How to Grow a Beautiful Indoor Garden Throughout the Winter Months
As fall weather begins to settle in around us, most gardens across Northern Colorado and the Front Range are beginning to come to an end for the season. However, just because the weather outdoors is no longer conducive for gardening, that doesn’t mean that all gardening efforts must come to a halt. Rather, now is the perfect time to start your very own indoor garden! While you may not be able to grow quite as wide a variety of fruits and vegetables, winter gardening can be just as fun and productive. So, if you have been wondering how to have a beautiful indoor garden when it’s cold outside, we have just the right information to help you find success!
How to Grow an Indoor Garden
Growing an indoor garden can be simple, fun, and even decorative. And the supplies you need to get started are more or less limited to soil, containers, and seeds or starter plants.
How to Choose the Right Soil for Your Indoor Garden
As far as soil goes, we have several different brands of organic potting soils available at our garden center. Any of these soils will be perfect for your indoor garden. And unlike your traditional outdoor gardens, the soil you use in your indoor garden is usually refreshed every year and does not to be amended as religiously as the soil in your outdoor garden.
Picking the Right Containers for Your Indoor Garden
There are many different options when it comes to containers. Simple terra cotta pots are probably the most common option for indoor gardens, though we also have lovely EcoForms pots and planters that are biodegradable and sustainably made with rice hulls. With either container, there are options for traditional round pots or longer rectangular planters that are perfect for any window sill and can contain several different plants. Check them out in our online store!
Should You Plant Seeds or Starter Plants?
While starting your plants from seed is definitely a viable option, this may require more patience than you are willing to have. While growing a garden indoors is completely possible, it is not as efficient as growing a garden outdoors, as we are not able to be perfectly replicate the summer season indoors during the winter season. So, even if you do everything right, your plants will still grow slower and may not develop as big and strong as the same plant would in the appropriate season outdoors. Because of this, it is ideal to purchase starter plants from your local Fort Collins greenhouse nursery. This will ensure that your winter garden starts off on the right foot with plants that are strong and healthy. Many greenhouses in Fort Collins may carry limited vegetable garden starts this time of year, though many should have a good selection of herbs. In some cases, your options may be limited and you may opt to start some plants from seed.
Your garden may benefit from periodic fertilizing, but even this may not be extremely necessary. Since winter gardening is essentially an attempt to trick plants into growing during a season that is far from a natural growing season, your plants will likely grow at a slower pace and will not need as many nutrients as a normal garden vegetable. With this in mind, overfertilizing your indoor garden can cause damage to your plants, as excessive fertilizing can burn the roots of your tender plants. We recommend using granular fertilizers that can be dissolved in water or a fertilizer concentrate that can also be watered down. To avoid overfertilizing, dilute your fertilizer of choice to a quarter of the recommended strength (if the recommended strength on the bottle says 1 tsp per 1 gallon of water, reduce this to ¼ tsp per 1 gallon of water). Thoroughly water your plants before applying the diluted fertilizer. Once the soil is moistened, apply your fertilizer solution. Watering your indoor garden before applying the fertilizer will aid your plants' absorption rate making sure that it gets the most out of the nutrients it is being given. Your winter garden can be fertilized once every 4-6 weeks. Be sure to keep an eye out for signs of overfertilization, and cut back if necessary. Visit our online store to shop fertilizers today!
Watering Your Indoor Garden
When it comes to watering your indoor garden, it will not need nearly as much water compared to your outdoor garden. Since an indoor winter garden will not experience nearly the amount of heat and direct, natural sunlight as an outdoor garden does throughout the summer months, be careful not to overwater. Overwatering your plants can cause stress to the root system, and sometimes can cause root rot, which is very difficult for your plant to recover from. We recommend that you check your plants weekly. If the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch, feel free to give it a drink. However, if the surface of the soil feels moist, let it sit for another week before watering again.
Another important tip relates to mineral buildup in your soil. Container gardening opens up the possibility for excess salts and other harmful elements that would usually get washed out of the soil to get trapped inside your containers. This can harm your plant, or at least make it difficult for them to grow. Flushing the soil monthly is an easy way to mediate this situation. Simply place your container in the sink and let water run through it completely and thoroughly. Allow the container to sit until all the excess water has dripped out of the drainage hole. Once it has stopped dripping, thoroughly water the plant again. This process will help ensure that any harmful mineral and salt buildups are flushed out of the soil, making sure your plant is happy, healthy, and ready to thrive!
If you have a nice, sunny window that isn’t too drafty, that will be a perfect space for your winter garden. Windowsill gardening does limit your space slightly, but don’t worry, there are other options that give you more space! For example, try investing in a couple of grow lights. There are a number of different ways that you can set up grow lights on a table or shelf and this will give you unlimited options when it comes to space and will also help supplement the lack of warmth and sunlight during the winter months.
What Types of Plants Grow Well Indoors?
There are certainly some plants that grow better indoors than others. Several common garden fruits and veggies that do not grow particularly well indoors include plants such as squash or cucumbers. Due to their vining nature and the amount of space they take up, they simply are not as conducive for indoor growth. Below is a list of some popular garden plants that do grow well indoors!
Salad greens are possibly the most reliable and successful plant to grow in your indoor garden, especially more cool-tolerant greens such as kale, arugula, or spinach. Another perk of these plants is that they grow quickly and aren’t bothered by more confined spaces. Provide them with 12 hours of light per day. Your salad greens will grow fine in temperatures around 60 degrees.
Similar to salad greens, microgreens are easy to grow, compact, and packed full of nutrients. Grow them just as you would your salad greens, but harvest them when they are 2-3 weeks old. Microgreens will also require around 12 hours of sunlight per day and can tolerate temperatures around 60 degrees.
Potatoes are also fun to grow indoors and they can be started from scraps! If you have a potato on your counter that has begun to sprout, cut it up into chunks and lay them sprout side up in your pot or planter. Make sure there is 4-5 inches of soil below the sprouts, then cover them with another 4-5 inches of soil so that they are entirely buried. Give them a couple of months to grow and you’ll have potatoes before you know it! Make sure your pot is large enough, as they can grow to be quite big.
The nice thing about radishes is they are tolerant of cooler temperatures, grow quickly, and do not require as much light as other more particular vegetables. Simply give them enough space for their bulbs to grow and you’ll have home-grown radishes in no time!
Any herbs you grow are going to need a lot of sunshine (around 12-16 hours per day). They also grow best in warmer temperatures (around 70 degrees), so keeping them next to a cold window during the winter months is not recommended.
Sprouts are a fun option that does not even require soil! Simply buy a packet of seeds, put them in a moist container lined with a damp paper towel, give them some sunlight, and voila! There are several different methods for growing your own sprouts, including growing them in mason jars. So, look into the different options to find the best fit for you!
Carrots are great to grow indoors as they are cool-tolerant vegetables that do not require a lot of horizontal space to grow. They do require plenty of vertical space though, so make sure to pick a pot or planter that will allow the vegetables to grow deep. They will tolerate 60-degree temperatures just fine and will require at least 12 hours of light per day.
Green onions or scallions are also a fun option. They are easy to care for, don’t require as much sunlight, and are easy to replant using scraps. With this vegetable, you can have a delicious and fresh garnish whenever you want it! To plant using scraps, simply save the root end of the onion after using the greens. Replant the root end and you’ll have a fresh new onion growing in no time.
Tomatoes are one of the more difficult plants to grow indoors due to their love for the heat. This does not make it impossible, however. Choose a smaller variety (usually indicated on the label by “bush” or “determinate”) as these will grow better in a container. Give them at least 14-20 hours of sun per day for best results! Due to their self-pollinating nature, simply give your plant a little shake to help spread the pollen from one flower to the next.
What to Expect out of Your Winter Garden
Be patient with your indoor garden. Winter gardening can be wonderfully successful, though it can take more time than your traditional outdoor garden. This is due to the fact that you are trying to grow garden plants outside of their natural growing season. If you supplement your plants' natural needs properly and have a little patience, you should have no problem finding success in growing an indoor winter garden!
Interested in Hydroponics?
Hydroponics can be a very viable option if you want to grow an indoor garden but aren’t a fan of dirt. There are some vegetables that will grow from scraps such as lettuce, celery, green onions, certain herbs, and more! All you have to do is save the root end, place it in a glass or bowl of water, give it adequate sunlight, and watch it grow! If you want more information on how to grow garden vegetables from scraps, let us know! We are happy to help in all of your gardening endeavors. Happy gardening!!