Planting a garden in your home is a very rewarding experience and an interesting and fun pastime. Plants add character, life and warmth to your house.
There are different approaches you can take to starting a garden:
- You find a plant you like and need to decide where to place it
- You have a space in your home that could benefit from plants, and you need to find plants or a garden theme for that area
What Kind of Garden do you Want?
Gardens can take many forms and you are restricted only by your creativity. Some indoor gardening ideas are:
- A balcony garden
- A kitchen garden with herbs and veggies
- Themed gardens (e.g. indoor zen garden, orchid garden)
- Decorative plants throughout the house
My first indoor garden was a herb garden. Herbs are a fun, easy and useful introduction to planting a garden. Most kitchen herbs aren’t too fussy and they don’t take up much space either.
What are the Light Requirements of your Plants?
Once you have selected what type of garden you would like, you need to understand what light you have available and select appropriate plants for that. Some plants like shade. Some like partial sun and others like full sun. It’s important to fulfill the lighting needs of plants. You can’t plant a full sun plant in the shade — it will most likely die or at least look horrible if it survives.
Where Will You Put Them?
The light that a plant needs often restricts where you can put it. You can put your full sun plants on window sills that face towards the dominant sun position (South in the northern hemisphere, North in the southern hemisphere). Shade-loving plants work well in darker corners or in bathrooms.
Choosing Soil and Containers
Planting a garden that will work means choosing the right soil and container. Not all plants will be happy with a general-purpose potting soil. Good examples of this are cacti and succulents that prefer a more sandy soil that doesn’t hold much of the water.
As for containers, there are many for you to choose from. Your containers must have drainage holes at the bottom. If they don’t, you should drill some. Make sure the container you select is a suitable size for the plant. If you think you’ll be moving it often, get a lighter pot.
After planting a garden, your garden just needs the proper care. Different plants have different needs in terms of water, fertiliser and pollination, and I suggest spending five or ten minutes reading up on each plant to understand its special needs.
For example, tomatoes. In order for tomatoes to bear fruit they need to be pollinated. This is done by tapping the stem with your finger or even holding an electric toothbrush to the plant to loosen the pollen and distribute it to another flower.
Understand the water requirements of your plants, especially if they’re not common everyday ones. Some plants have special water requirements, e.g.
- Orchids want to be watered in a way that simulates a tropical thunderstorm — a good watering followed by a couple of days to let the soil dry out.
- Cacti and succulents hardly need any water. You can water them every couple of weeks and they’ll be happy.
Most plants aren’t as fussy (e.g. herbs and veggies) and you’ll be fine just making sure that the soil stays moist. You’ll get a feel for this as you gain experience in gardening. It’s important to remember that one of the biggest reasons for indoor plants dying is overwatering.
Your plants need more than just water. They need 13 other mineral nutrients — mainly Nitrogen, Phoshorous and Potassium. These minerals are provided by fertilisers or plant foods. As a general rule of thumb, apply plant food to your plants once a month. If in doubt, use a general purpose plant food.
Pests and Disease
Your new plants may attract pests and succumb to disease. One of the benefits of indoor gardening is that this is less likely than when you grow plants outdoors, but nevertheless a very real threat. My indoor gardening pests page has two recipes for home-made, organic pestiticdes that should help with most situations.
It’s a good idea to check on your plants every day or so, so that you can identify if they are being attacked by anything. A speedy response is important to deal with pests quickly.