By The Old House Web


Gardening is often considered an outside passtime; however an adequate garden can be grown in the home with the use of containers! The options are endless, requiring only a container, good growing conditions and lots of care.

The containers used for indoor gardening must provide drainage and adequate room. Follow the planting directions in seed catalogs or on seed packets to calculate the number of plants per container. Recommended containers vary, providing a number of aesthetically pleasing options. Some suggestions are: pots, wastebaskets, buckets, aquariums, waterproof bushel baskets, crates with black plastic with a few holes for drainage, a hollowed-out log for flowers, and washtubs. One unusual example of an indoor container is a 24-inch washtub with holes punched in the bottom for drainage. This container will hold: 25 bean, beet, spinach, leaf lettuce, or turnip plants, 18 endive or Swiss chard plants, 50 dwarf carrots, radishes, or bunching onions, 12-18 small to medium size annual flowers, and one cucumber, tomato, or squash.

For an indoor garden to flourish, attention must be paid to the basic growing requirements. When planting, use potting soil. Outdoor garden soil compacts easily, thus inhibiting root growth. A good general soil can be made by mixing 1/3 vermiculite or peat, 1/3 perlite, and 1/3 commercial potting soil. Gravel can be placed in the bottom, but it is NOT a substitute for drainage holes.

Indoor plants should receive more nutrients and water than their outdoor counterparts. In the confinement of a container, competition is fierce. Fertilize every two weeks with a balanced (all numbers are equal) houseplant fertilizer. Do not let the soil become overly dry; daily watering may be required by the time plants reach productivity.

Light is critical to growth. A south-facing window is best. Fruiting plants in particular require at least twelve hours of bright light, which may be difficult to obtain in Michigan winters. Annuals are more specific in their light requirements. Although most do best in a south window it is the daylength that is critical (Photoperiodism). Short day plants flower when there is only 10 to 12 hours of light and will not flower with excess light. Long day plants require at least 14, and preferably 18, hours of light to flower. These plants are best grown under a fluorescent light. Indeterminate plants have minimal photoperiodic response. This category includes most vegetables.

Most leafy and root crop vegetables prosper in cool temperatures. Highs of 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit with lows at night ranging all the way down to 40 degrees Fahrenheit are acceptable. Fruiting vegetables and most annuals require warm temperatures. For example, tomatoes will not set fruit unless nighttime temperatures are between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit, with ideal daytime temperatures at about 80.

Following is a chart of some annual flower requirements:

PLANT Hanging 8-12 South W or E Day Basket inch pot Exposure Exposure Length* ---------------------------------------------------------- Ageratum X X X L ---------------------------------------------------------- Alyssum, Sweet X X X L ---------------------------------------------------------- Aster X X X L ---------------------------------------------------------- Balsam X X X L ---------------------------------------------------------- Begonia X X I ---------------------------------------------------------- Black-Eye Susan X X X I ---------------------------------------------------------- Calendula X X X L ---------------------------------------------------------- Candytuft X X L ---------------------------------------------------------- Carnation X X X I ---------------------------------------------------------- Coleus X X I ---------------------------------------------------------- Dianthus X X L ----------------------------------------------------------- Fucshia X X I ----------------------------------------------------------- Gazania X X X I ----------------------------------------------------------- Geranium X X X X I ----------------------------------------------------------- Impatiens X X X L ----------------------------------------------------------- Lobelia X X L ----------------------------------------------------------- Marigold X X X L ----------------------------------------------------------- Morning Glory X X X L ----------------------------------------------------------- Nasturtium X X X L ----------------------------------------------------------- Nicotiana X X X L ----------------------------------------------------------- Pansy X X X L ----------------------------------------------------------- Petunia X X X L ----------------------------------------------------------- Phlox X X X L ----------------------------------------------------------- Portulaca X X X L ----------------------------------------------------------- Primrose X S ----------------------------------------------------------- Salvia X X X L ----------------------------------------------------------- Snapdragon X X X L ----------------------------------------------------------- Sweet Peas X X X L ----------------------------------------------------------- Zinnia X X X L ----------------------------------------------------------- S = SHORT DAY PLANT L = LONG DAY PLANT I = INDETERMINATE

Vegetables suitable for indoor production include those that can be "mowed" to grow again like leaf lettuce, spinach, endive, and Swiss chard. Root crops such as radishes, dwarf carrots, and bunching onions also do well in container gardens. Beets and turnips are as valuable for their edible greens as their roots.

There are some disadvantages to growing vegetables indoors that counter their benefits. Vegetables take up a lot of space for the number of fruits they provide. Also, although bees pollinate the flowers outdoors, they are not common indoors! Indoors, the vegetables must be artificially pollinated for fruit development. Pollination can be accomplished by taking the powdery pollen from the bead like anthers and placing it upon the stick, the stalk-like pistil. Good fruiting vegetables for indoors include squash, cherry tomatoes, bush cucumbers, and snap beans.

Some varieties suitable for indoor planting include:

Vegetable Varieties Beets Little Ball Beans, Snap Any "bush" variety Cabbage Cabbage Morden Dwarf, Earlianna Carrots Lady Finger, Short `n' Sweet Cucumbers Bush Whopper, Bush Champion, Potluck, Spacemaster Lettuce All leaf varieties Onions Green Bunching (scallions) Peas Mighty Midget, Little Marvel, Pea Novella Peppers Gypsy Hybrid, Parks Pot Pepper Hybrid Radishes All varieties Spinach All varieties Squash, Summer Gourmet Globe (zucchini), Gold Rush Hybrid (yellow) Squash, Winter Early Butternut Hybrid, Burpee Butter Boy Hybrid, Butterbush. Tomatoes Patio Prize, Patio F., Tiny Tim, Toy Boy VF Hybrid, Small Fry, Minibel, Little King, Tiny Tim and any determinate variety.

The following table contains both container and light requirements for some vegetables:

Vegetable Tub or 2 to 5 8-12 South West or Gallon Container inch Exposure East pot Exposure ----------------------------------------------------------- *Beans (bush type) X X X Beets X X Carrots X X *Cucumbers (bush type) X X *Eggplant X X Lettuce,Endive X X X Onions (esp: bunching) X X *Peppers X X Radishes X X Spinach X X X *Squash (summer, winter & bush) X X Swiss chard X X X *Tomato (determinate) X X *Tomato (cherry) X X X Turnips X X ----------------------------------------------------------- * = Requires artificial pollination SOURCE: Nancy J. Butler MSU Cooperative Extension Service "Weed 'Em and Reap" (12/84 and 1/85)

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