If climate or space constraints do not allow you to have a traditional outdoor garden, then an indoor container garden is a viable alternative. Many flowers and vegetables you would grow outdoors also grow well in containers inside the house. Container gardens are not only a practical option for planting, but they add a fresh, natural look to your decor.
Decide what type of indoor garden suits your needs. Do you want foliage, flowers or edibles? Weigh the practicality of your choices based on the space you have for an indoor garden. Once you make your decision, narrow down your choices to specific plants.
Select containers for gardening. Containers must have holes for water drainage and must be large enough to comfortably accommodate the plants’ roots as they grow. Shallow-rooted houseplants and vegetables, such as lettuce, radishes or herbs, require about 8 inches of depth. Larger plants with deeper roots require larger, taller containers — about 2 feet deep.
Fill the containers with potting soil to an inch or so from the top of the container if you plan to plant from seed. If you are transplanting nursery stock, add only a few inches of soil to the bottom of the container. In either case, use potting soil that is formulated for container growing; it contains additives that help retain moisture and oxygen. Garden soil or soil brought in from outdoors is too dense and can suffocate roots.
Purchase transplants or seeds. Flower transplants provide instant gratification — and blooms — instead of waiting for the plant to grow from seed. The same holds true for edible plants, such as herbs, greens or tomatoes. Root vegetables, like radishes and carrots, grow best when you plant them from seed instead of transplant stock.
Plant seeds in containers. A good rule of thumb is to plant seeds four times the depth of their width. For example, a seed that is 1/4-inch wide should be planted 1 inch deep in the soil.
Transplant nursery stock plants into the containers. Carefully remove each root ball from its transplant cup and place the roots on top of the layer of soil in the bottom of a container. Add more soil below the roots if the plant’s stem and foliage are not tall enough to stick out of the container. Add more soil to ensure the roots are completely covered.
Place the containers in a sunny or partially sunny location depending on the plant’s specific needs. Many plants need at least six hours of sunlight daily. A south-facing window will provide the most sunlight. If you do not have adequate light coming in through your windows, taking plants outdoors into the sun for a few hours or placing a grow light over the plants are good solutions.
Water transplants or seeds to set the soil. Keep seeds moist while they’re germinating; placing a layer of plastic wrap or waxed paper loosely over the container helps retain moisture and warmth. Remove the plastic once seeds sprout. Water plants whenever the top of the soil is a lighter color or feels dry to the touch, which may be as often as every day. Fertilize plants with a water-soluble fertilizer every other week.