As I’ve repeatedly pointed out, you don’t need to have an extensive yard outside your house to start up a garden. Indoors will do just fine. And in some cases, growing plants indoors might offer you some advantages. Like with a vegetable garden, for instance. If you’re living in a dry, dusty city like me, you want to make sure that the dust (Delhi air seems to be saturated with white, hot dust in the summers) doesn’t get on your herbs and veggies. Besides, indoor gardens benefit from the advantage of a fairly consistent microclimate. This way, you can easily tweak the light and humidity levels that your plants are exposed to.
Need I even tell you about the ecological harmony you will be contributing to by growing your own food? Not only will you avoid the harmful pesticides and chemicals f mass produced crops, food just tastes so much nicer when it’s from your own garden. And also becomes infinitely more precious, since it required effort and loving care from you to grow those delicious carrots and tomatoes. Go on, then, get started on your vegetable garden, already. Planting indoors now will even give you a headstart, and you can watch your plants gleefully soaking up the good weather when the monsoons start.
Some plants do naturally well indoors than others, for instance, cabbage, tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, chives, leeks, aragula and broccoli. However, these are more usual than not, plants that take a while before they end up on your dinner plate. Crops like zucchini, on the other hand, shoot up in no time at all, especially in the right conditions. Plants like lemons also tend to be aromatic, and purify the air inside.Creepers, like melons, are best left outdoors for obvious reasons, but can also be grown indoors as low lying climbers when provided with the right support. Don’t forget to include spices, like chillies and mustard, which are some of the easiest plants to grow indoors.
To Sprout or Not to Sprout
Do you have enough time to loiter around the house enough to keep a good eye on your seeds and seedlings? You want to make sure that they’re not running out of moisture, or, god forbid, suffering from too much of it (seedlings are super vulnerable to rot, and fungal diseases caused by excessive water logging). Are you up for bringing a new life into the world, and you swear that you’ll take care of it like your own baby? Sprouting from scratch it probably a doable option for you then. On the other hand, if you’ve got to much going on in your life, or if you’re in a hurry and not ready to wait until the weather gets better to offer your plants the best chance at growing up, then you can just buy sprouted crops from your nearest vendor.
Starting from Scratch
Not exactly an easy task, but immensely satisfying when, and if you succeed. The best way would be to use up food scraps from your kitchen. You’ll be amazed at how much food you can grow just from stuff in your kitchen- potatoes, tomatoes, mustard, wheat and other cereals, it can go on. However, this is a bad idea for some kinds of crops, if you generally buy your veggies from the nearest supermarket- seeds from supermarket melons, for instance, only yield pig melons.
First Things First
Pick a container that allows good drainage. Fill it with potting mix. Note, this is different from soil, or even potting soil in that it contains a mixture of organic material like peat and coir, which are much more porous and lighter than actual soil, making them efficient draining media for your seeds. Moreover, the delicate roots of seedlings can hardly push through dense soil and clay, lowering their chances in soil. Potting mix contains no nutrients of it’s own, so it can be enriched with additives like manure and compost.
If you’re starting from scratch, you are probably starting out in a planter, or a makeshift disposable container. Keep your pots at hand, you never know when you’ll have to transplant those budding seedlings! If you got some creepers or climbers (tomatoes, for example) in your collection, prepare adequate support systems to make sure they don’t get malformed.
Place it Right
While most crops will require a few hours of sunlight everyday to keep healthy, some plants do better in the shade. Mint, for instance, is a herb that gets damaged in excessive heat, but will yellow up in low light. So, ideally, it requires a few hours of bright indirect light every day.
Coming to seedlings, avoid placing seeds and newly sprouted seedlings on high exposure areas like window sills, as the dramatic difference between nighttime and daytime temperatures will discourage them from growing. Also avoid areas with too much wind, accesible to pets or children.
When dealing with seedlings, you need to ensure conditions of constant moisture. Misting the area with water several times is a good idea of you live in a low humidity area like Delhi. While seeds don’t need light before they germinate, seedlings do well in warm areas.
When your seedlings and plants are ready to go out on their own, make sure to expose them to the elements gradually- place them in sunlight for some time everyday, gradually increasing this time, to avoid scorched leaves.
If you’re a bit pressed for time and want something that is quick yielding and not too fussy, a herb garden is what you need. Mint, lemongrass, coriander, chives, celery, dil, thyme are some of the herbs which do well in tropical climates. The best part- they can be grown within small areas, especially relevant if you’re pressed for space. Grow a vertical herb garden right inside your kitchen in a sunny spot, to add some character to your kitchen.
Don’t forget fruits!
All this talk about fresh vegetables should not distract you from the awesomeness of home-grown fruits. I highly recommend pomegranate, china oranges, litchi and strawberry.
Grow Out of The Box
If you’re a seasoned, seasoned gardener who’s looking to go on newer, exciting ventures, consider growing something unusual, like mushrooms. More on this in the future!