Choosing the right container size for indoor gardening

Plant containers are mainly used for holding the right amount of soil or growing medium for indoor gardening. Therefore, the container should always match the size of the plant. A plant that is too small for its container looks out of proportion and might even grow poorly because the growing medium stays excessively moist for long periods of time.

A plant that is too large for its container also looks out of proportion and they exhaust nutrients and water faster which means you must work harder so as to keep them alive. Such plants become root bound (the roots fill up the container, causing stunted growth) and they might topple over because the container does not have enough weight and stability to hold them up.

  • A 24 inch diameter container can hold large pepper, cucumber, artichoke, indeterminate cage and tomato, summer squash and other combinations of herbs and vegetables. When growing indeterminate tomato plants, be sure to choose cages that fit inside the containers.
  • An 18 inch diameter container will hold broccoli, large cabbage, all greens in multiples, small pepper, small egg plant, cauliflower and determinate tomato.
  • 14 inch diameter containers can work for cabbages, non heading lettuce (3 or 4 plants), Spinach (3 or 4 plants), arugula (3 plants), collards and any herb
  • 10 inch diameter container will hold small herbs, lettuce and strawberry.

However, you should understand that not all containers are tall and round. Most shallow rooted plants including lettuce can thrive in containers that are wider than they are tall. However, vegetables generally need deep containers and plants such as pumpkin and zucchini well benefit from containers that are both deep and broad. You can also use half barrels for bigger plants such as squash and tomatoes.

The right soil for your indoor garden

It is vital for your potting soil to be tailored to the type of plant you want to grow. For instance, rosemary and succulents such as cactus prefer well-drained, coarse soil that is one-third sand. Ferns and African violets prefer soil with high humus content. This can be achieved by simply adding shredded bark and leaf mold to the soil. Grow your seedlings in a moisture retentive and light soil less mix. Most orchids thrive in nothing but sphagnum moss and fir bark.

Your indoor potting mix should be composed of vermiculite, per-lite and peat moss. These mixes resist compaction and absorb moisture very well, but they dry out quickly. Since soil less mixes do not contain any nutrients, it is vital to provide the plants with a regular supply of fertilizer. One of the main advantages if using soil less mixes is that they are sterilize and there is no chance of introducing disease or pest problems.

You can also add organic components to your indoor growing mix. These components include finished compost, leaf mold, rich garden soil or compost mix. The ideal growing medium contains 10% to 20% organic matter in order to ensure that the growing medium does not dry out as fast as the soil less mixes. Therefore, you should reserve a small spot in your outdoor garden where you can collect soil for your indoor garden. This is a great way of making the indoor growing medium fertile by introducing important nutrients and beneficial microorganisms.

The most important consideration when you are blending or purchasing your potting soil is ensuring that the potting soil is light enough in order to provide pore space for water, air and healthy root growth and development. Overhead watering over a long period of time results in a compacted and unhealthy root zone. Therefore, your potting mix contains plenty of vermiculite, sharp sand and per-lite to ensure that the roots get enough soil for healthy growth. This allows water to drain freely because the soil has 10 to 20% air.

Nutrients for your indoor garden plants

Fertilizer is very essential for the success of your indoor garden. The easiest way of fertilizing potted plants is preparing a good nutrient solution and simply pouring it over the potting mix in order for the fertilizer to be absorbed by the roots quickly and add what is missing. The potting mix becomes depleted of nutrients because they are constantly being used up by the plant and leached out by water. On the other hand, the faster your plants grow, the more water, and fertilizer they require. As watering increases, so does nutrient loss and leaching.

Fertilizer should be applied at least once every two weeks for potted plants in indoor gardens provided they are growing in compost-rich potting mix that retains nutrients. However, if you prefer applying fertilizer with a nutrient solution whenever you water your plants, make sure you use about a fifth of the recommended amount.

Organic fertilizers are derived from numerous plant sources which make them ideal for potted plants. Moreover, they are just as effective as chemical fertilizers and supply the required nutrients as well as a wide range of minerals, vitamins, amino acids and micronutrients.

It is also important to understand that plant nutrient requirements change according to the stage of growth. For instance, annual bedding plants require high nitrogen fertilizer in the initial stages to promote growth and development of leaves, and then switch to high phosphorous, low nitrogen solution to promote and encourage blooming.

General maintenance of your indoor gardening plants

In order for your indoor garden to be successful, you must ensure proper upkeep of your indoor garden. Ensure that the plants get regular amounts of water and sunlight. On the other hand, the soil temperature should not drop below 21C  (70F). Plants should be split or transplanted into larger pots when they become too large.

Plants that are wilting, have brown spots or are dying should be separated from the rest to prevent the spread of disease and pests just in case they have them. On the other hand, incorporating fertilizer or compost into the pots every few months is a good way of supplying your plants with vital nutrients.

PH (probable hydrogen)

Getting the right pH is one of the most important considerations when growing plants in your indoor garden. When the PH (probable hydrogen) is too high or too low, plants lose their ability to absorb vital nutrients trough their roots.

Different nutrients are absorbed at different pH levels. Therefore, some plants thrive in alkaline soils and others require acidic soils. Nutrients such as nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, calcium, sulfur and magnesium are absorbed at high pH levels (slightly alkaline conditions), while plants that require nutrients such as copper, zinc, magnesium, boron and iron thrive at lower pH levels (slightly acidic). You can test the pH level of your soil sample at most garden centers or buy a pH test kit from hardware store or nurseries in order to test pH on your own.