Gardening has seen a renaissance over the last couple of years. Prompted by the pandemic, gardening became a way for people to stay occupied at home while keeping stress at bay. The love of getting your hands in the dirt has continued to attract new gardeners this year as well. While the gardening season is ending, you can still enjoy gardening throughout the winter months by bringing the garden indoors. Growing indoors can be done in a greenhouse, or a less time-intensive option is to plant a container garden.
Greenhouses come in a variety of sizes and costs range from $200 to $10,000. Some greenhouse styles can be ordered online. Greenhouse growing requires time and attention to detail; like outdoor gardening, its success depends mostly on you to provide the perfect growing environment.
Essential elements for growing in a greenhouse are: sunlight, soil, moisture and fertilizer. While nobody has control over sunlight, you can move plants around to see if they prosper in different areas of the enclosure. Unless your greenhouse is built for the coldest of winter days, it will likely require a boost of heat. This can be accomplished with a passive solar system.
If vegetables are what you want, know that not all veggies will grow in cooler temps, but peas, winter lettuce, broccoli, spinach, kale and potatoes don't mind. The greenhouse is also the place for starting plants from seed that will be planted in the ground the following spring.
Although not mentioned as an essential element, the containers used for growing plants must allow for drainage; otherwise, the roots will rot, fungus will grow and the plant will die. The standard terra cotta pot is porous, allowing air to keep the soil from becoming soggy, and the hole in the bottom drains excess water.
Drainage also plays a significant role in selecting the soil. Joan Buckles of Pleasant Nursery, 4234 Wabash Ave., suggests "a quality potting soil mix that is light, nothing heavy, so that it will drain." Soil helps nourish the seedling and support the root system of the growing plant.
Water is essential, but in just the right amount. Candy Scheuermann, garden center manager at Green View, 3000 W. Jefferson St., warns not to over-love your plants. In other words, don't over water, but when soil feels dry to the touch, it's time for another drink.
A balanced fertilizer provides nutrients for healthy growth, and last but not least, a greenhouse needs wind. A gentle breeze created by a regular box fan will circulate air inside the greenhouse, which keeps the surface of the plants and soil dry, curbing fungus growth.
Of course, this is an oversimplified guide to greenhouse growing, but it highlights the fact that growing a successful greenhouse garden requires dedication.
Another option for growing indoors is a container garden. This type of garden can be small enough to display on the kitchen windowsill, or large enough to require its own grow space. Scheuermann explains "grow space" as the place in your home nearest the window that gets the most sunlight. Scheuermann said container gardens are a good fit for growing herbs such as basil, oregano and rosemary. She keeps her container garden in the kitchen for quick clipping while she's cooking.
Most importantly, indoor growing requires a great deal of light. Scheuermann suggests using a grow light that is specifically labeled for growing plants indoors. Grow lights can be purchased at a hardware store or online and range in price from $24 to $99.
The same principles of drainage apply to the container garden as to the greenhouse garden, including being careful to not over-water plants. Container garden plants can be started outside and brought indoors when the overnight temperature dips below 50 degrees, and definitely before it hits 40 degrees. Buckles suggested spraying each plant with water before bringing it indoors to remove bugs.
In addition to the herbs mentioned by Sheuermann, Buckles added parsley, chives, bay leaf and mint to the list as good candidates for container gardening. She likes to cook with fresh herbs throughout the winter and have mint to add to tea.
Buckles noted that the parsley plant will wilt when it needs water, and although chives will grow indoors, it may not harvest indoors. But not all is lost, the plant can be put outside again in spring and it will harvest.
If shrinking daylight tends to get you down, boost your spirits with an indoor garden. It's possible to enjoy many types of plants year-round.
Holly Whisler is a freelance writer in Springfield who enjoys both indoor and outdoor gardening.