Get Ready to Garden Indoors:
Indoor growing is something that I started doing years ago as a way of starting my vegetables for my outside gardens. I live in a part of the world that has cold weather for several months of the year, so if I want to grow during these months, I have to do it inside. There are some basics that need to be considered to grow indoors successfully and in the rest of this comprehensive review, I will share information regarding these basics. A grower planning to move the grow inside for the first time will need to consider variables such as space, temperatures, lighting, watering and nutrients, and growing methods to get things moving in the right direction. Understanding these basics will help an indoor grower nurture healthy plants which will optimize yields. My hope is that this information can be utilized to help an indoor grower grow big at home!
Basics Variables to Consider for an Indoor Grow:
- space and environment
- watering and nutrients
- growing methods
Grow Room Space and Environment:
Indoor growers need to find a place in their home that is not only available for growing, but can also functionally accommodate all that is needed for growing plants indoors successfully. A room in the basement can often end up as a grower’s space due to availability and so I will focus on this area. Since natural light is often minimal in this environment, artificial grow lighting is needed. Temperatures need to be monitored as well as the basement environment can often be a bit cooler than the rest of the home. In my case, I do have my grow room in a basement room. Before starting though, I needed to make sure that the ambient room temperatures were appropriate and I needed to make sure that electrical outlets were easily accessible for the needed grow lighting. Ventilation and air circulation need to be considered too if the ambient room temperature is high. Since I use LED grow lighting, excessive heat production has not been an issue for me. Basement rooms can end up being a good choice since they are often void of carpet. Since you are growing and often using soil and water, spills are likely. Carpet spills harbor moisture, dirt and bugs which can be problematic in a grow room environment. It can also be easier to hang plastic and/or reflective sheeting which can maximize your grow lights potential to promote active plant photosynthesis and dense vegetative growth.
Temperatures in the Grow Room:
During my recent indoor grow, I monitored the ambient room temperature and worked to keep the room temperature around 75 degrees during the seed germination process. This temperature was enhanced slightly directly under my grow light during lighting hours. Maintaining an ideal grow room temperature can have a significant impact on not just the quality of the plant your are growing, but ideal grow room temperature can optimize a plant’s yield. As you can see from the graphic on the right, the ideal temperature for growing most plants to flower is between 72 and 82 degrees Fahrenheit. Maintaining this ideal temperature zone consistently is also very important. I made the mistake once of allowing the whole house air conditioning system to lower my grow room temperatures which adversely affected my grow room plants. Since I use LED grow lights, I did not have to spend extra money on ventilation or cooling systems. LED grow lights work efficiently and produce a minimal heat signature. This makes maintaining an ideal growing environment easier. Additionally, the minimal heat signature produced by LED grow lights helps growers work discretely. If you employ high intensity discharge grow lights (HIDs), you will likely have to use oscillating fans to circulate the air in the room. The air temperature beneath an HID is much higher than an LED and so this hot air must be circulated and vented from the room in order to maintain an optimal growing temperature. In the end, I have found that my plants grow best when I keep the room temperature in the upper half of the above noted ideal temperature range.
Lighting Used in the Grow Room:
Once the seedlings begin to grow and true leaves appear, active photosynthesis is necessary in order for the plant to continue growing in a healthy manner. Approximately 12 to 16 hours of light will be necessary in order for active photosynthesis and healthy growth. Plants have evolved and are specifically adapted to gain energy and strength from sunlight for growth through a process called photosynthesis. Sunlight can be divided into respective wavelength colors of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Research has revealed that red and blue light have the most impact on plant growth. This is why LED technology can be quite effective and efficient for growing plants indoors. LED grow lights are designed to emit proportions of light wavelength colors to which plants respond best. LED grow lights integrate a high number of red and blue light emitting diodes to act as a catalyst for photosynthesis during plants’ vegetative and flowering grow stages. I have chosen to utilize LED technology because I believe it efficiently and effectively provides a “light recipe” blend of color wavelengths that are best for successful plant growth and optimal yields.
Watering and Nutrients:
Those that like to be extremely precise might want to consider using a moisture meter. Employment of a moisture mete, which can be acquired online or at your local gardening center, is one way to know the exact moisture level of your growing medium and to know when the soil needs more moisture. I however have always had success using my basic senses to determine the moisture needs of my plants. Making sure to stay away from the base of the plant and the root system, I press my finger into the soil to see if it is moist. If the soil is dry to a depth of over 1 inch, then I give water. If I am starting the plants in a small cell (3×3), I give about 10 – 15 ml of water at this point. The soil and coir mix that I use holds water well and will probably not need watering every single day. There is no hard and fast rule to watering though, too many other factors, like the room’s temperature, will affect how often watering must take place. Be sure to focus watering at the base of the plants near the rooting zone.
Plants grow and respond best when proper lighting is provided, and proper nutrients will also help plants grow to their fullest potential. After your seeds sprout and the plants begin to grow, nutrients in your soil will be used and or leach out during watering. At this point, I turn to organic fertilizers, but if you are growing hydroponically as described below, you will need to consider hydroponic nutrient additives.
If you compost at home, utilizing the compost to make compost tea can work wonders when watering your plants indoors.
The primary growing method options that an indoor grower will consider are variations of either soil growing or hydroponic growing. I personally utilize a soil growing method when growing my vegetables indoors. I avoid using outside soil as the chemistry of outside soil is more difficult to predict, determine and control. I will utilize a potting soil which provides a more reliable and stable medium in which to germinate seeds and grow plants. I often mix in a general hydroponic growing medium with the soil. For more information on the soil growing method that I use, click here.
Hydroponic growing methods are gaining traction and becoming more popular as more grower experience success when using them. Basically, using a hydroponic growing method means growing plants with nutrient rich water outside of a soil base. When soil is used as a medium, it supports the plant’s root system and aids the delivery of water and nutrients to the plant’s root system. When using a hydroponic method, water is infused with nutrients and is delivered to the plants root system in various ways. The plant’s root system may grow directly in the nutrient water-solution, the plant may also be misted by the solution or the plant’s root system could grow in a substrate replacement for soil. For a more detailed review of the various methods of hydroponics, click here.