This is a guest post from Graham Green, gardening expert and blogger for Signature Homes & Gardens
A guide to windowsill grow-your-own: Creating your dream garden in limited space
There aren’t many pastimes that are more therapeutic than gardening. There’s something calming about spending time outdoors in the fresh air, breathing in the rich scents of freshly mown grass and newly laid compost.
But in a world where city landscapes seem to be increasingly expanding and countryside diminishing, not everyone has the luxury of a sprawling garden to potter about in. With a rise in the number of city apartments and townhouses being built, it’s hardly a surprise that balconies and small yards are becoming more and more common.
So for those of us who might enjoy the satisfaction and pleasure that gardening brings, but don’t have the outdoor space to grow anything, we have to get crafty and resourceful with what we’re growing indoors. The good news is, there are a range of plants, herbs and even fruits and vegetables that can be grown inside just as easily as out. It’s all about having the right knowledge for the job, and the guide below explains all you need to know about the basics of indoor gardening.
What can I plant?
Herbs are probably the easiest thing you can grow indoors, whether you’re raising them from cuttings or planting seeds. Room temperature is the optimum for growth, and they benefit from cooler temperatures at night, which works out well in our climate.
Fill a small plant pot three quarters full with good-quality, moist compost. Scatter in your seeds then fill the remaining space at the top with soil, firming down gently with your finger-tips. If you’ve planted a few different varieties, stick plastic plant labels in the pots to identify each one.
Choose a spot with plenty of exposure to the sun for your herb pots (ideally south or east facing). Some herbs, like thyme, mint and rosemary need plenty of sunlight, whereas others such as parsley, chives and coriander don’t need as much. It’s all about experimenting and finding out what does and doesn’t work for you based on the weather and light exposure where you live.
You’ll need to regularly trim the herbs you grow – otherwise they’ll get bulky and you’ll waste more of the plant than you can use. If you keep them on your kitchen windowsill, you can just snip some leaves from the top when you need a little seasoning to spruce up your cooking.
Fruit and vegetables:
Some veggies are best grown outdoors, there’s no question about it. Potatoes and carrots that need deep soil to take root in wouldn’t fare well in containers on your kitchen floor. Similarly, grapes and tomatoes wouldn’t flourish in the often cloudy British climate, and would only achieve their full potential in a greenhouse where warm temperatures can be maintained.
Growing things like chillies, strawberries, salad leaves and dwarf runner beans is a great starting point, and although vegetables grown indoors aren’t as flavoursome as the outdoor variety, they’ll still be much tastier than shop-bought produce.
Salad leaves can be grown in minimal outdoor space in a small trough or window-box. Fill the container three-quarters full, then trace furrows with your fingers and sow the seeds in the holes, covering over with more soil and firming down gently with your palm.
The size of the trough should determine how many rows you sow, but plants like space so remember that less is more, and the trough you use should be as deep and wide as your space allows.
Strawberries should be exposed to plenty of sun, and if raised right they’ll begin to fruit in the early summer and continue through until autumn. You can then decide whether to discard the plant or – space dependant – relocate it outdoors and replant in the garden.
There are plenty of flowers that would bloom just as well indoors as out, and would add a touch of colour and greenery to your living space. Many of the types available, like leafy house plants, would thrive at room temperature and need minimal light to be able to grow efficiently- great news if your house is shaded by trees or other buildings.
Peace Lilies are always a popular choice as these are easy to grow and take minimal maintenance. They thrive in low light and humidity and, although they bloom with pretty white flowers in summer, even when they’re not in bloom the vivid green leaves will still add that tropical, exotic touch to your home. Be aware though, the leaves are highly poisonous so keep them out of reach of inquisitive children or pets!
If you’re after a smaller option, geraniums are equally as easy to care for as long as they’re exposed to sunlight. Their soil needs to be kept moderately dry as well, so it won’t be too damaging for the plant if you forget to water it every now and then.
If you do have the luxury of some outside space to play with, even if it’s just a small balcony or decking area, you could always nurture your plants indoors during the winter months, then move them outside in containers during the summer to benefit from the warmer temperatures and sunshine.
Maintenance and Aftercare
Although anything you plant will usually come with its own instructions on planting and aftercare, there are a few general rules of thumb you should follow with anything you’re growing indoors.
- If you’re planting a cutting, to avoid drowning it and hindering growth you should water it when you first root it in the soil, but then not again until the soil is almost completely dry.
- For indoor plants that require sun exposure, don’t forget to turn the pot round every week or so, to ensure that all of the plant gets the benefits of the sunlight
- Water the plant regularly to keep the soil moist, but don’t over-water. To test you’ve got it right, poke your finger into the soil and if it’s moist below the surface as well as on top of the soil, then you’ve got it right.
- If you’re only using containers or troughs for your planting, use a compost specially designed for container gardening which will retain moisture to benefit house plants.
- Plants that grow in containers won’t benefit from the nutrients in the soil that outdoor plants do, so make sure to feed your plants and fertilise your vegetables regularly- at least once every two weeks.
- Make sure any window-boxes or troughs you’re using to grow veg or plants are properly fixed and supported- they can get very heavy when full.
- If you’re put off from indoor gardening by the thought of unsightly, bulky plant pots littering your home, why not get creative? Old, cleaned-out tins are great for growing herbs while decorative ceramic pots can easily hide larger plant-containers.
You might not be the next Alan Titchmarsh, but remember gardening is about having fun and relaxing. So play around with it, try growing different things and – as you get braver – take on more challenges. It will be worth it when you notice your first pots beginning to bloom!