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Gardening Indoors

Gardening Indoors

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A fun hobby many people have not tried is growing edible plants indoors during the winter. It is easy as long as the basic needs of the plant are met. These include providing proper lighting, containers, soil and sufficient nutrients.

During the winter, lower light levels often make it necessary to provide supplemental lighting. There is an inexpensive option. According to Bruce Bugby, USU crop physiologist and expert on growing plants in indoor spaces, cool-white florescent bulbs are ideal. To obtain optimal results, he says that lights should be suspended around six inches from the tops of the plants. Bugby does not recommend purchasing prefabricated light systems. Homemade versions work well and are far less expensive.

Next, locate planting containers six to nine inches tall. Inexpensive nursery plants pots are great. Fill the containers with quality, peat based potting soil. There are several brands that will work. Do not use outdoor garden soil.

The next step is germinating seeds. Most seeds germinate acceptably at temperatures near 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Follow planting instructions on seed packets. Do not allow the soil to dry out but do not keep it constantly saturated. Depending on the crop, seeds will germinate in five to fourteen days. After germination, the soil can dry out moderately between irrigations, and thinning seedlings may be needed. However, the thinned seedlings that are removed can often be transplanted into another container.

For beginners, herbs are often very easy to grow. Some varieties to try include parsley, basil, cilantro, mint and chives.

Leaf lettuce is also very easy. It tolerates lower winter light levels than many other plants, and is flavorful and nutritious. Leaf lettuce requires around 60 days to become harvest-able. Many also have success with mustard greens, which can be ready in as little as 40 days. Radishes can additionally be grown indoors and are ready in as few as 30 days.

Certain varieties of tomatoes and peppers can be grown indoors with supplemental lighting. Some of the smallest varieties of tomatoes suitable for growing indoors include Tiny Tim, Small Fry and Micro Tom. None of these reach over 18 inches high, and the fruit is the size of a cherry tomato. Seeds of these varieties can be found online or possibly from local retailers. Peppers are another option. A few sweet varieties that are often grown indoors include Mini Belle, Mohawk and Gourmet.

Other crops that can be grown inside include most species harvested and sold commercially as micro-greens (lettuce, alfalfa, spinach, etc.), and flower and vegetable starts for outdoor gardens. Keep in mind that indoor gardening requires some trial and error and to not expect yields to be as great as that obtained in the outdoor garden. However, indoor gardening is enjoyable and totally worth the fresh food.

For further resources concerning growing edible plants indoors, access the following online:

Utah State University Crop Physiology Laboratory

West Virginia University Extension indoor gardening fact sheet

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