If you can’t wait to plant a summer’s worth of nutritious and delicious vegetables, maybe you don’t have to. With the right equipment and attention, you can maintain a successful indoor grow room. Once transplanted outdoors, your plants will flower quicker and produce a faster harvest than those started outside.
How to grow plants indoors
Purdue University Horticulture Extension Educator Steve Mayer says one element is paramount.
“Good light is critical when growing vegetables and flowers from seed indoors,” he says. “In many cases, gardeners need to add artificial light. Plant lights or even shop lights can be useful, and it’s best to purchase an automatic timer.”
Along with natural humidity and good air circulation, Mayer says mimicking the light-free rest plants get at night is equally essential.
“Cooler temperatures are important – night temperatures of 60 to 65 degrees for most plants, except cool-season vegetable crops around 55 degrees,” he says.
As for what to plant and when, consult your local garden professional, extension office or a farmer’s almanac. Where and how you set up your indoor grow operation is up to you.
Master Gardener Sue Arnold starts seedlings prior to the outdoor season and brings her valued perennials in for the winter each year, all in her basement. For seedlings, Arnold utilizes repurposed shop lights on a timer and adjustable shelving.
“You can buy expensive lights, but all you need are fluorescent lights in the warm and cool range that you can get at the big box stores for way cheaper,” Arnold says. “You have to be able to adjust the lights or the shelves up and down (as the plants grow).”
Arnold plants seeds (according to package label) in moist, sterile soil placed in containers that allow excess water to drain out of the bottom. She keeps light on her plants 16 to 18 hours per day.
When conditions are right for outdoor transfer, Arnold suggests patience.
“You want to take them outside at night first, so they can adjust,” she says. “Never, ever go from under the grow lights to the sun. They’ll sunburn and croak, or at least be severely damaged. Start them out under a shade tree.”
Growing plants upstairs
Derik Strenzel has a goal for his second-floor grow space _ 100 percent food sustainability. His most recent seed planting included 300 vegetable varieties that cost $50 online. His wooden rack and shelving system cost $100. He uses recycled lights, pots and jars, along with cheap Solo cups.
“You’d be surprised how little it costs to get done,” Strenzel says. “There’s so much enjoyment and happiness that comes from it.”
Strenzel got most of his growing knowledge online, through articles and videos.
“Everybody has a different opinion on all of this,” he says. “You go on YouTube, do a video or make a comment, and a hundred million people can tell you how you’re wrong about every aspect. It doesn’t have to be done any certain way or order to make it work. You need dirt, water, light and to spend time with it. You do that, you’ll have plants.”
The project inspired Strenzel to nearly give up meat entirely.
“I feel so much more energy and hydrated all the time,” he says. “I feel younger.”
By Brent Glasgow, Angie’s List (TNS)
Brent Glasgow is a reporter for Angie’s List, a trusted provider of local consumer reviews and an online marketplace of services from top-rated providers. Visit AngiesList.com.