing herbs and leafy greens. However, for fruiting plants, added sunlight or HID light will result in better yields.
- LED systems: Superior to HID in energy efficiency and heat production and better than fluorescent systems at growing fruiting plants, LED setups are a newer wave in indoor grow lighting. However, the initial cost can be somewhat prohibitive.
FERTILIZER: Fertilizers are generally only needed about once a month when growing in soil. Simple, all-purpose fertilizers with NPK ratios of 5-5-5, 10-10-10 or 20-20-20 are easy to use and work well for a variety of fruits and vegetables.
*HEAT MAT: Not necessary, but a heat mat can help germinate seeds faster.
*FAN: Again, not necessary. However, a small fan can help disburse any excess heat created by a grow light setup. Air circulation also encourages evaporation, which keeps the plant cool and helps control mold and fungal infections.
VEGETABLES vs HERBS
To get the dwarf or container varieties of fruit and vegetables you want, you'll probably have to start your plants from seeds. Make sure your pots have holes in the bottom (for drainage), add moistened soil to the containers, and put seeds into 1/4" holes, a few inches apart. Use a spray bottle to mist the seeds until they sprout and become established plants. If using a heat mat, leave it on continually until your seeds sprout. If not using a heat mat, remember that you still need to keep the temperature relatively high (around 80 degrees). Keep the soil moist, and within 5-10 days, you should have sprouts. Once you see sprouts, they should ideally get 12-16 hours of light a day. After about a week, pull the stragglers so that there is about 1 ft between each plant. Once the plants are fully established, you can switch from misting to watering whenever the top 1 inch of soil is dry. Water until it starts coming out the bottom holes of your container. For determinate and container varieties, you'll generally have fruit and veggies to harvest within 65-80 days.
Herbs can be easier to grow and tolerate a wide range of conditions, but they are harder to start from seeds, so you might want to find starts at a local nursery. If starting from seed, it's generally the same process. Keep a few things in mind, though.
- Herbs hate standing water, so make sure your containers drain well.
- Water about once per week (when the top inch of soil is dry).
- 12-16 hours of light per day (ideal)
- Begin harvesting the tops when the plants are strong and roughly 12-18 inches tall.
- If any flowers begin forming, pinch off the buds.
ENJOY THE FRUITS OF YOUR LABOR!!!
- Rogue Staff