Indoor Gardens

Improvements in plant lighting have helped indoor gardening grow by leaps and bounds. Today it’s possible to produce large quantities of fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, succulents and all kinds of beautiful flowers in your own home all year round! Here, we discuss the latest news and information related to grow lights and hydroponics to houseplants and plant propagation.

Rosemary In Winter

Rosemary GardenIt’s been over a year since I moved from Montana to the sunny and somewhat warmer (or considerably, depending on the day) climes of Northern New Mexico. Despite the passing of those 13 months, I still mourn the loss of my rosemary. After all, we’d grown close considering all the time I’d spent moving them around, indoors and out, to avoid the coldest weather but to guarantee they had enough sun. They provided many a sprig or just a flat leaf or three (rosemary, as all cooks know, is strongly flavored) to slide in under the skin of chicken or to flavor a pork roast stew.

I carefully packed my two deeply-potted plants when we left and tucked them into the back of the hatchback with the dog for the long trip. They survived it just fine (the dog, too). I had the perfect new home for them, a sun porch with southwest exposure. They seemed happy enough for a while but then started to wilt. I figured the sun was drying them out and gave them more water. Big mistake. (more…)

Inside House Plants

The Unexpected HouseplantIt’s never to early to start thinking about those holiday gifts you’ll be buying even if, like your friendly Planet Natural Blogger, you’re a last minute shopper. (Remember… we said we’re only thinking about holiday gifts… the buying still comes last minute.) Because we ascribe to the idea that knowledge is power, especially when it comes to gardening, we often choose books to give to our nearest and dearest. Here’s a new book that we think is especially suited for, well, just about anyone. Tovah Martin’s The Unexpected Houseplant is a fascinating and refreshing way to look at the growing things we raise indoors. It’s perfect for those who already decorate their homes with green things as well as those who don’t but might like to.

Martin is a Connecticut-based, organic gardener who write extensively on the craft of growing things. Her previous book is The New Terrarium: Creating Beautiful Display for Plants and Nature. She’s also a busy blogger — check out plantwise.com — and she’s published in magazines ranging from Horticulture to Country Gardens. More than just a gardener, Martin is a crusader for growing and the gardening life-style. Her books aren’t simple how-to’s but seek to convert readers to gardening with their not-so-subtle emphasis on aesthetics and gardening as lifestyle. “I’m doing my best to demonstrate how plants can changer your psyche when you welcome them into your life,” she writes in the introduction to The Unexpected Houseplant. And that includes welcoming them inside your home as well as outdoors. (more…)

Light Right (Indoor Plant Lighting)

Plant LightingHere’s a trick question: What’s the single most important factor when growing indoors? The answer is, of course, that there’s no single factor that determines success. Plant lighting, temperature, water, potting conditions and nutrients all play an inter-related role. All are crucial. You can’t separate one from the other. You may have perfect light in religiously timed and measured lumens. But if your plants don’t have enough moisture, or they’re exposed to extreme temperature variations, well, all that money you spent on lights is wasted. Likewise, if you put plants out on your sun porch — plenty of light! — but the dead-of-winter sun shines in only six hours each day, your plants will do little but maintain (if that). Worse, if that six hours of sunlight heats the room beyond what the plant can bear — or if it loses a lot of heat through all that glass at night — your plants will be lucky to survive the variations let alone flourish.

Forget the trick questions. Instead, we offer this absolute statement: The most wide-spread misconception concerning indoor plant lighting is that your plants will do fine in a sunny windowsill. “Growing” is the key word here. You may be able to overwinter houseplants or a potted herb or two in a sunny window. But for growth? You need to recreate the complete, concentrated, and long light conditions that plants experience outdoors during the summer. (more…)

Living Walls

Living WallYou already know about green roofs. But green walls? Yes! A friend interested in interior design introduced me to the notion of living walls and it didn’t take much to discover how fast the idea is catching on. Also called “vertical gardening,” the idea is being championed by a number of eco-minded builders of both large buildings and small. Businesses devoted specifically to living walls are popping up, self-contained living-wall units are available and some cities are encouraging their use.

Vertical gardens can be designed for both inside and outside walls. The benefits are many. Most obvious are aesthetic. “When I walk by, it’s calming, just a little more serene, maybe a little bohemian,” says one living wall owner in this Wall Street Journal story. “I call it Prozac on a wall,” says another. A living wall adds color, texture and interest. But that’s not all. Having a wall of plants will naturally filter the air, removing pollutants that make indoor air often more dangerous than out. Indoor living walls provide insulating value, reducing heating and cooling costs. On outside walls, a vertical garden will help protect the structure from strong sunlight as well as keep it cool. Outside living walls also shield the inside from noise. Inside living walls improve acoustics. (more…)

Plan Your Indoor Gardens Now

Indoor GardensIt’s August and there’s plenty of late summer chores to be done in the garden. But it’s also the time to plan for your indoor, winter garden. The bounty you’re enjoying now from you outdoor garden will be sorely missed once the frost forms and the snow flies. But if you plan now, you can enjoy fresh greens, herbs — even tomatoes! — from a carefully planned indoor garden. Or maybe you just want to brighten your indoor environment during the cold dark months with beautiful indoor plants or flowers. And, planning your indoor gardens now, allows you to take advantage of off-season special deals when buying the containers, lights, and hydroponic equipment you’ll need. Starting now means you can surprise your holiday guests with fresh salads and herbs despite the winter wonderland.

Here’s where planning begins:

• Pick a spot: You’ll want your indoor gardening location to be convenient to water and, if needed, electricity ( a dangerous mix… be sure to follow all safety precautions when using electricity around water, the first one being KEEP THEM SEPARATE!). But the most important aspect is light. You”ll need at least six hours of strong sunlight for your plants to be productive. If that’s not possible — and most places, it isn’t — start investigating light systems. Choose a place where temperatures will remain fairly consistent. And don’t forget circulation. Plants need a fresh supply of oxygen for healthy growth and to resist molds and fungus. (more…)

Setting Out, Hardening Off

Hardening Off PlantsMy grandparents always called it “setting out plants.” We know the process of introducing our indoor raised or recently purchased seedlings to the outdoors as “hardening off.” Whatever you call it, the gradual introduction of your tender young plants to the cold, cruel world of the outdoors needs to be done with attention and patience. You wouldn’t just push your children out the door without some experience of what they were about to face, would you? Your plants are like your children. They need to adapt to conditions outside the home.

Hardening off is the process of acclimating plants to outdoor conditions. In some parts of the country, this process is well under way. In northern settings or places of higher altitude where the possibilities of frosts will continue for another two or three weeks, we’re still waiting. Timing is important. Many garden books will tell you that plants started indoors are ready to go out when its roots have filled the container. But if outdoor conditions are still too cold or wet, your tender plants may be set back. On the other hand, if they’re left in pots and their roots continue to grow, it may set back their growth. Transplanting into a larger pot is called for when outdoor conditions aren’t yet right. (more…)

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