How to Plant a Garden... Indoors

I'm not talking about scattering a few houseplants around the house, either. There are numerous reasons that somebody would choose to plant a full scale indoor garden. A desire to grow your own food year round is a good reason, or maybe you need a way to support your out-of-control plant collecting addiction. You could simply want to beautify your home and purify the air. My own motive was a little more immediate.


Our home office/nursery

In a sense, I'm being paid to plant an indoor garden. My book will use hundreds of houseplants to create fifty planted container combinations, all of which will be grown on, planted and photographed by yours truly. Growing and combining all of these plants will be a blast to be sure, but maybe I should add that I'll be growing all of these plants in my 1000 square foot apartment. Crazy, right? Anyways, here's what I did with just one of the rooms in my home to create a miniature nursery.

A small fan circulates air throughout the room

Get Rid of Clutter

If you were breaking ground on a garden outdoors, you would first clear away any unwanted weeds, trees and shrubs before preparing the bed. Indoors, this means moving furniture. In addition to getting rid of unwanted furniture and junk, you'll find that cleaning up excess clutter around the rest of the room makes the indoor garden itself look a lot more attractive. You should have plenty of room to take care of the plants, set down watering cans and still go about your everyday business, and the best way to do that is to keep all floors and surfaces clean.


Red LED tubes give my succulents supplemental light

Provide Lots of Light

This is easy if you have large windows with the kind of warm sunshine that napping cats like to occupy, but if you have small north facing windows like myself, you'll need a bit of help. Luckily for us, 'grow lights' are more efficient and affordable than ever. From high intensity sodium bulbs and high output fluorescent fixtures to cool burning LED lamps, there's a solution for everyone.

Sunlight Supply helped provide several products that would help me grow the plants needed for the book, and I'd like to share how well they're working. The real workhorse is the Sun Blaze T5 HO Fluorescent light, which makes this room much brighter than my north facing balcony. 

I'm particularly smitten with the new LED options available, such as the 'Hangover'; a blindingly bright bulb outfitted with intense LED lights in red, white and blue that simply hangs over your plants like a pendant. Their AgroLED tubes work a lot like fluorescent tubes, except that they're filled with tiny bright LED bulbs. They require no ballast, produce hardly any heat, and the fixtures weigh much less than the fluorescent models.


A drip pan purchased from the automotive department keeps water from reaching the carpet

Catch Excess Water

I do believe that this is what prevents most people from bothering with more than a few plants indoors, but it's easy to grow lots of plants without fear of losing the security deposit. Plastic saucers can be purchased inexpensively, but rather than buy all of my plastic drip saucers, I've re-purposed the plastic containers from our Chinese takeout. For smaller containers, but it's still all too easy to accidentally dribble water on the furniture or carpet, so I've used aluminum baking trays and a big drip tray from the automotive department. They also reflect light, provide humidity as the water evaporates and are easy to clean.


A table was made by placing the drip tray on two crates. I'll add another light over the baker's rack.

Plan Your 'Beds'

When deciding where all of those plants will go, remember that they must receive enough light, be easy to reach and be pleasing to the eye. Because you'll be carefully watering, grooming and rearranging each plant, everything should be less than an arm's reach, or two feet away.

My solution was to create a long and narrow strip from the window to the wall that visually splits the room into two halves. A high output fluorescent grow light is suspended directly above, and my makeshift table brings the plants closer to the light. Taller plants can sit on the ground to the side where they won't come in contact with the light and burn.



Cleanliness

It isn't just about keeping up appearances. Fallen leaves, weeds and dirt might look unattractive, but they also foster disease and pests, possibly leading to the demise of your collection. I inspect the plants every time I water, removing yellow leaves and pests as I go and tossing them in the trash. If a plant gets badly infested, I'll remove the bugs with insecticidal soap or alcohol and a cotton swab before keeping it quarantined to make sure all pests were removed.

A painter's tarp was set out to catch fallen debris before it gets ground into the carpet, and I use a shop-vac to vacuum around the plants on the ground. The drip tray easily wipes clean with a paper towel or moist rag.


This is only one of the rooms where I'll be growing plants, so stay tuned and wish me luck!


13 comments:

  1. Oh gosh you are living in a jungle!

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  2. Really a great job you have done Steve! Keep up the great work!

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  3. Looks like you're growing a green office chair, too!

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  4. I never kew you all did all this Just call me clueless!!

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  5. Few ideas that I tried and worked well.

    1)Have plants in a Terrarium confined space will take care of the moisture and water factor. Also - it would give so much of the bushy effect of plants being all over the place kind of thing.

    2) Set-up a water-proof steel rack all the way to the top of the ceiling - that way, you can stack-up lots of plants and able to monitor them individually without having a clutter.
    And you can glass-encased it to keep the moisture it.

    Im sure you will be very excited daily in tending the garden indoors and constantly re-arranging the plants to suit the decor of the room space.

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  6. Hi Steve,

    My name is Tina, the community manager for a new blogger community called Garden Gab (www.atomicreach.com/tribe/gardengab). This community will focus on tips, advice and personal stories on the subject. I want this Garden Gab community to be a place where expert advice and tips are consolidated in one place for beginner (like myself) and experienced gardeners.

    I’m currently looking for bloggers to contribute their relevant, existing content to the community, and your blog has caught my attention. I like the way you write about gardening, and how easy and approachable the experience is.

    If you decide to join, Garden Gab will publish the title of your blog posts and the first few sentences of each post. If readers want to read the full story, they’ll be pushed to your blog and give you traffic. These readers will be people who share the same passion and interests as you, which is the sole purpose of the community.

    If you’re interested in joining our community, please e-mail me back at tinajin @ atomicreach.com with “Gardening” in the subject line. If you have any questions, I would be more than happy to answer them.

    Sincerely,
    Tina
    Community Manager

    P.S. Wow! I'm impressed with you indoor garden. I can never seem to keep plants alive at home.

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  7. I've got some large windows with a southern exposure that do indeed attract napping cats. Therein lies the difficulty as they like to nibble any plants within reach. I just may have to invest in a grow light. Thanks for the tip.

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  8. What a display! Wonderful use of space and what you have, like take-out trays and baking pans.

    Here's a link to my rainforest drop that doesn't drop, it sits:

    Thinking Outside the Pot

    It has pictures of Schlumbergera and Resurrection Fern. I found Resurrection Fern to be too difficult to keep moist enough for a successful use. I think regular fern would be better. I can hardly wait for blossoms on the Christmas Cacti.

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  9. What a display! Wonderful use of space and what you have, like take-out trays and baking pans.

    Here's a link to my rainforest drop that doesn't drop, it sits:

    Thinking Outside the Pot

    It has pictures of Schlumbergera and Resurrection Fern. I found Resurrection Fern to be too difficult to keep moist enough for a successful use. I think regular fern would be better. I can hardly wait for blossoms on the Christmas Cacti.

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    Replies
    1. I loved that blog post and was thrilled to see a different interpretation of the theme! I'll have to give sedums and Echeverias a try too. Oh, and as much as I love resurrection fern, i've had a hard time with my transplants too. Oh well...

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  10. What a display! Wonderful use of space and what you have, like take-out trays and baking pans.

    Here's a link to my rainforest drop that doesn't drop, it sits:

    Thinking Outside the Pot

    It has pictures of Schlumbergera and Resurrection Fern. I found Resurrection Fern to be too difficult to keep moist enough for a successful use. I think regular fern would be better. I can hardly wait for blossoms on the Christmas Cacti.

    Sorry to post as Anon -- blogger is refusing my blogspot and my wordpress accounts. Nell Jean

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  11. this is awesome!! I just may have to "dedicate" a room to my plants in progress

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  12. I loved reading about someone else doing a lot of plants in a small space. I am a live -in babysitter/ housekeeper,and have a small 10x11 room with one north window and one west. I currently have 26 house plants,and finding an attractive and practical way to display my ''corner jungle'' has been a challenge. I have discovered a couple of very useful tips,1 for spider mites, 50/50 rubbing alcohol and water with just a drop or two of dish soap in a spray bottle.Saturate top and bottem of leaves and stems, don't leave the little ''buggers'' any place to hide.Do this once and then again in three or four days. After that, repeat about once a month and you shouldn't have any more problems. 2,for mold on the soil surface, top dress about an inch or two with fresh soil, then sprinkle with cinnamon. This changes the PH of the soil making it unfriendly to mold without harming your plants. Both of these ideas work well and are inexpensive, which helps when you have a lot of plants to care of.

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