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Tips and Tricks for Gardening Indoors

by Timber Press on June 25, 2018

in Food, Gardening

Lunch from the indoor garden.

It doesn’t take much to go from a casual home hobbyist to an indoor gardener. Here are some principles from horticulture expert Leslie F. Halleck to get you started:

Group Plants by Light
It is important to group together crops with similar lighting and temperature requirements. If you mix plants with different environmental needs, one will likely thrive while the other fails. For example, if you grow peas together with your lettuce under 10 to 12 hours of light, the lettuce will probably perform as expected, but the peas will never flower or fruit. While both lettuce and peas are long-day plants, you want to discourage flowering in lettuce but encourage it in peas. This means that while you’ll keep your lettuce under a shorter daylength to prevent flowering, you’ll have to move your peas to light that stays on longer than 12 hours to achieve flowering and fruit development.

Grow dill with short photoperiods to suppress flowering.

Group by Temperature
Grouping by temperature preferences is also important. Remember that cool-season crops, such as lettuce, greens, and peas, may not withstand the heat build-up inside an enclosed grow space or grow tent unless it is artificially cooled. However, natural room temperatures in open spaces in your home, basement, or garage, combined with cooler running lamps, can be good options. Your heat-lovers, such as tomatoes, peppers, and cannabis, can handle tighter spaces with warmer HID lighting.

Pepper plants need lots of light and warmth to produce plenty of fruit.

Size Matters
When choosing varieties of edibles to grow indoors, look for dwarf, bush, container, or patio varieties. These are compact versions of taller or vining edibles that are easier to accommodate in an indoor environment or in containers. While a standard squash plant can send out vines 15 feet long, a bush-type squash will grow only 2 or 3 feet tall and wide, the perfect size for an indoor container. Beans and cucumbers are also available in bush varieties. Standard okra plants can tower over you, but dwarf varieties grow to only 2 to 3 feet tall. Most pepper plants are fairly compact and well suited to indoor container production.

‘Floral Spires Lavender’ basil flowers faster under long photoperiods.

Remember that determinate tomatoes typically grow to about 4 feet tall and 2 feet wide, while indeterminate tomatoes are vines that can grow to anywhere from 6 to 25 feet tall. If you intend to grow larger plants indoors over the long term, follow the recommendations for spacing and container sizes in each plant profile. You can maintain 4-inch containers of herbs under lights in your kitchen or anywhere in your home, but most root systems will outgrow this container and use up soil nutrients more quickly. If you harvest on plants in small containers regularly, they will eventually expire and you will have to replace them.

Compost the old plant, or pot it up into a larger container and start fresh with a new plant in the small pot. The following plant profiles provide you a general classification of photoperiod and best daylengths for each crop, temperature recommendations, and space needs. You can make necessary adjustments based on your own results.


Leslie F. Halleck is a dedicated horticulturist with a master’s in horticulture from Michigan State University. She is a Certified Professional Horticulturist (CPH) via The American Society for Horticulture Science, with more than 25 years of green industry experience in research, greenhouse production, public gardens, garden center retail, landscape and design services, and gardening communications. She currently runs Halleck Horticultural, LLC, a company that provides consulting services to green industry businesses, as well as horticultural consulting.

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