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Creative gardening indoors
by Simon Hart, The Organic Mechanic

Indoor gardening during the winter is something that most horticultural enthusiasts tend to overlook as we all dream of spring, anxiously waiting out the cold and dark winter days. Getting the right equipment, such as a good light and some potting soil, can lead to a new gardening experience and exotic homegrown food in the middle of a Canadian winter, relieving some of the green thumb pressure while tasting great at the same time.

Just as in an outdoor garden, there are all sorts of plant choices that can be grown indoors. Picking plants that are right for your indoor space will set you up for success and some options are easier to grow than others.

When it comes to your indoor food garden, your options will be limited by the space available. Creativity is a great thing, but so too is thinking about your plant choices and how they grow. If you choose to put your lights in a rack or in a low space, consider plants that are suited to low growth such as lettuce, spinach, or with a bit more height, perhaps a bush tomato. If you have a narrow and tall space, try mounting light vertically and growing a vine plant such as an indeterminate tomato.

Remember that when growing flowering edibles indoors, you must take on the pollinating role of the insects that help in your outdoor garden. A finger or Q-tip cotton swab is a great impromptu helper, or even a fine-hair paintbrush. Be as gentle as possible to the flowers as you pollinate so as not to disturb them. Some blooms are very delicate and might break off if your contact is too rough.

Indoor gardening is an experiment, so choose some favorites while testing out some more exotic options (perhaps that melon that never seems to finish outdoors). Start with annual options as disease and insects can cause heartbreak in perennial plants such as citrus and avocado to name a couple. This is tempered by the opportunity of watching your fruit tree grow indoors over the winter and enjoying the fruit looking out over your snow covered landscape so don’t discount perennials entirely.

Selecting a fertilizer is different than for your summer garden. When choosing a fertilizer, remember that indoors there is a lack of soil biology to break down organics. If you choose to grow edibles indoors, look to organic liquids as the best option. However, if you choose an organic powder, be sure to add in microbially-rich soil amendments such as worm castings and compost in order to break them down. If you are just starting, it might be easier to choose a chemical fertilizer. Just make sure to select one that includes micro-nutrients as well as your standard N-P-K. (The three numbers found on fertilizer labels).

Grow some food indoors this winter. Your green thumb will thank you and you won’t regret it!