Tips for Growing Veg Indoors
Many avid cultivators of fruit and veg will understand the frustration of running out of growing space. Waiting lists for allotments can take months, and not everybody is fortunate enough to have a large plot of land at their disposal. Once you've packed your crops into every inch of garden space available, then what?
Indoor gardening may be the answer, and it doesn't have to stop at a box of cress on the window ledge. By utilising equipment such as grow tents and heat lamps, you can produce a vast range of veg in the comfort of your own home. Consider these tips for beginner indoor growers.
Pick Your Soil Wisely
Indoor plants require a nutrient-rich growing mix that drains well; therefore, ordinary garden soil won't cut it. Your plants will thrive in an organic potting mixture of peat moss and coconut fibre, which make for excellent drainage, as well as vermiculite and perlite - essential root aeration. These indoor gardening potting blends usually contain slow-release natural fertilisers, vital minerals and organic pesticides to keep your veg safe and healthy.
Choose Shallow-Medium Rooted Plants
An indoor growing area will lack the deep soil volume of an outdoor garden. Shallow rooted crops like lettuce, onions and chard are quick to grow, take up less space, and are perfect for window boxes. Deep-rooted plants such as tomatoes and asparagus will require larger, deeper pots.
If you plan to grow your crops from seed, they'll spend the first few weeks of their lives germinating in starter pots. These small containers enable you to easily control moisture levels and temperature, which are important factors during this stage. Allowing seedlings to outgrow their starter pots will quickly deprive them of nutrients, stunting their growth and leading to poor root quality.
Once your seed has sprouted, it will grow what is known as 'cotyledons' or seed leaves, which then make way for the growth of 'true leaves'. These leaves are responsible for photosynthesis and generally resemble smaller versions of the plant's adult foliage. Once your plant has sprouted one or two sets of true leaves, it is ready for repotting.
Giving your indoor garden plenty of light might be tricky, depending on the positioning of your house. South-facing windows are preferable as they are more likely to provide your veg with the preferred four to six hours of daylight required to thrive. Fruit will require even more. Consequently, you may wish to invest in a grow lamp that will provide your plants with ample light exposure.
Grow Rooms and Grow Tents
You may have already assigned an area of your home to be the growing room. Alternatively, you might be looking to purchase a grow tent kit. Grow rooms and grow tents enable you to control growing conditions down to the most intricate details. The inclusion of humidity controllers, fans, and grow lights allow you to tailor the temperature, humidity and light exposure to the preference of your plants, replicating their native climates. The ability to control these variables means you are not solely confined to crops that endure the mild British weather conditions.
Changes in leaf colour and texture can indicate the presence of pests. Other visual cues, such as the telltale silvery trail of a slug, will alert you to who's been creeping in through open windows and feasting on your seedlings. The beauty of a grow room is that once sealed, pests cannot enter and destroy your crop. However, window ledge plants are susceptible to spider mites, aphids and other arthropods.
A once-weekly application of neem oil - a naturally occurring pesticide - will keep the creepy crawlies at bay without the use of harmful chemicals. Additionally, welcome ladybirds and spiders into your home - these common garden creatures help to maintain a healthy balance between flora and fauna.
Did you know you can regrow your veggie scraps? Vegetables such as lettuce, bok choi, celery and leek can all be regrown when cut an inch or two from the root and left roots-down in a shallow bowl of water. Change the water daily and transfer your veg to soil after a few weeks once regrowth has begun.