Indoor gardening tips for Winter

Two women in an outdoor Garden

Indoor gardening comes in many shapes and sizes. A great hobby for winter and an easy source of fresh ingredients for your meals, it can take up as much time and space as you let it. Read below to find out how to create an indoor garden, what supplies to get, and whether to fertilise your crops.

What is an indoor garden?

Indoor gardening refers to growing plants indoors, away from the elements. It could be done for decorative purposes only, or involve fruits and vegetables. As examples of an indoor garden, in the UK we have greenhouses and conservatories, but any enclosed area such as your home or office also falls into this category. It covers traditional horizontal gardening, vertical gardening, hydroponics, and more.

What can I grow indoors in winter?

Indoor gardening is beginner-friendly, because anyone can pick the right plants based on their experience and available space and time.

Some people grow houseplants such as succulents, cacti, dracaena, and philodendron to add colour to their living room. Others want to grow their own fresh supply of fruits and veggies in the winter. Cherry tomatoes, chillies, radishes, and carrots all make perfect indoor garden plants. The same goes for a wide range of herbs. You can visit our article on Indoor Vegetable Gardening for more varieties, as well as tips on how to start an indoor garden.

In an indoor hydroponic garden, lettuce is an all-time beginner’s favourite. Other leafy greens such as kale, spinach, bok choy, and watercress are also easy to grow hydroponically. You can also plant spinach, beans, strawberries, and herbs. It’s best to stay away from plants with deep root systems (e.g. potatoes and carrots) or those that need a lot of space (squash, pumpkin) as they are the hardest to grow in hydroponic systems.

What nutrients plants need in the winter? How to feed plants in winter?

Houseplants generally have very low, if any, fertilisation needs in winter. This is their dormant period, so there is hardly any growth. Therefore, you should skip the fertiliser or you risk over-fertilising them which causes leaf burning, yellowing, etc. You may, however, choose to fertilise any plants that are placed close to a bright window. Since they need frequent watering twice per week, this will flush the nutrients more quickly. You can add a bit of weak liquid fertiliser to make up for that.

As for indoor garden plants, they continue to have the same nutritional needs in winter, so they can use regular fertilisation. Macro- and micronutrients such as calcium, nitrogen, potassium, phosphorous, iron, and magnesium are very beneficial. You can use a water-soluble organic fertiliser to dilute and apply during your regular watering.

Nitrogen– Formation of proteins
– Essential for photosynthesis
– Stimulate new growth
Phosphorous– Key to photosynthesis
– Cellular growth and division
– Encourages root growth
– Essential for flowering and fruiting plant
Potassium– Helps regulate water intake
– Boosts immune system
Calcium– Reduces soil acidity
– Improves nutrients absorption
– Boosts immunity
Magnesium– Essential for photosynthesis
– Improves metabolism
Sulfur– Fights winter hardiness
– Synthesis of amino acids

Fertilising may not be one of the simplest indoor gardening activities, but by choosing the right nutrients, you’re already halfway there. Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are considered the three major nutrients. NPK fertilisers contain all three of them in different proportions (a.k.a. NPK ratios).

What feed you need depends on the type of crop and its stage of development. For example, fertilisers meant for the plant’s vegetative stage are rich in nitrogen (N), while those for the flowering stage have more phosphorus (P) and potassium (K). Hence, tomato plants need more potassium for the production of tomato fruits. Cabbage and other green veggies, on the other hand, need lots of nitrogen to aid the growth of green foliage.

So, as a start, you can select a proven store-bought product and follow the manufacturer’s dosage and feeding schedule. You can even purchase a cost-efficient indoor try-pack comprised of three small bottles, one for every growth stage.

Tip: In indoor hydroponic gardening, fertilisers are the essence of growing, since there is no soil to provide or retain additional nutrients. There are products specifically designed for hydroponics, as well as products that work for soil, hydroponics, and coco coir alike.

What equipment will I need for growing indoors?

Essential Gardening supplies

When starting your garden, you can consider the following indoor gardening supplies:

  • Fabric pots – These are ideal for both houseplants and fruits & veggies. The material ensures proper root development and prevents waterlogging while making the pots mobile and reusable. 
  • Growing cubes – They are a great way to start your seeds indoors. By providing the best conditions for seed germination, they will prompt fast rooting.
  • Propagator – If you’re unsure about being able to provide a consistent environment for seed germination, try using a propagator. They come with vented domes and act as mini-greenhouses. A heated propagator will maintain a set temperature for the seeds, so you don’t need to worry about keeping an entire room well-heated.
  • Vertical planters – A good space-saving solution, fabric wall planters work well for herbs and leafy greens, as well as for cascading houseplants. 
  • FansGreenhouse ventilation is an important way to control humidity in winter. A fan (or a set of fans, depending on the area) will ensure proper air circulation and prevent mould, etc.
  • Thermometer/hygrometer – Such a combined device can be one of the most helpful indoor gardening tools as it tracks temperature and humidity levels, and even records maximum and minimum values every day.

Some people prefer using an indoor garden system​​ that combines everything you need such as lights and hydroponics. From tabletop models to bigger options, these systems are easy to set up and use, but they do have a high price tag.

Indoor Gardening Tips

To set up and maintain your indoor garden, there are several steps and factors to go through:

  1. Choosing seeds – If you’re just getting started, go with plants that are family-favourites. For example, pick the herbs that you most use in your kitchen.
  2. Setting up – If you don’t have a greenhouse, you can create a tiny indoor garden in your home. Make the most use of available space by using your windowsills, shelves, floor-standing plant holders, or vertical containers on the wall spaces of your balconies. You can group plants with similar needs for easier care.
  3. Light – In winter, even plants on windowsills may not get enough light. Since the idea of growing fruits, veggies, and herbs indoors is to create favourable, summer-like conditions, you can use lamps to simulate longer days with 14-16 hours of artificial light.
  4. Temperature and humidity – Most plants thrive in temperatures between 18-24°C, but some do fine in lower temperatures. As for humidity, it tends to be lower in winter, mostly due to central heating. To increase humidity, you could try misting your plants daily, placing them close together to create a micro-climate, or installing a humidifier.
  5. Soil – Use a potting mix intended for indoor gardening instead of regular garden soil. It needs to be nutrient-rich, remain loose, and have good drainage.
  6. Plant labels – You can buy small wooden signs or simple stakes to use to label your plants. Even though you know what seeds you planted now, soon you may not be able to tell them apart!
  7. Care – Monitor your plants to make sure they’re doing well and so you can adjust the care you’re providing. If you are overwatering them, you may notice wilting stems, the lower leaves dropping, discolouration, or stunted growth. When under watering, look out for signs of wilting, dry soil, or brown leaves.

With these home indoor garden ideas, you can create a small haven for plants in the coldest months of the year. Whether it’s simply an indoor moss garden or a mini greenhouse filled with fruits and veggies, we hope you enjoy a green and fragrant winter.

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