Does Potting Soil Go Bad? The Answer Is Not What You Might Think

Growing plants, whether indoors or outdoors, requires top-notch soil to help the plants take root and to thrive for many months to come. Plants are like babies in that they need the proper environment and nutrients to grow at the rate that they are meant to and to lead a long and healthy life. Potting soil is crucial to the success of any plant and can make or break the process.

So, one question many gardeners or aspiring gardeners ask themselves is, “does potting soil go bad?” Does it have a shelf life and, if so, how are you able to tell good potting soil from bad potting soil? Also, does the type of soil make a difference in if and when the soil turns sour? The short answer is, no, potting soil technically does not expire, however, the quality over time does diminish.

All of the above questions will be answered in further detail in this article, but first, let’s explore what potting soil is, what type of gardening it is used for and what ingredients make up good quality soil.

What makes up potting soil?

Potting soil is a very specific type of soil that is made for plants that will be confined to a small space and need added nutrients and proper texture to allow the plant to breathe. Potting soil may be used in outdoor gardens as well but it is not necessary for those plants to grow properly as they are in a more open environment with natural drainage and direct sunlight.

Many potting soils are made up of various ingredients to maintain proper texture, moisture and provide adequate nutrients to the plant that it is used with. One of the main ingredients that many top-quality potting soils contains is something known as peat moss.

Peat moss is great at holding moisture and contains many nutrients that are vital to healthy plant growth. However, if you have an open bag of peat moss-based soil sitting in a bag in your shed for a few months to a year and it has gotten wet, most likely that peat moss has decomposed.

This does not mean that the soil is completely unusable, however, it will not be the most ideal soil for proper growth for potted plants and they may not be able to sustain life in that soil. This soil should still be suitable for larger gardens.

A few other ingredients that are common in potting soil are bark and pearlite. Pearlite looks like tiny white pellets and are added to soil to keep it from getting too dense and not allowing water and air to properly circulate through the soil and to the roots of the plant.

The key to any good potting soil is that it does not compact too easily and it remains lightweight so it allows for proper circulation, as stated before, but also proper drainage so as to not drown the roots.

There are four different main types of potting soil that can be used on potted plants, all-purpose, premium, professional, and plant-specific. All-purpose potting soil is probably the most common for the average gardener.

It is a premixed soil that is great for potting new houseplants or repotting old plants that need larger containers. Premium and professional potting soils may contain things such as time-release fertilizer to feed plants for several months to promote strong root development but can be a bit more expensive. Plant-specific potting soil is just that, plant specific. Plants such as cacti and succulents need a different set of nutrients and more adequate drainage to thrive and grow to maturity.

As you can see, all potting soils general makeup is about the same but there are a few different ingredients here and there that you need to pay attention to when growing an indoor, potted plant.

So, does potting soil go bad?

Earlier in this article, I stated that potting soil does not necessarily have a shelf life, but it can lose its texture, moisture content and nutrient levels over time if not stored properly. So, it does not become completely unusable but the growing results may not be as good as they would have been with fresher soil.

All potting soils contain organic matter that, given enough time, will inevitably break down leading to a dustier consistency and can become denser.

Denser soil means there will be less ability for water and nutrients to circulate throughout the pot and gain access to the roots. It also means there will be less drainage happening and can lead to drowning the roots of your plants.

Now, it is worth mentioning that the time it takes for the organic matter to begin breaking down is highlight dependent on where and the way in which you store your soil.

Whether the bag is opened, unopened, sitting in direct sunlight, sitting in a damp environment or in a place where it can get rained on are all factors that affect the quality of your potting soil over time.

Opened bags of potting soil usually hold their highest quality for around 6 months to a year. Things like air and excessive moisture can reach the soil inside and begin to break down the nutrients and compress the soil at a faster rate than soil that is unopened for months before use.

The soil in an opened bag will not be rendered completely unusable and can be used for general use in your garden but potted plants certainly won’t receive the same benefits as they would have from fresher soil.

Unopened bags of soil will maintain their quality for much longer periods, keeping their value for about a year or two without being used. However, things like peat moss and other organic material are always actively breaking down even if you never open the bag.

There are some rare instances when your potting soil goes completely bad and should not be used on plants. You can tell if this is the case if you detect a rotten smell, see mold growing in the soil or have an abundance of gnats flying in and around the bag. This soil is the exception and should not be used on any plants.

All is not lost, however, if you have an open bag of potting soil or you have a bag you purchased, stored and then promptly forgot about. There are some methods and tricks you can try to make your soil last the longest that it can or revamp older or used soil.

Tips on Keeping Soil Fresh

As stated above, there a few ways that you can try to revamp old potting soil or to maintain your newly purchased soil if you won’t be using it right away. The first method is to mix in a couple of handfuls of perlite.

If you’ll remember from the beginning of this article, perlite is the little white pellets found in most potting soils that keeps it from getting too dense. Adding some more into the soil yourself could help slow down the decomposing process of peat-based soils. Adding some compost could help with this as well.

Another way to keep potting soil healthy is to flush it monthly when it is already potted with a plant. Take the plant outside or place it in the sink and run water from the tap or a hose directly into the pot.

Let all the water drain out from the bottom of the pot before placing it back in its growing area. This helps to flush out the fertilizer salts or mineral deposits from tap water that have accumulated in the soil.

Proper storage of potting soil can also make a huge difference in how long your soil maintains its nutrient and moisture levels. Over wintertime, for example, it is recommended to store used potting soil in a fresh and clean container such as a washed-out trash can or a new trash bag.

It is also important to let the old potting soil completely dry out from previous watering’s before you store it. For unopened bags of soil, you can simply place the bag in the storage container and place in a dry location.

Conclusion

As you can gather from the information above, the question of whether potting soil goes bad or not is not as black and white as we would like. Potting soil certainly does lose its potency and freshness, like any other product.

However, unless it is stored improperly and becomes completely rotten, potting soil that is older or used can either be revamped or used in a garden for general purposes. So, don’t throw out that potting soil that’s been sitting in your garage for months just yet!

Save yourself some time and money by taking proper care of your potting soil and utilizing it in other ways once the organic matter that is present has, for the most part, broken down.

Have you reused old potting soil or salvaged old and unused soil? Let me know in the comments! And as always, happy gardening!

Thai Basil vs Holy Basil – Let’s Take A Closer Look

I still remember the joy of seeing my first little lily grow into a proud, tall plant. It wasn’t much, to be honest, but it gave me something to be proud of. Before I knew it, my little lily quickly grew into a rather lonely lily.

Try saying that three times fast.

To cut the story short, as probably happened to many of you,  by the end of the season my balcony looked like a pre-school’s botany class. The walls were littered with recycled bottles housing all types of plants. Spiders, aloe, jade, and basil. 

My mom’s favorite always was the Thai Basil. She even bought a special ceramic vase for her favorite, separate from the rest, of course. The basil’s purple stem contrasted so nicely with the vase’s pearly white walls that it’s now a staple in my dining room for special occasions. My guests love to comment on it.

I mean, it’s just nice to have around. It also helps that it grows year-round, if you take proper care that is.

I’ll go over proper care in a little while, but I promise, it’s a simple grow.

As a plant, it works as decoration.

The leaves can garnish a plate.

They’re also packed with a wide variety of flavor, depending on the basil you’re growing. It can give off a mild pepper flavor with a note of clove to spicy, sweet anise- aromas. Basil goes great in a salad or as a tea. 

Today, I want to talk about two common strains of Basil.

Thai Basil vs. Holy Basil.

Thai Basil – More Than Just Pretty Purple Stems

Known as ocimum basilicum to some and that nice purple plant to my mom, Thai basil is a staple in Southeast Asian cuisine. Originally stemming from Thailand,  Its flavor and aroma are so characteristic it adopted its land’s name. Packing a mighty punch coming in anise- and licorice- lined spicy-sweet tones, you won’t hesitate to use too much of this in your next special dish.

Image by Maite Ramoz Ortiz

Identifying Thai basil is rather easy. As I mentioned before, The characteristic trait you’re looking for is its deep purple stem and leaves. However, there are some variations of this plant that don’t present this purple coloring, so be sure to keep in mind all the features of a healthy Thai basil plant.

When compared to another plant, say, holy basil, its leaves are a tad smaller and come with a pointed tip kind of like a spear shape. Think along the lines of larger mint leaves. Its leaves are somewhat shiny, almost glossy looking. 

Healthy Thai basil can grow to be over 3 feet tall! So remember to pinch out growing tips to promote bushier plants and to delay flowering. 

When cooking, think of higher-temperature dishes. You can drop a few in a stir fry or put it in soup since its leaves are sturdier than sweet basil’s.

While not the easiest plant to grow, there’s nothing out of this world. In fact, once you get the hang of it you’ll always have a basil plant growing in your home.

Growing Thai Basil

Thai basil is a tender perennial. Take proper care of it and you’ll have a healthy plant year-round. Leave it out for too long in the cold and it won’t make it for the next season. Thai basil is a tropical plant, you want to grow this in a very warm climate. As in, 0% chance of frost. A healthy plant requires fertile, well-draining soil, a pH ranging from 6.5 to 7.5 and some 6 to 8 hours of full sunlight per day

Once you have your location and soil ready, put about 6 to 8 seeds per pot. Thai basil has a low germination rate. Leave at most 2 seedlings per pot.

Remember to keep the plant warm and to pinch out growing tips to promote bushier plants and to delay flowering. 

If flowers begin to appear, be sure to remove them so that the plants invest their energy back into leaf production.

Like most other plants, keep a habit of watering regularly to keep the soil moist but not waterlogged. If the Thai basil plant dries out, it may bolt (put their energy into flower and seed production rather than leaves), but if you go too far with the water, it’ll be more vulnerable to fungal infections.

A good tip to remember is to use mulch to retain moisture if the summer is hot and dry.

Cooking Thai Basil

Thai Basil is great for cooking at high temperatures and giving your food a mild sweet licorice taste. While I wouldn’t recommend swapping sweet basil with thai basil in every dish, I would let your gut guide you on this one and take a couple of chances. You can really surprise yourself.

Photo by T – N G U Y E N 

One of the best ways to use your Thai basil is to make pesto. Easy to make and easy to store. Thai Basil Pesto is amazing for pasta. Mix together some crushed garlic, pine nuts, salt, Thai basil leaves, and some hard cheese with a nice Italian name, all blended with olive oil. 

Bam. Pesto Presto.

Thai basil really wants to go with high-temperature dishes. it releases its flavor better when cooked and does not get wilt/floppy as easily as sweet basil, making it great for soups. Thai basil can be used in a wide variety of dishes, but it’s mostly used as a garnish for chicken/beef curry.

As far as Asian cuisine, I recommend Thai, Vietnamese, Lao, or Cambodian recipes for inspiration. You could cook a hundred meals and not run out of uses for Thai basil

Holy Basil – Not as Alternative Medicine as It Sounds

It goes by many names, ocimum tenuiflorum, kaphrao, thulasi or just holy basil. It features a spicy, peppery, clove-like taste. Ironically, this may be the basil Thai people love most. They love it so much, it is known as Thai holy basil. It’s also huge in India for culinary, medicinal, and religious purposes.

No wonder it’s called Holy basil. It does it all.

Identifying holy basil is a little more complicated as it doesn’t come in vibrant violet strains. If you know what you’re looking for, it shouldn’t be an issue.  

Holy basil is a tall plant, towering in at 2-3 feet tall with hairy stems. Its strong pepper clove aroma is iconic. Another giveaway of the holy basil is the toothed edges of the leaves which are larger than their Thai counterparts. It’s an elegant plant if you ask me.

Almost like a bouquet at the center of the dinner table, holy basil has been a medicinal staple for thousands of years.

Growing Holy Basil

Holy basil is very simple to grow. There’s isn’t much that can go wrong. You want to keep it indoors, preferably in a small, portable container.

As for the soil, you want to use a light, well-draining soil that is rich with organic material. If not, most soil is fine. Holy basil doesn’t discriminate by riches. Here moist soil is king. Moist, not soaking wet. Make sure you have a well-draining pot and you should be set.

While holy basil loves the sun, around 5 hours is enough. Growth might be slowed but nothing serious.

If you’re planting more than one basil plant, space them 24 inches apart to make sure the air can circulate freely around the mature plants.

When placing the seeds in the pot, it’s ok to let them fall and slightly pat them down in the soil. Don’t go overboard here. 

Cooking and Healing With Holy Basil

Unlike Thai basil, holy basil isn’t as popular in cuisine. Except for Thai cuisine. They love to put it in soup and curry. 

Holy basil presents a light peppery flavor with a note of clove. While not as widely used as Thai basil, holy basil has great medicinal purposes making it ideal for tea.

Tulasi Tea as it’s commonly known has antioxidant, antibacterial, antiviral, immune-stimulating and stress-relieving properties. It supports the body’s natural defenses against germs, stress, and disorders of various kinds.

Tulasi has been used in Ayurveda and Siddha practices for its supposed treatment of diseases. Scientifically speaking though, its effects haven’t been completely researched and some questions still remain.

Just be wary of how much holy basil you’re putting in new recipes and you should be fine.

Dark Blotches, Dark Times

If you begin to see dark blotches on your basil plants, you’re going to run into a problem. This is usually caused by a bacterial or fungal infection, nutrient deficiency, or cold temperatures killing off parts of the leaves. In other words, things are getting serious.

You know you have a fungal infection if you see the discolored spots along with a type of fuzz on the stem. A bacterial infection usually just causes dark spots. If you believe the problem is an infection, trim off the affected leaves if the infection is small, or remove the plant from the garden altogether if it is past the point of no return. If your plants are too crowded, separate them or trim their leaves to allow for better airflow.

Potassium deficiency will usually affect the older, lower leaves. This problem may be caused by deficient soil or insufficient water (plants need water to absorb potassium from the soil).

If you believe the problem is cold temperatures at night, trim off the affected leaves and provide some protection against the cold, such as a cloche, cold frame, or greenhouse, or bring your basil plants indoors and keep them on a sunny windowsill.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I grow basil in the shade?

I would recommend putting the holy basil plant in a spot that gets at least 6 hours of sun per day, though I’ve found that it grows quite well in a sheltered, shady location, as long as temperatures are warm.

Thai basil is a little more complicated due to the cold affecting it more severely. 

How long does basil take to grow?

Thai basil and holy basil are usually big enough to start harvesting within about 2 months, though early harvests will probably be sooner and smaller.

How do I store basil, and how long will it keep?

You can store sprigs of either basil in a vase or cup on the counter for a week or so with the stems submerged in a bit of water (change the water every couple of days). You can also store it for couple of days in the fridge in a plastic bag, though it will go off and turn black quite quickly in the cold (some sources recommend wrapping it in a damp paper towel to extend its storage life in the fridge a little).

In Conclusion

Both Thai Basil and Holy Basil are great additions to any indoor mini garden and a must-have for anyone who wants to connect more with southeast Asian culture. They’re both easy to grow and make great ornamental plants. Thai basil, however, has a higher maintenance level. It proudly shows off its regal purple stem in compensation. 

If you want a plant to be able to pick off and throw onto a plate, you want to go with Thai basil. Use it to give a powerful flavor punch or as a last-minute garnish.

If you want a low maintenance plant perfect for making tea and oil on a lazy Sunday afternoon, holy basil is the way to go. 

Growing basil is a fun way to learn more about gardening and getting creative with your cooking. Thai basil and holy basil especially are historically and culturally rich, allowing for a closer, more personal connection with your plant. It sounds kind of cheesy, but after weeks of care, I do care for them. 

Remember to put your new basil leaves on some homemade pizza. You’re welcome.

Photo by Daria Shevtsova


Go Hydroponic! 10 Veggies That Grow in Water

Lots of people have heard of the miracle of indoor gardens without soils. The very idea of having a nearly infinite source of healthy green without all the hassle of dealing with dirt excites most amateur gardeners. In this post, we are going to be discussing some of the best veggies that grow in water and how to take care of them.

Although most plants indeed rely on soil for germination, you will be surprised at the number of veggies that grow in water alone. Vegetables like Kang Kang, lotus, watercress, sweet flag, water chestnuts, and duck potatoes are great examples of vegetables that don’t need soil at all. They are, however, mostly associated with parts of eastern cuisine and have no solid roots in western food culture. If you are looking for something a little bit closer to home, you will have to settle for partial water seedlings or hydroponic gardening.

What is a water seedling?

As messy as potted gardens and weeds can sometimes end up being, they are a necessary part of the gardening process and cannot be wholly eliminated without some reliable alternative. That is where hydroponic gardens come in.

Most vegetables don’t require lots of nutrients in their first few days of growth. All they really need is constant water and a ton of sunlight. While these vegetables won’t fully mature in water, they will start growing. With a mason jar and some water, you can get them to grow and later transfer them to a more a pot of soil. You can partially grow celery, romaine lettuce, bok choy, green onion, leeks, cabbage, beets, sweet potatoes, and carrots in water.

Hydroponic Farming

Hydroponic farming is a revolutionary method of farming that allows you to completely remove soil from the growing process. Instead of using soil, you use some other soil alternative like vermiculite, peat moss, rock wool, or perlite. The plants depend entirely on the nutrient enhanced water for sustenance. This farming style might sound overly complex, but trust us it’s not. Most shallow-rooted plants can grow using this method and it is perfect for everyday veggies. You can grow celery, romaine lettuce, bok choy, green onion, leeks, cabbage, beets, sweet potatoes, carrots or any other vegetable with this great growing technique. Although it is mostly used by large farming corporations, it can be adapted to more modest goals like indoor gardening.

Popular Vegetables That Grow in Water

1. Celery

Celeries are resilient little suckers that can survive in very poor environments. They are the vegetables that are recommended for new indoor farmers trying the Mason jar seedling technique first.

To get your seedling to grow in water, the first thing you need to do is cut off the lower part of the celery and about 3 inches of root left. Once you have done that, proceed to submerge half of the celery root and stem in water.  After a few days of sunlight and attention, you should see new green leaves emerge from the thicket of chopped celery. When that begins to happen, you should let them stay in the water for a day or two and transfer the plant into the soil.

2. Romaine Lettuce

The process for romaine lettuce is very similar to celery. All you need to do is cut most of the leafy edible top off and leave the root and part of the stem. Once that is done, submerge the roots and stem halfway in water and wait for them to grow. After a few days in the water nursery, you should see some leaves begin to sprout. After a day or two of watching them grow, you should transfer them to a pot of soil.

3. Bok Choy

Bok choy was traditionally grown and cultivated in Asia. They prefer warmer climates and thrive in humid environments. The process for planting your Bok choy is very similar to that of celery. All you need to do is cut off the root and some of the lower part of the Bok choy off and submerge it in water. It should take off relatively quickly, and caring for it should pose no real challenge. It is resilient like celery, and you should transfer it as soon as you notice new roots begin to grow at the bottom and leaves begin to sprout on top, then it is time to move them to dry soil.

4. Green Onion

The process of growing green onion is a little bit different from that of Bok choy or any other plants we have talked about so far. Instead of cutting off a huge chunk of the plant off, you need to cut the white stem and roots.

Multiple green onions can be planted in the same jar so we recommend stuffing several green onion roots into a jar and filling it halfway in water. When you see new roots below and fresh leaves on top. Then it’s your cue to move them to somewhere more permanent. Green onions are not as sturdy as celery or Bok choy, they will need some type of support to stay upright in the jar. You can help them maintain balance by either tying them to something stable like a strong twig. You can also tie a number of them together with a rubber band if you want something less disruptive.

5. Leeks

Leeks are very similar to onion in terms of their seedling requirements. All you need to do is add some water to the white stem and roots. You should find some support for them too and keep only half of the stem and root underwater. Leeks grow fairly fast, and you should notice growth under a day after planting. Once they being to grow, you should transport them to the soil.

6. Cabbage

The only thing you need to get your cabbage growing is the thick stem in the middle of a cabbage and a little bit of cabbage. Place the base of the cabbage in water and fill it with water until you have covered the base. Make sure it has plenty of sunlight, and in a few days you should see cabbage leaves bursting outwards. You should leave the cabbage seedling in the bowl for a while longer and transfer it to a soil bed.

7. Beets

Beets are a tuber vegetable that grows in a very unconventional way. What you need to start growing your beet indoors is a jar of water and tons of sunlight. Start off by cutting the top and stem of your beet from the rest of the plant. After that, you want to submerge the stem and top leaves face down underwater. After a while, you should notice that new leaves are growing. Then would be the perfect time to transport it to new soil.

8. Potatoes

There is a neat little trick for growing that applies to both sweet potatoes and regular potatoes. To grow a sweet potato or regular potato, you are going to need a small chunk of potato, some toothpicks, lots of water and fresh water and lots of patience.

Using toothpicks or twigs as support, suspend your potatoes over a bowl of water. You want to make sure that only half of the chunk of potato is in water, and half is not. Potatoes usually take a while to grow, but given enough time, they will sprout and begin to grow.

You should plan for somewhere between 60 to 90 days before you expect any real progress. What you are looking for is any long term leaves. Leaves that are strong enough to be transferred to stable soil to grow. Unlike most vegetables, the part of a potato that is actually grown is the leaves. When the leaves are big and strong enough, they are separated from the chunk of potato and are planted in soil. In time they will develop roots and begin to grow.

9. Carrots

The process for growing carrot is relatively simple and straightforward. The first step is to cut about an inch of carrot and the stem off from the remainder of the carrot. The next step involves submerging it in water and letting it grow. In time, new leaves will begin to sprout. Once this begins to happen, you want to transfer them to a soil bed or pot.

10. Fennel

The steps for growing this vegetable is very similar to several vegetables already discussed. All you need is a bowl of water and a fennel bulb. Cut off about one inch of the fennel in addition to the root and submerge half of it in water. It might take some days for it to spur to life, but it will begin to sprout eventually. What you should be looking out for is new leaves on top of the cut part of the fennel.

What about water-based vegetables?

All you need for the vegetables mentioned earlier is a lot of water, perhaps some minerals, and a lot of sunlight.

What do you need to know about caring for your vegetable seedlings?

They will need lots of water changes and sunlight above everything else. This will prevent bacterial buildup and help them grow healthier. Aside from both these things, vegetables don’t really need much to grow.

My Final Thoughts…

Several vegetables thrive really well in water at the beginning of their young lives. Some vegetables like leeks can even be harvested immediately and used, but others like potatoes require a lot of time and patience. In this post, we have gone over the most popular vegetables you can grow in water, and have told you what to expect from each of them. Hopefully, this will help you choose what vegetables you want in your little water garden.

Grow a Thriving Indoor Herb Garden with Grow Lights: A Quick Guide

Garden grow lights might be necessary if you want to have a productive indoor herb garden. By not using garden lighting effects you may cause your herb plants to become wilty, or lose their color, the plants will not blossom or produce fruit.  Garden lights are significant for an indoor herb garden to flourish; inadequate indoor grow lights can cause a plant to fail in bearing fruits or blossom and change your results in yellow-colored or brown. There are several kinds of indoor garden grow lights that are used for different styles of your indoor garden.

Indoor Herb Garden Grow Lights vs. Sunlight

Indoor garden grow lights can substitute organic sunlight or supplement the light required for growing. The indoor plants that have a problem getting access to that good ole sunshine might benefit from synthetic growing lights. The sunlight that plants use changes the carbon dioxide into the sugars that are needed for proper growth. 

These plants such as vegetables, natural herbs, and fruit trees will need from 6 to 8 hours of full sun each day for them to bear fruits or bloom. This task is generally difficult unless you are regularly moving your indoor garden from room to room or window sill to window sill. This is the reason we give our indoor herb plants the additional synthetic grow lights to increase healthy growing.

What are the different types of lighting systems?

Luminescent lighting is a form of grow lighting that is very common because it provides a good source of lighting for your plant without taking the risk of losing them a lot of mild for your vegetation without the risk of losing them and they are not costly to purchase.

Fluorescent light bulb marked T-5 is an adequate growing light bulb because even though it is generally has less “light reach”, it provides a more powerful, concentrated light. This kind of light is excellent for indoor herb plants  that like to have some shade.  Indoor gardens that have vegetables that include lettuce and spinach and indoor herb gardens prefer to have this kind of lighting effect.

HID or high intense lighting is a very efficient lighting system for indoor gardening. They are available in two different types: HPS or high pressure sodium and MH or steel halide.

HPS are used most often used as plant grow lights because they provide a red or orange light which motivates the plants to flower and bloom.  MH garden grow lights are best suitable for exciting foliage and they accelerate growth due to the blue spectrum lighting they release.

Incandescent bulbs are generally more costly and not as efficient as other kinds of grow lighting systems. These lights also produce more heat and if the vegetation is too close to them they will burn the leaves. Incandescents are best if used for highlighting plants instead of helping them develop.

A few rules of thumb:

  • 25-watt incandescent should be no nearer than one foot from your plants
  • 100-watt bulb, two feet away from the plants
  • 150-watt 3 feet away to prevent burning your indoor herb plants.

Mercury vapor lighting can be very costly if your indoor herb garden grows a huge number of plants. The mercury vapor lights will provide more light and less warmth than the incandescent. This means they are great lights for any kind of indoor plants. LED or light-emitting diode inside grow lights are the newest style for inside plant growth. These grow lights do not send out any destructive heat and will release more light per wattage; due to this, these grow lights are able to be placed nearer to the indoor plant and do not cause damage. The grow lighting you use should be placed as near as possible to the plant and should have the flexibilty to be raised as the plant grows.

Most of the indoor herb plants will need grow lighting from 12 to 16 hours each day to help motivate leaves to develop.

MH grow lights need to be running 18 to 24 hours each day.

HPS grow light you will only need 12 hours each day for budding and blooming.

Are your plants getting enough light?

The way your indoor herb plants are growing tells you if they are getting sufficient lighting. If your plants are not getting enough sunlight you will notice signs which may include:

  • Long stem lengths between the leaves very little or no development of the plant
  • The leaves have a smaller footprint sized than normal and there are no buds or blossoms.
  • Leaves on some herb plant might change to a  yellow-color or they are a dried brown color and fall off ahead of time.

If any of the signs happen you may need relocate your herb plants to a different window sill or buy better indoor herb garden grow light.  A place to start is Home Depot or Lowes for all lighting parts.

Happy Gardening!

Essential Indoor Herb Garden Tools & Supplies

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Tools Needed for an Indoor Herb Garden

The great thing about indoor herb gardens is that they are small and easy to work with. Of course, you still might not want to get dirt under your fingernails so it is a good idea to buy some tools to help maintain your plants. Although your herb garden is small, it is still a garden and you may have to perform certain messy tasks.

Tools make everything easier from potting to harvesting your herbs. Here is a list of the most popular, and handy tools:

  • Fork – A mini fork is useful for digging up plants for transplanting without damaging the roots too much.
  • Trowel – A trowel is a small hand spade which is probably the handiest potting tool you can use. It makes it easy to place soil into your pots as well as dig plants out of tubs.
  • Secateurs – Small secateurs can be used for pruning jobs if your herbs get too tall and leggy, and also harvesting so you don’t have to use your good scissors.
  • Misting sprayer – Air conditioning is very drying and takes all the moisture out of the air that plants need. A mister can be used to spray your herbs every day and keep them healthy.

Here are a few extra tools that you might find convenient:

  • PH meter – If you are doing a lot of potting, these meters can tell you if the soil is the right PH to keep your herbs healthy.
  • Moisture meter – Most potted herbs die of too much or too little water. These meters are cheap to buy and quickly tell you how moist your soil is just by poking the spike into the dirt.
  • Water spikes – These are hollow spikes made of porous terra cotta which you fill with water. The water slowly seeps through them out into the soil and waters your plants. These are good for all pot and tubs, and are especially handy for when you go on vacation.

And a couple you may not think of:

  • Pencil – Use a pencil when you are potting to push soil around your plants roots and fill in the air spaces
  • Fingers – Your fingers are probably the most sensitive moisture tester you have. Poke a finger into the soil about an inch or so and if the soil feels moist you know you don’t have to water for the next couple of days.
  • Watering mat – If you are going on vacation, placing your pots on a watering mat on a tray will keep them watered for a couple of weeks. The mat is made of material that soaks up water and it seeps into the bottom of the pots as your plants use it up.

How To Grow Your Own Strawberries Indoors (Yep, It Can Be Done!)

One of the things you miss in winter is the taste of fresh fruit and vegetables. Strawberries are many people’s favorites and it is easy to have them fresh all year round by growing them indoors. Another good reason for growing them inside is that they don’t tend to suffer from as many pests and diseases as in the garden.

Before you start you have to realize that strawberries need a lot of light to flower and fruit. This can be achieved with a combination of natural and artificial lighting. A spacious, airy sunroom, conservatory or glazed porch is perfect combined with a few grow lights for the short days, but if you don’t have such a nice, light area, you can place your pots anywhere with a bank of good grow lights.

Types of Strawberries That You Can Grow Indoors

Your typical garden strawberry runners can be bought at most garden centers or nurseries. These produce the large and juicy strawberries that you are used to buying from the supermarket, although you will find that growing the plants under lights will produce smaller berries.

A nice change is to seek out alpine strawberries. These plants are a little smaller than the ‘normal’ types and the berries are a lot smaller, tiny in fact. But the great reasons to grow alpines is that they bear all year round, and the numerous berries are delicious. A full strawberry flavour with extra tang. Delicious.

Alpines also will not produce runners which can be a bother with the usual types. You can separate the plants every year to produce new ones, or grow new ones from seed from one of the fruits. It is easy.

Placement and Pots for Growing Strawberries Indoors

Strawberries don’t need huge pots like other fruits as they are small and don’t have large roots. Most pots with adequate soil for them to grow are suitable. It is important to place them well if you are using natural light combined with artificial.

If you have a sunny window during the day where you can place your plants, that is ideal. Natural sunlight is always best. If you don’t have anywhere with sunlight you will have to rely on grow lights, this means that you can place the pots almost anywhere. You have to be careful not to put them next to heating sources like radiators or they may get too hot, and the air around them will not be humid enough.

Lighting for Growing Strawberries Indoors

Strawberries need around 16 hours of sunlight a day. Hence, if you want to grow strawberries indoor in winter, you will have to add a bank of grow lights above them to give them extra hours of light. If they don’t get enough light they will grow leggy and refuse to flower.

There are many kinds of artificial lighting you can use to grow indoor plants, and more information about them can be found in this article: best glow lights for an indoor garden. This one is about microgreens, but similar concepts apply. You must use lights that are especially made for plant growing as they will provide the entire light spectrum that plants need.

If you go to a specialized store to buy your grow lights they will have expert advice and can show you what is best for your circumstances.

Soil for Growing Strawberries Indoors

You must use potting soil in your pots, not ordinary garden soil. You can get a good, well-draining soil in all garden centers, and some of them even contain fertilizer mixed in so you don’t have to worry about that for a while until the included fertilizer is exhausted which can take up to a year.

Your plants will need repotting into new soil every year as they use up the nutrients and the soil breaks down.

Watering

Watering can be one of the most frustrating problems you come across. The best idea is to stick your finger in the soil every couple of days, if it is moist an inch down, you will not need to water that day. There are a number of watering aids you can use to help you. You can buy a cheap meter that can tell you when to water, or you can use watering mats which soak up water and fedd it back to the plants through the base of the pots.

Pests and problems

I said earlier that strawberries don’t tend to suffer as much from pests and diseases as outdoor grown plants. That is true, but they can sometimes have problems and some to look out for are:

  • Root aphids – these tiny, white, fluffy pests live on the roots of indoor plants. They suck on the sap and the plants fail to thrive. If you tip the plant half out of the pot and see them on the roots, you must throw the plant away. It is difficult or impossible to eradicate them. Root aphids tend to breed where plants are allowed to dry out too much between watering.
  • Not enough light – If your plants are showing light-colored leaves and growing long and leggy, it is probably because they are not getting enough light.
  • Fertilizing – If your plants are failing to grow properly, especially if they have been in the same pot for over 6 months, they may need a little fertilizer. Dose them according to the instructions on the packet.
  • Wrong light – if your plants are stunted or not growing properly, even if they look healthy, you should check to see if you are using the right sort of light in your fixtures.

With a bit of time and experience, you will be eating fresh strawberries most of the year, while your neighbors are trying to eat those flavorless berries from the supermarket.

The Irrepressible Mother of Thousands Varieties

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When I first encountered the Mother of Thousands, the first thing that came to mind was that this plant must be related to the ‘Mother of Dragons’. But that was just my Game of Thrones hangover talking. 

An intriguing name for a surprisingly plain-looking succulent plant, the Mother of Thousands Plants varieties show their special features when it’s time to reproduce! With its unusual physiology, the Mother of Thousands sprouts tiny plantlets from the groves of its leaves. Once these plantlets start coming out, it’s going to look really freaky.

The plantlets grow along the edge of the thick succulent leaves. The Mother of Thousands’ leaves are phylloclades, meaning they have a double organ identity as a shoot and a leaf. As the plantlets sprouting from the mother leaf mature, they grow their own roots and fall to the ground The plantlets initially get their nutrients from the mother plant, then eventually find their own way when they grow roots. 

The mature leaf weighs closer to the ground where the plantlets take root. The new plants settle close to the mother plant, and competes for nutrition with the mother. Contrary to the misinformation spread on the internet, the Mother of Thousands has other means of reproduction other than freaky, parasite looking plantlets. 

The plant also produces seeds. The main stalk can grow lateral roots, up to 15 cm or 6 inches from the ground. Should the plant topple, the lateral roots touch the ground and grow new main stalks, upwards. The seed of the Mother of Thousands (Bryophyllum daigremontianum) are produced from the plant’s pink bell shaped flowers. This means that the plant can cross pollinate and diversify its genetic pool, aside from cloning itself through plantlets and stem babies.

Close-up of Kalanchoe leaf with plantlets

Overview: Mother of Thousands

The Mother of Thousands makes a great houseplant, very suitable for beginners as it is easy to grow and propagate. It is an invasive succulent with thick juicy leaves. The leaves have a very catching dull blue green to pink color. The bell ‘donkey ear’ flowers are lilac to dark pink in color. The flowers come in clusters, individual flower size is around a joint of a finger. 

The Mother of Thousands is of the genus Bryophyllum, sometimes also classified under the genus Kalanchoe. This double classification is often times a point of contention and confusion. Bryophyllum and Kalanchoe are really two different plants, with some differences in appearance but both can easily cross propagate so they might as well be one plant. There are close to 200 varieties of this plant, with many different names. All varieties can propagate from seeds, the leaves and the stem. Truly, it takes all opportunities to further its existence.  

Many Names of the Kalanchoe

Other names for Mother of Thousands are Devil’s Backbone, Alligator Plant, Mexican Hat Plant, Mother of Millions, Pink Butterflies, Cathedral Bells, Chandelier Plant, Air Plant, Floppers, Hoja del Aire, Hoja Santa, and Life Plant. My favorite name would be ‘Evil Genius’ plant, as the baby plantlets do look very sinister. The names will vary, according to your local language. And since this plant comes in so many varieties, it’s easier to just call the whole group Kalanchoe.    

The Kalanchoe’s origin is Madagascar, varieties also grow in Southeast Africa and throughout Southeast Asia, and subtropical Australia. Other than its common English names, the Kalanchoe has many local names in different languages.   

Ideal Growing Conditions

This plant grows in warm regions, zones 9 to 11. The United States Department of Agriculture defines zones 9, 10, and 11 as zones where the lowest temperatures are from 25 to 40 °F or -3 to 4 °C. In these zones, frost is rare, and winter daytime temperature is warm. This is a tropical and sub-tropical climate, where it never freezes. The Kalanchoe can survive a drought, but it will not survive freezing temperatures. Winter is never coming for the Mother of Thousands. 

In the United States, these zones include Hawaii, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina, Florida, Arizona and California. The Kalanchoe likes water, and does best in warm climates with high humidity. They’re native to an environment with excessive moisture, and need to be kept in a greenhouse or indoors if grown in other climates, zones 1 through 8. 

The Kalanchoe will flower in “winter”, the tropical version of winter when temperatures drop below 77°F or 25°C. However, don’t wait for seeds after blooming season, it may never come. Tropical winters are still very humid. The conditions for a blooming season from this plant is high humidity, and low temperatures that never reaches freezing. It’s far easier to propagate the plant with its leaves and stem, than to wait for seeds. 

Leaves on a mother of thousands plant

The plant can grow 36 to 48 inches (90 to 120 cm). With enough nutrition and sunlight, some varieties can reach the height of a full grown man. The plant can get top heavy, especially when it flowers. It can fall over with a gust of wind, breaking the crisp stem. It probably wants to fall over, as growing very tall with a brittle stem might be one of its reproductive strategies. As the tall stem falls, it gets to disperse its seeds and plantlets to grow further from the mother plant. Go forth and multiply, baby Kalanchoes!   

The Kalanchoe likes the sun, but will also grow in partial shade. It grows well in containers and outdoors, in a suitable climate. The size of the plant varies, and the wonderful thing about most Kalanchoe species is that the plant will actually limit its growth according to the size of its container or according to the nutrients of the soil. Under the right conditions, Kalanchoe can be invasive. 

Warning: Too Much Kalanchoe

If included in a cactus or succulent garden, there’s a high chance Kalanchoe will multiply faster than all your other plants, soon taking over everything. Complete domination is on this plant’s mind. The Kalanchoe is shameless, something to be careful about when planning your garden. It’s best to plant Kalanchoe separately in its own plot or isolated in a flower pot. If you grow in zones 9 to 11, invasiveness can be a problem. If you grow in other zones not suitable for Kalanchoe, invasion is not something to worry about. Kalanchoe will die at the first taste of freezing winter. 

All varieties, and all parts of this plant is poisonous when ingested. In some places, it is used as a topical medicinal plant.

How to Grow from Plantlets

Baby plantlets are clearly the most fantastic feature of this plant. You’re Mother of Thousands has now sprouted plantlets, they’re falling off and you’re excited. So it’s time to separate the plantlets from the mother leaves to grow in new soil.

I recommend using regular seedling compost, instead of a cactus compost. The Mother of Thousands can take a good amount of water, they won’t “drown”. The plantlets need to be kept watered, not kept dry. 

Gently sow the plantlets into the compost, roots covered by the soil. Each plantlet around one to two inches apart. These are very delicate, and the plantlet leaves tend to break apart. For the first week water the plantlets with a spray bottle to keep the soil moist but not soaked. If you’re growing in a zone that’s too arid, consider covering the seedlings with a plastic or glass tent, to make a mini greenhouse that will conserve moisture. 

The Mother of Thousands is native to tropical and subtropical climate. It needs a lot of sun and moisture to thrive. So keep the seedlings in a sunny spot, and spray frequently. Once in the soil, the plantlets grow very quickly. They should take root in the soil after two weeks. In two months, they’ll be ready for replanting. 

Replanting Indoors or Outdoors

Before replanting, soak the soil with water for a few hours to loosen the roots. A presoak reduces damage to the roots, as seedling roots tend to entangle with each other and can be difficult to separate. 

Carefully pull apart the seedlings, and prepare to replant into their individual pots. The seedling should be around 3 inches tall, with a delicate stem. There should be around four large leaves. At this point, seedlings will already start producing their own plantlets, even before they’re big enough to make flowers! 

If you’re growing in a tropical or subtropical climate, the seedlings can be directly planted outdoors and they’ll thrive. But for temperate climates, replant in larger trays or pots indoors, you’ll need to wait for the plant to be at least a foot high before it can be safely planted outdoors in the spring or summer. The plant needs warm weather. Replant in a half mixture of compost and perlite, the soil needs to have drainage. 

In three to five months, you’ll have a decent looking plant around a foot high. Mother of Thousands, tend to be thirsty plants. While they kinda look like a blue agave or an aloe vera, these guys are not desert plants and should not be treated as desert plants. The mature Mother of Thousands likes water, and does well in a rich compost. 

It’s a Cow Killing Weed! 

Mother of Thousands in bloom

Out in the wild pastures of Australia, the Mother of Thousands is a prolific invasive weed, with the potential to kill a cow. If a cow eats five kilos or 11 pound of this stuff, it keels over and dies. It’s happened before in Queensland, Australia.  

From 1960 to 1984, there were 41 reported incidents of cattle poisoning attributed to four species of Kalanchoe. The poisoning has affected 379 cattle, two cattle deaths have been reported. The plants are most poisonous when flowering. For this reason, the Kalanchoe is systematically destroyed in Queensland. In New South Wales, Australia, the Kalanchoe is considered a noxious weed, under the 1993 Noxious Weed Act of the state, where it is also systematically destroyed.  

In Hawaii, the Galapagos, Palau and French Polynesia, the invasive Kalanchoe is a threat to the ecosystem. Since Kalanchoe is so successful at propagating itself, it smothers the local vegetation, suppressing biodiversity.  

Despite this nefarious reputation, the Mother of Thousands and many of its relatives, continue to be popular ornamental plants. They survive on their looks and unique ability to grow babies on their leaves. They’re easy to grow, and survive long droughts when you forget to water them. In fact, a variety of Kalanchoe is called “Resurrection Plant”, for its unkillable quality. Just perfect for the negligent gardener.

While the Mother of Thousands is toxic enough to kill a cow, there are hardly any reports of it killing a person or any household pets. Even if you eat the leaves by accident, it’s unlikely to eat enough to accumulate toxicity. The Mother of Thousands is more dangerous for herding animals, as it can actually compete with grass for growing space. 

How Does the Aerogarden Work?: The Science Behind the Magic

If you’d like to try your green thumb at growing vegetables in the space age, you can do so now with the latest AeroGarden Grow System. No kidding, this thing looks like a prop from a 1990’s sci-fi movie set.

The AeroGarden Grow System is a complete indoor garden. It is self contained with everything a plant needs to live, you can set it up in your kitchen in the dead of winter and it promises to “grow anything”. 

This is the AeroGarden Farm Plus unit, grows 30 plants, with adjustable lamps for growth height

The largest AeroGarden is as large as double door refrigerator. The smallest version is the size of a microwave. Surprisingly popular, the AeroGrow International, Inc, the makers and distributors of this gardening wonder, claims to have sold half a million of their units, worldwide. 

The AeroGarden Grow System is nothing new, the technology is based on modern hydroponics growing methods. The only difference is the minimal setup time. You can build your own hydroponics system anywhere in the house, within minutes. The whole system is automated. Just plug in those LED lights and grow! 

The Aerogarden Bounty Elite takes it a bit further still, your kitchen or garage garden can connect to your phone. Download the AeroGarden app, create an account and use it to turn the garden lights on and off, receive audio alerts, and report of your Garden’s Status. Sure, Aerogarden has a preset timer for the lights and the pump, but an app that grows real vegetables and herbs is pretty cool. Different plants need different amounts of light and darkness, so the timer has to be adjusted according to what you’re growing.

All of that said, have you ever wondered, “How does the Aerogarden Work?” Well, let us answer that for you.

What is Hydroponics?

Source: Aerogarden

The Aerogarden Grow System at its core is a home hydroponics system. Hydroponics is a soilless culture, first developed in California, where plants are grown with just soluble fertilizer and water. The idea is that, so long as the plant has enough water, nutrition and light, it will grow and thrive. The growth medium is soilless, plants are grown suspended above water. If kept indoors, lights are used. 

A closed hydroponics system can completely eliminate the need for insecticides. Hydroponics is more economic than a greenhouse in many ways, once it is up and running. The system produces a higher crop yield, with less fertilizer. It is less labor-intensive, no need to regularly change and turn the soil as you do with a greenhouse. 

Instead, a hydroponic system uses a pump to regularly move the water and maintain the water level as it depletes. Evaporation is a minor nuisance in hydroponics. Clay pebbles, lava rock pebbles or other porous loose medium is used to lessen evaporation and weigh down plant roots.

There’s also a need to control algae growth, as that it can clog the pumps and hog the nutrients. When using loose medium pebbles, the pebbles are washed after the growth season to remove algae. Hydroponics as a growth system is highly successful, able to grow vegetable crops and even trees.

If you want to DIY your own home hydroponics system, and many have, you’ll find everything you need at a hardware or hydroponics store. If you have any building skills and sufficient free time, it should not be a problem. There’ll be a little trial and error to find the most optimal nutrition, lights and temperature for the specific crop you want to grow.

But not everybody has the time nor the technical skills to enjoy the agri-engineering feat, that is hydroponics. Which is most likely why the AeroGarden Grow System has found its own niche market.

The manufacturer, Aerogrow boasts that even the largest Grow System can be assembled in half an hour. The smaller personal gardens take less than five minutes to fully assemble. With that convenience, it is truly bringing hydroponics to the least technically minded beginner.

How AeroGarden’s Advanced Hydroponics Work

AeroGrow sells several AeroGarden models, but all AeroGarden Grow Systems have three basic parts: the LED grow lights and light post, the grow deck where you put your plants, and the bowl and base that holds the water. The accessories that come with a basic kit are the seed pods and grow domes, plant food, and detachable trellis for climbing plants. 

The seed pods with dome is a small cup with seed and a bit of growth medium to get the seed started. The grow dome is a removable, transparent dome cover for protecting the seedling when it sprouts.

The plant will soon outgrow the dome, and the dome is taken off. Plant food is dropped into the water every two weeks or so, there are recommended quantities depending on what you’re growing. 

The LED lamp is attached to the base with a light post. These are 30watt LED lights that maintain the temperature at 65-76°F/16-24°C, the ideal temperature for plants. The LED lights provide white, blue and red light for optimal plant health.

I’ve seen some growers wrap their Aerogarden with aluminum foil to keep in the heat. Reflective roof insulation will also work, if you have your garden somewhere with no heating. 

The grow base, right beneath the LED lamp is a tray that fits over the bowl. The tray has holes to securely hold the seed pods in place. There’s no need for clay pebbles, the tray keeps the plant in place and minimizes evaporation. You “sow” your seed by sticking a seed pod onto the grow base.  

The bowl and base hold the water and nutrient solution. Aerogarden has a fully automated system that controls light and water. It can also monitor nutrient levels, and send alerts. If you download the app, the alerts are sent to your device. There are Aerogarden models with a digital panel, where you can program the schedule for lights and water. 

The water pump itself is built into the base. All you need to do is connect it to a drain hose when emptying the water bowl.

The final step is to plug it in, and that’s it! Don’t worry about figuring out plant nutrition, lights and lights-off schedule, and water level needs. AeroGrow has already figured it out for you and provides recommendations. 

All AeroGarden units are stackable, which is very space saving. You can have a garden wall in your own house, with the help of a multi-plug extension cord to power up all those mini garden systems. 

Why The AeroGarden Suits Beginners

Source: Aerogarden

Hydroponic technology is both simple and complicated. There are several different hydroponic systems, the one AeroGarden uses are called the Deep Water System.

While the Deep Water System needs some upkeep, with the AeroGarden you don’t have to worry about upkeep because the water pump is automated.

You don’t have to worry about cleaning clay pebbles or forgetting to move the water around to prevent sediments. The AeroGarden does it for you.

So if you think you can’t possibly grow anything. Your hands are instruments of death, all plants will die! AeroGarden says, Nope! You’re wrong, just buy our kits and you’ll be a farmer in no time.

All you need to do is assemble, add water, pop in the seed pods and plug the machine. Just like that, you’re growing a garden in your living room. AeroGarden is soilless, there’s no dirt to deal with. The plants live under an LED lamp, you don’t even need to worry about the weather. 

The lamp posts are adjustable, at least with the larger AeroGarden models. This is a significant feature that will make your life easier. If you want to let your plant growth reach its maximum size, the lamp height has to be adjusted, otherwise, the plant will burn.

Alternatively, when the plant is short, you want the lamp to be closer to conserve heat. 

The most important benefit from owning an AeroGarden is that you get to grow a garden even if you live in a highrise, in a big city, and your windows don’t even open. The mini garden will grow in your apartment, providing you with food and much needed fresh oxygen. 

Most people don’t get into urban gardening because it grows cheaper food. If anything, after buying a hydroponic kit and growing lettuce under a 20-60 watt lamp for several weeks, the resulting harvest will probably be the most expensive lettuce salad you’ve ever eaten in your entire life.

And I hope it’s the most divine lettuce salad you’ve ever eaten, to compensate for the total cost of growing it.

The real reason people get into urban gardening is because it’s therapeutic. You have to admit, gardening just soothes the soul. There’s something very calming about watching greens grow.  

General Complaints and Peeves

The AeroGarden Grow System claims to grow five times faster than regular soil. That, I don’t believe! AeroGrow provides the seeds already planted in the seed pods, and the nutrient solution to feed the plants. They claim that with their seeds and their nutrients, your garden will grow five times faster than normal soil.

The packaging says “Non-GMO Seeds”, so that means their seeds don’t have any super growing powers. Does that mean the magic is in the nutrient solution formula?

Considering that hydroponic technology only claims to yield 20% to 30% more than traditional soil-grown crops, where did AeroGrow pull out the numbers to claim “5x Faster,” among other mysteries.

Another personal peeve is that additional seed pods need to be bought from AeroGrow. The seed pods are not made to be reusable with your own seeds. But if you’re resourceful, a little tinkering can solve this problem. For those who can’t tinker, you’ll need to buy new seed pods from the manufacturer.

To be fair, many hydroponic kit makers sell pods unique to their machine. They make profits from returning customers who need to buy seeds and fertilizer to grow the subsequent seasons.

The first season is on them, the kit you buy comes with free seed pods and nutrient solution. They get you hooked with that “5x Faster” growth rate. They know this is most likely your first time growing anything.

Excited with the success of your first harvest, you think what if next season won’t be as good if you don’t use the same seeds and the same nutrients? Something will go wrong if you don’t follow the rules. “AeroGarden machines will grow only AeroGarden seeds, eating AeroGarden nutrient solution.” (That’s not the case, but it might feel like it!)

The insecurity sets in, you feel like a poor farmer with no choice but to bow down to big business. Your whole livelihood becomes dependent on manufacturer’s seeds and fertilizer!

You can only buy from them or risk a failed harvest season. Congratulations! Now you know how a real farmer feels in the economic monopoly of the agriculture industry.

You CAN actually use any seeds you want, but of course, AeroGrow does not recommend it!

What Can You Grow With the AeroGarden?

Literally farm to dining table! Now there’s no excuse not to eat salad.
Source: Aerogarden

I’m very excited about this product! It makes hydroponics accessible to plebian gardeners like myself. Not everybody has the powers of the goddess of spring, but like many, that is the ideal to which I aspire. With the help of technology, I just might achieve it! 

You can grow greens and herbs for the kitchen, all year. The smallest model can grow enough herbs for a regular-sized household, or enough greens for one person to eat salad 3-5 times a week. You’ll have to keep grazing those greens fast or they’ll overcrowd the Grow Deck. AeroGarden claims their system can grow five times faster than soil. 

For more seasoned gardeners, growing basil indoors is just not that exciting. Fortunately, the AeroGarden is versatile and customizable. No need to stick to the seed pods that come with the kit. Don’t restrict yourself, grow whatever you want with your own seeds.

Get a head start and grow seedlings in the AeroGarden, weeks before the end of winter, ready for planting in spring. That way you’ll have fresh tomatoes before everybody else. Do you have that rare seed or cutting, smuggled into the country or mailed from a gardener friend half-way across the world?

Don’t take any chances, grow them in the Aerogarden to increase your precious chances for germination and survival!

9 Amazing Indoor Gardening Ideas For Seniors

As you grow older, you become used to getting called a senior. People think that you require a lot of care. However, the need for care isn’t a one-way situation. You also feel the need to care and cater for something.

This explains the participation of seniors in activities like the cultivation of gardens (indoor or outdoor), pet acquisition, frequent home cleaning, among others. Indoor gardening, however, is our chosen area where we will be discussing indoor gardening ideas for seniors.

What are the Indoor Gardening Ideas for a Senior?

Gardening outdoors can be a hassle, especially for an older person. Indoor gardening, however, is a lot less strenuous and quite therapeutic, making it one of the most suitable activities. The following are a few indoor gardening ideas that can be of immense help to seniors who look to spice up their indoor gardening activities.

1. Windowsill Flower Garden

In indoor gardening, beautiful flowers in beautiful pots and vases on the windowsill is never a bad idea. It prevents the window from looking empty. It also gives it an enchanting and exciting look. The fact that the garden is close to the window also assures the regular access of the flowers to adequate sunlight. This way, you increase the chances of healthy growth. Including this in the plan for your new indoor garden can only have advantages. All you just need do is to give it adequate care, and there, your beauty blooms.

2. An Indoor Herb Garden

As exciting as indoor gardening is, it can only be much more fun if it can be productive. Productivity in the sense that it grows plants that you can consume. Spice up your new or existing indoor garden with the cultivation of edible plants, which generally include herbs and vegetables such as Lavender, Basil, Mint, Chives, Lettuce, Carrot, etc. These plants are usually known to have various health benefits. Check out our article on caring for an indoor herb garden!

3. Living Table

Source: Inhabitat

Add some life to a dead coffee table; you can convert an old table into a new and living one. Mind you, this practice can be a little too tasking for some. A little assistance from perhaps family or friends could help. This can even be an activity in a family gathering where even the kids get to participate. However, it only requires making a few modifications to the piece of furniture.

4. Pot Painting

Another great indoor gardening idea for you is pot painting. Changing the color of your pot(s) from the default clay brown will add a creative decorative touch to your garden. You can paint with any color of your choice, just put your creative mind to work and create a beautiful piece of artwork. This practice among decoration and other benefits, tests your creativity and lets you dig deep into your chest of imagination.

5. Cactus Garden

This beautiful plant is another item to add to your “ideas for indoor gardening” list. This particular plant, however, needs a lot more sunlight than water. Hence, the need for it to be in a position where it has access to adequate sunlight (adequate sunlight for cactus plant: twelve hours per day). Watering can even be less than once a week. It usually doesn’t need to be watered until you begin to notice dryness. The plant’s immense need for sunlight suggests it be placed close to windows (one with the highest sunlight access).

6. Hanging Garden

This is another very exciting activity for indoor gardening especially if you want to add more color to your green thumb. In addition to its decorative functions, this practice also makes indoor gardening possible in the absence of floor space. Inhabitants of assisted living facilities would naturally benefit more, as they usually have quite limited space. Various hanger options are available ranging from wooden wall hangers to hanging ropes that were made for this particular purpose. Now, you can grow your plants in suitable pots or jars, and hang them up.

7. The Spiller Garden

This involves the practice of growing more than one type of plant in one pot, and, as the name implies, in which one of them grows over and spills out. It basically involves growing three different types of plants. The first plant should be one that wouldn’t grow higher than the height of the pot, the second should grow twice as high as the container, and the third would be the main one that eventually spills over. The main idea is for the plant to spill over and spread out to its surroundings. Therefore, it should be noted that this plant will require an amount of space to flourish. Hanging can be a really good option.

8. Ingredients Garden

This is usually a special type of garden which contains the ingredients of a particular food. You can do this for any of your favorite foods, for example, pizza. Make a list of the ingredients, and begin work on those that you can plant indoors. Whenever you feel like making pizza, all you need do is get your ingredients from your indoor garden and head for the oven.

9. Terrariums

Ready-made or custom, it is always a great idea, although it might be much easier to get a ready-made than having to face troubles of making one yourself. Among the functions of terrariums is beautification. Hence, it’s addition can only bring satisfaction.

Benefits of Indoor Gardening for Seniors

There are many reasons you might want to get into indoor gardening, but here are just a few:

  • Relieves stress
  • Reduction in risk of dementia among other mental illnesses
  • It enhances cognitive activity
  • Medicinal herbs and vegetables that are beneficial to seniors are available in an edible garden.

Like in all other forms of planting, proper care and maintenance are the basis of a healthy indoor garden. Adequate sunlight and water should be applied according to requirements. This, in addition to a suitable environment, enables your plants to grow properly. Also, it is advisable to have the right equipment for each task. Make-shift pieces of equipment may cause the plants to have difficulties while growing.

Indoor gardening is already an exciting activity, but it can be made a whole lot better with the introduction of different ideas and sub-activities.

Our Top Tips for Growing an Indoor Herb Garden in Winter

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Depending on where in the world you live, your outdoor growing season may be limited to a specific set of months of the year, as winter weather conditions may not be conducive for outdoor gardening. Not all plants (especially herbs) take kindly to plummeting temperatures, frozen soil and icy precipitation.

But, lucky for us, we live in a time when modern technology makes it incredibly easy to successfully maintain an indoor herb garden. So you can enjoy the flavors of fresh herbs, no matter the time of year! 

Here is my list of tips that will help you maintain an indoor herb garden in winter. 


The sunnier the spot, the better

Herbs thrive where they get plenty of direct sunlight. Ideally, they would receive 6-8 hours of it per day. Placing them near southern facing windows are often the sunniest and best choice. 

Strong sunlight encourages their growth, and the strength of the sunlight directly correlates to the herb’s depth of flavor. More sun equals more flavor. Also, make sure you are rotating your plants often to ensure that they are receiving sunlight evenly. When herbs have to grow towards sunlight, they allocate energy to growing their stems, and their leaves won’t grow as large. 

Many indoor herb gardeners place their plants on a windowsill or a floating window plant shelf like this one to provide them with adequate sun exposure.

If you are worried that you don’t have a sunny enough space, or that you may need additional lighting, you can add indoor grow lights, like these, to your indoor gardening space. Herbs flourish under full spectrum LED bulbs because they replicate the full solar light spectrum, plus they are energy efficient, economical, and effective. *Check out our article on growing microgreens under LED lights!

Or, an easy, almost effortless, aeroponics kit may bring you peace of mind. An Aerogarden Harvest 360 is a self contained, countertop aeroponic garden with built-in, high performance, full spectrum LED grow lights that facilitate faster, fuller growth. 


Warm temperature tolerant

One of the reasons that herbs are fairly easy to grow indoors is that they prefer temperatures of 60-70 degrees. (Which is a fairly common temperature range for people to heat their home to in winter.) With most herbs, lower temperatures will simply slow growth, but others (like basil) strongly prefer temperatures on the warmer end of the spectrum.

Basil will react poorly to even a small amount of cooler temperatures, with its leaves beginning to discolor within 24 hours. Before you place your plants on your windowsill, check to make sure that they aren’t too drafty, and at what temperature the herbs you’ve chosen will have ideal growth.


Picking the perfect pots

The pots you plant your indoor herbs in is extremely important. Picking the proper pots (or containers) affects how successful you can and will be growing herbs indoors. 

First, and foremost, your pots need to allow for adequate drainage. Make sure the pots you pick have holes in the bottom, or make sure you put holes in the containers you choose. Without proper drainage, your herbs’ roots could become waterlogged, grow mold or be subject to root rot. (All things you want to avoid.)

Your pots also need to be the proper size for the herbs you are growing. Some herbs, such as basil, have very long roots and herbs such as mint and oregano spread widely. You need to make sure you plant them in pots where they have adequate room to grow. Without sufficient space, roots will become restricted and it will inhibit their growth.

The material your pots are made of make a difference, too. A ceramic pot will better hold water in, whereas clay pots will dry out faster. Choose you pot’s material based on the humidity level in your home. In a drier environment, you will want to pick ceramic pots, whereas in a more humid environment, you will want to opt for clay.


Potting mix does the trick 

For growing herbs indoors, you want to choose a potting mix over a potting soil, and you certainly don’t want to bring dirt in from outside. Potting mix is lighter than potting soil, contains an aerator, and is most conducive for growing herbs in pots indoors. Do not bring in dirt from outside. It is far too compact and will ultimately strangle your herbs’ roots. Plus, you don’t want to risk bringing bugs or parasites from your outside soil into your home. 

There are multiple different types of potting mixes, and each of them has a particular combination of mediums that are best suited for specific types of plants and whether you will be using it for planting indoors or outdoors. Some even contain compost or fertilizer. On the mix’s label, it will specify whether or not it’s suitable for herbs planted in indoor pots.

Also, potting mix will provide nutrients to your herbs, but you still want to make it a habit to fertilize your herbs once a month in the slower growth periods (winter) to help your herbs have strong, leafy growth. 

Another way, besides fertilizing, that will help make sure your herbs are receiving enough nutrients is to make sure you are removing debris, shoots that are failing to thrive, and browning leaves. This will reduce the amount of competition for nutrients.


When to water

The key to properly watering your indoor herbs is to allow your pots to dry a bit between soakings. When indoor herbs fail to thrive, it’s most often due to over watering and root rot. 

An easy way to tell if it’s time to water your herbs is to test the soil with your fingers. If the soil is dry for an inch or two below the top, it’s time to give them a drink. 
If you are worried that you may not be able to tell when it’s time or that you may overwater, systems like the Click & Grow Smart Garden take the guesswork out of watering. They have a water level indicator that lets you know exactly how much water is left in the self watering tank.


Final Thoughts

A change in season doesn’t have to determine whether or not you’re able to have access to fresh, homegrown herbs. Believe it or not, it’s actually fairly straightforward to grow herbs indoors in the winter. Simply, pick the proper sized pot, plant them in some potting mix, set them in a sunny spot, keep them nice and warm, and water them when it’s time.

Or, if you’re looking for it to be almost effortless, a self contained, self watering, countertop gardening kit is an easy way to grow herbs indoors.

Either option you choose, if you follow these tips, it won’t be long before you’re enjoying the taste of homegrown, fresh herbs in your favorite dishes.

How To Setup an Indoor Greenhouse For Your Apartment

I remember back when I was young, my mom would have a couple of potted plants by a window. She managed to grow a couple of simple plants, but any attempts at strawberry would usually turn up dead in a couple of weeks.

Her entire outlook on gardening changed when I got her a mini setup from Homedepot. We had tons of fun setting it up together. Not to mention how easy it was. The change in the plants was night and day! It was as if we moved closer to the equator. Our plants began thriving like never before.

As you know, plants can be quite delicate. They need a lot to survive. A greenhouse helps to hold in moisture without blocking out sunlight. This keeps the plants hydrated. Greenhouses also make it simple to set up lights as they sometimes come with a frame or structure to hang them from.

Setting up an indoor greenhouse in your apartment is a unique way to add some life to your apartment. And, hey, eating something you grew yourself is something to be proud of.

There are greenhouses for everyone. Some people might want to start out with leafy greens or you can start a seedling here and move it to a more appropriate place when the time is ready.

All in all, a well-placed greenhouse needs little maintenance and is a great addition to any home. 

So, what’s the most important thing when deciding on an indoor greenhouse setup?

Choosing What to Grow

Almost everything you go with in your setup will be determined by the plant you choose to grow.

Different plant types have different needs. For a mini indoor greenhouse setup, I’d recommend three main types. 

Herbs – I absolutely love growing these! They make your apartment smell and look nice. They thrive well in pretty much all situations. If you’re just starting out, I recommend basil, chives, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary or thyme. Also, impress your guests by cutting off a sprig and adding it as a garnish to a plate. Fancy.

Salad Greens – Now we’re getting serious! These are quite a sight to grow. Some, like lettuce, can grow big and beautiful, decorating your home with dashes of vibrant green. However, such growth requires abundant nutrients. Having grow lights is a must for healthy leafy greens. 

Fruit – Ah, fruit. Nature’s sweet treat. These are probably the most exciting to grow. Just seeing that first hint of fruit, watching it mature and turn its proper color. Growing fruit indoors, while not an easy task, is the most rewarding.

I recommend beginning with strawberries. Their fruiting season ranges from early summer to late autumn. They’re perfect for small indoor setups as they don’t require much space and begin fruiting relatively quickly. 

Fun fact, strawberries are the most delicious and healthy snack there is. Add chocolate to raise levels of deliciousness.

The Basics 

There are many different plants you can grow indoors. And each plant has its distinct needs. However, there are still some basics that all plants need to be able to thrive in an indoor greenhouse setup.

Soil and Fertilizer – Your plants, like any other living organism, need a constant supply of nutrients to survive. Most of the store-bought soil doesn’t come with all the necessary nutrients for the plant to grow to full size, so adding some fertilizer is recommended.

Trays – While not the most important decision, choosing the wrong tray could kill your plant before it even has a chance to grow fully. Make sure it has holes for extra water to drain out and that it’s deep enough for deep-root plants to flourish.

Lights – If you have a well-lit window in your house, then definitely try out the natural sunlight first. There’s nothing like the sun’s rays for plant growth. Furthermore, this will make the initial installation easier. If you don’t have the right space in your apartment, or you tried and aren’t seeing enough growth in your plants, then definitely go with artificial lighting. Also, with natural light, you won’t have to waste money on increased energy expenditure or buying bulbs. The sun is free, for now.

While it may be a bit more difficult to set up, once you have it good-to-go you can be confident that you will have fresh veggies year-round. With artificial lighting, you can adjust the intensity to give the plant the exact amount it needs for optimal survival or set a timer. Just remember to put your grow lights a good 6 inches away from your plants. Any less and the grow lights may burn the leaves. A little more and the pants begin to reach for the lights, leading to heavy-ended stems.

Thermometer – A greenhouse setup can be its own worst enemy. You see, the enclosed structure helps keep in heat and humidity. While this is great for the plants, too much of anything can be terrible, too. Be on the lookout for signs of overexposure to heat or moisture as these can easily kill a plant.

The good thing is, the solution is quite simple. Leave the entrance to the greenhouse open and let some of it escape. 

Maintenance

Taking care of an indoor greenhouse is quite simple. Just be sure to water the plants according to the care instructions labeled for each. You can find a guide online on plant health and be sure to put it to use every time you check on the plants. Here a couple of signs to keep an eye out for.

Things to Watch out For

Humidity – Be sure to grow plants with similar humidity needs in a single greenhouse. Too much humidity and the plants can begin to grow mold spores. Too little and the plant will begin to die of thirst.

Sunlight – While most growers are worried about their plants getting enough sunlight. Too much light can also be harmful to the plant. Keep an eye out for pale or yellowish-green leaves. They may be asking for some shade.

Air – it’s important to take your plant out of the greenhouse and put them next to an open window every couple of days. The wind helps the plants grow strong and healthier. 

Heat – Remember, the greenhouse is a closed system designed to let maximum sunlight in while keeping heat in and leaving wind out. That means it gets hot. Very hot. Keep a thermometer handy to make sure your plants are sitting at a comfortable growing temperature.

Always watch the highs and lows. Check the temperature late at night and during the middle of the day. These extremes are what usually cause the most harm to the plants.

Types of Setups

Building an indoor greenhouse is relatively simple. However, we’re here for gardening, not carpenting. Getting the right materials can be a hassle as it’s an extra step you have to research before getting started, and the setup can change drastically depending on the type of plant you’re growing.

That’s why I recommend buying an easy-to-setup greenhouse. Your dream garden awaits!

Black Glass Geometric Terrarium

While not a greenhouse, these little guys are my absolute favorites! They bring that garden green touch to the room while being small and elegant enough to fit on any desk.

One more thing, a terrarium is an amazing gift. Just leaving that out there.

Kendal Garden Mini Greenhouse

This setup is great for small apartments where you don’t have much space available to set up a full garden. It’s a neatly packed 2-tier greenhouse. Just the right amount for small plants and herbs. It’s also incredibly easy to put together, which is always a plus.

Pop up Greenhouse

The pop-up greenhouse is another great purchase for small apartments. Its triangular shape gives it that extra headroom ideal for growing fruiting tomato plants. Just be sure it gets enough light! 

This greenhouse is also great for growing many seedlings together. Its tall shape allows easy ventilation. Its wide base provides enough room to grow batches of seedlings together.

4 Tier Greenhouse

Now we’re talking business. This 4-tiered setup is perfect for expanding your indoor garden. If you already have a couple of potted plants lying around and are looking to get into more serious garden, this is a great addition to any home. 

It doesn’t have to be mounted to any wall so it can rest perfectly in any corner. 

The Pros of an Indoor Greenhouse Setup

No excuses! – They’re called mini indoor greenhouses for a reason. A simple terrarium can sit on your desk while a 4-tiered behemoth can fit in a lonesome corner of your home. If you’re worried about the plant not getting enough sunlight, with the addition of grow lights, even your basement or backroom can be a suitable growing area.

Ikea-level Setups – It only takes 1 whole day to have a setup ready for the rest of the year. In one morning you can gather up all the necessary supplies. Take an hour or two out of your afternoon to put everything together. There you have it. Check on your littles ones whenever you water them and you won’t need much more maintenance to keep your garden going strong.

Grow Your Salad – Have I mentioned how amazing it feels to eat something you grew yourself? Yeah? Well, I’ll say it again. There’s nothing like the first time you pick a strawberry out of your garden and eat it. I promise it’s going to be the juiciest strawberry you’ve ever tasted in your life!

Year-Round Growth – If you’ve decided to implement grow lights into your greenhouse then you’ve set yourself up a completely independent grow system. That is, your plants don’t depend on outside stimuli for growth.

The Cons of an Indoor Greenhouse Setup

Plant Restrictions – I know, it sucks. You can’t grow a whole mango tree in your apartment. There’s a wide selection of fruits and veggies you can grow, though.

Not A Work of Art – The clear plastic on some greenhouses can be unappealing to the eye.

Consistent Dedication – Some plants are delicate. If you have to travel for a couple of days, the plants might lose moisture and die of thirst. While not much particularly intensive, repeat care is necessary.

Final Thoughts…

Setting up a mini indoor greenhouse is a great idea for any gardener, beginner or experienced alike. It doubles as a salad bar and wonderful decoration for your home. They’re easy to set up and maintain. You have a wide range of plants to choose from. Herbs, fruits, or veggies.

I would definitely recommend a mini garden for any beginner looking to get into the basics of gardening. Plus, having a plant in the room makes everything more peaceful.

What is your favorite plant for indoor growth? Let us know in the comments section!

How to Plant An Indoor Cactus Garden: A Comprehensive Guide

Indoor gardens are becoming more and more popular in recent years. The best part of having an indoor garden is that you get the privilege of having beautiful greenery surrounding you during all seasons of the year, not just during spring and summer.

You’ve probably seen hundreds of posts about creating a beautiful garden inside your home or what the easiest plants are to maintain indoors. Good news is, there are plenty of plants that can thrive indoors with little sunlight and low to no maintenance. Succulents are one of these plants.

What are succulents?

You may have heard of succulents before. They are definitely a trend as of late because they are aesthetically pleasing and colorful and also super easy to take care of. What exactly are they though?

Succulents are a group of plants that store water in their leaves, stems or both. They are drought-resistant plants that have been able to adapt to dry, arid environments. Some of the most common places in nature where you could find these plants are deserts, cold mountains, and seaside cliffs.

Usually uninhabitable places make the perfect home for these vibrant, self-sustaining plants. The most common type of plant you probably know or have seen that is a succulent is cacti. However, not all succulents are cacti, only some varieties.

Because succulents are, for the most part, self-sufficient, they make the perfect candidate for indoor gardening. They can thrive in almost any environment, require little watering, and add some visual appeal to any room in your home.

Which succulents are the best for indoor gardens?

Just because succulents can thrive in many different types of environments, doesn’t mean that all of them are created completely equal. Therefore, there are many varieties that will do much better growing in an indoor garden than some.

Below are some of the best succulents to add to your home and they are also some of the easiest for beginners to take care of.

Jade Plant – This plant has long been a favorite of advanced and novice gardeners alike. It is so easy to grow! The jade plant is native to South Africa and grows thick stems and glossy, green leaves. The most common way that these plants are killed is by overwatering, so it is important that you let the soil dry completely in-between watering’s.

Burros Tail – Also known as donkey’s tail, this is a trailing succulent plant with long tendrils that drape well over hanging baskets or shelves. The overlapping stems can grow up to three feet long.

The plant is native to Mexico and does best when it has access to medium or high light during the daytime. Like the jade plant, this plant can suffer from over-watering, so be careful to let the soil soak up the water from before.

Aloe Vera – This is perhaps the most useful plant on this list. Aloe Vera’s sap found in the inner leaves can be used for medicinal purposes in various ways. The most well-known use for this plant is as a soothing rub for burns and wounds.

Almost everyone has utilized Aloe Vera at one point or another for that sunburn you got from hours spent on the beach. This plant should be placed in full sunlight and watered when the leaves feel dry and brittle.

Echeveria – Echeveria is native to deserts and thrives in dry arid climates. It also comes in a variety of colors so it’s the perfect plant for added visual interest. Like the other succulents on this list, it should only be watered when it has completely dried out. It also does well in full sunlight.

Panda Plant – A native plant to Madagascar, this succulent is normally grown for its fun, fuzzy leaves. The leaves themselves are thick and green but are covered with a fine silver layer of hairs that gives the plant a blue-gray appearance.

Each of the leaves have tips that are covered in brown or rust-colored hairs. Again, this plant requires little watering but does not need to be completely dried out before the next time you water it. Place it in a place where it will get medium sunlight throughout the day.

Crown of Thorns – For another pop of color, add this succulent to your indoor garden. It requires a good amount of sunlight to bloom but the flowers can bloom all year-round, producing pinkish-red flowers. It needs to be watered a bit more than others on this list, but the blooms are worth the extra time spent caring for it!

Source: Flower Times

Of course, the succulents that are great for indoors and are easy to care for are not limited to this list. There are plenty more varieties to choose from if none of these are your style!

Each of these plants is different enough from the last to add some visual interest to your green space. With that said, how does one create an indoor garden that is the most aesthetically pleasing it can be?

After all, that is why most of us create a space like this in our homes; so that we have something pretty to look at all year long.

How to Create A Beautiful Garden Indoors

Different Size and Shape Varieties

The first thing I would recommend to create some visual appeal for your garden would be to choose succulents that have different heights and shapes, different leaf types and textures to them. We all know that when you’re decorating your home, you choose accent pieces and furniture that is different shapes and sizes to add to the visuals.

It helps to draw the eye in and keeps things interesting. The same thing applies when you’re curating your garden. Choose one plant that is a bit taller, such as Aloe Vera, or choose plants that have long tendrils that drape over their growing container. Anything you can do to make sure you have plenty of variety in what each plant looks like, do it.

Colors

Similar to the idea of curating plants that are different shapes and sizes, try to choose a few succulents that are more than just green. There a few succulents out there that have beautiful, colorful blooms or have different colored leaves or stems. Adding pops of color to anything automatically makes it more beautiful to look at!

Pots and Terrariums

Because succulents are relatively unfussy and come in plenty of sizes and shapes, there are endless amounts of possibilities for what you choose to grow them in. Terra cotta pots, such as these, are a popular option for succulent enthusiasts. They are fairly breathable, so they’re great for places that won’t get a lot of air flow, i.e. indoors.

You can also plant succulents in a variety of other “containers” that are not the typical planter pots. Succulents can grow and look great in a refurbished glass wine bottle, a piece of driftwood you’ve hollowed out, or if they’re small enough, a little teacup.

You can also plant them in sleek ceramic pots or create a beautiful visual by placing your plants inside a glass terrarium. Just make sure you pick up some good soil or fake moss to fill any see through glass containers you may utilize.

Shelving or Hanging Vessels

The succulents and containers themselves are not the only ways in which you can help create a visually pleasing garden inside your home. The thing upon which you set your plants can also be a great way to spice up your green space.

There are numerous configurations you can arrange your plants in. You are not limited to a regular shelve to set them on. Hanging planters, such as this one or this one, are the perfect way to display your succulents in a way that makes them look like a piece of art. There are also many types of floating shelves that can be a great addition as well.

Play around with different ways to display your succulents and you’ll have a beautiful and artistic-looking garden in no time!

Conclusion

These are just a few options and ideas for curating your perfect indoor garden. The best part of planting succulents is that you can be as creative as you want and they don’t take up a ton of space.

They are also some of the lowest maintenance plants out there, so, if you’re like me and you don’t have the greenest thumb, they are the perfect way to dip your toes into the world of gardening.

Do some digging and you’ll find plenty of succulents that can be successfully grown indoors, year-round!

Hopefully, after reading this article, you are confident in your knowledge of the types of succulents you can grow inside and how to create a visually appealing green space that will be relatively low maintenance throughout the year.

I would love to hear your success stories with your own gardens in the comments below. Also, if you have any other suggestions for succulents to grow or ideas on how to spruce up your garden, leave them in the comments as well! Happy gardening!

How To Care For an Indoor Herb Garden (Using the Kratky Method)


Though the Kratky method indeed takes most of the work out of growing an herb garden, maintaining an herb garden still remains a lot of work. Herbs are exceptionally delicate, and it is important to fully understand what it takes to grow them and keep them healthy all year round.

The Kratky Method might be proven to be a passive and effective way to grow your herbs without stress, but it does not account for little inconsistencies like temperature rises and falls, nutrient levels and adequate sunlight. This passive method makes sure that watering is the least of your worries; as a gardener, it’s your job to worry about just about everything else.

What is the Kratky Method?

The Kratky method is a next-gen hydroponic technique of cultivating plants that allows you to give your plants most of the water they need once. Watering (or refilling the reservoir) is very minimal after that – if at all – especially when you compare it to standard “pot and soil” growing.

With this method, seedlings are suspended in a mason jar or some container filled with nutrient-rich water. The plants are usually placed in a net cup filled with a suitable growth medium, and as they grow, the roots reach down and consume the water in the jars or container. By the time the water has been completely absorbed, the plants are usually ready for harvest. 

This method is named after A.B. Kratky, the genius researcher who first publicized this fascinating method of hydroponics in 2009. Since then, it has been adapted for mass and small scale gardening and farming. This method especially thrives with leafy greens, some vegetables and herbs.

How to Take Care of your Kratky Indoor Herb Garden

1. Make sure you have a great indoor light source

Grow lights are great and all, but nothing quite compares to the real thing. If you have the chance and the resources, you should expose your indoor herb garden to sunshine from a southern window. Most people think east or western windows will provide consistent sunlight to growing plants, but it is actually southern facing windows. Since the sun travels in a slight southern arc across the sky, it’s only natural that a southern facing window receives the most sunlight throughout the day. 

If you don’t have access to a great southern window, you should consider getting a great LED grow light for your plant. Amazon has some great, surprisingly inexpensive options too – check these out (option 1, option 2, option 3). They produce more of the sun’s light spectrum, and they last considerably longer than fluorescent and other popular types of grow light. On the other hand, if you don’t want to go full on LED, a T5 lighting setup will do just fine. This T5 Grow Light System is popular among beginners and experts alike.

A great grow light complimenting a Krakty set placed close to a window should ensure that your plant gets sufficient sunlight all day round.

2. Get the temperature right

When you garden indoors, it is so much easier to control and maintain the temperature appropriate for your herb garden.

In case you didn’t know, most herbs prefer a warmer temperature and thrive more in the 65-70°F range. Basil, for example, will start to lose its color twenty-four hours after a sudden temperature drop.

Certain herbs go through a weird dormant period where they prefer cooler temperatures, but that doesn’t usually last too long. In most cases, a warm 70 degrees plus should do for most herbs.

The old saying, “too much of anything is bad,” holds true when cultivating something as delicate as herbs. When the leaves of herbs are pressed against a window for too long, they eventually burn and wither. This could affect the overall quality and health of the herb, so this is something you should watch out for when you are setting them up against a window.

3. Choose the right amount of water when utilizing the Kratky method

The Kratky method looks and sounds incredibly simple, but there is a lot of chemistry and detail that typically goes unmentioned when most people recommend it. There are specific nutrients (I recommend Fox Farm Grow Big Solution) that need to be added in the right amount to the right quantity of water. Herbs, in general, consume moderate amounts of water and should readily mature in a small jar filled with water. 

The words ‘jar’ and ‘water’ are very ambiguous, and unless the quantities are specified, it can be challenging to know what sizes and quantities are just right. What we recommend is using a 1 qt wide-mouth mason jar filled with water. These 3″ net cups fit perfectly! The amount of water needed by different herbs might differ, but it should be uniform for most herbs. We do recommend that you follow the instructions of whatever nutrient solution you decide to go with!

You should also make sure the pH level of your water is appropriate. We recommend buying spring water with a pH of about 6, just be safe. You can use General Hydroponics pH Up and Down kits to help regulate the pH of your water before you mix in the minerals you intend to use. And don’t forget your handy dandy PH tester – I’ve tried a few and this one is my fave!

4. Get the right nutrients

Mixing in the right amount of nutrients is a mandatory part of setting up and taking care of your hydroponics farm. Accidents could occur, and you might have to mix nutrient water at a moment’s notice, so it’s important to understand the order and the appropriate quantities before you start mixing. Again, follow the directions of whichever nutrient solution you decide to go with. I recommend Fox Farm Grow Big Solution!

Does this sound really complicated?

If this seems too complicated or tasking, you should consider getting a complete AeroGarden set or a Click and Grow set. They come ready-made with a built LED light, a container for the water, ready to mix nutrients, and a seed input system. They are perfect for anyone who wants a genuinely passive indoor garden.

Conclusion

Indoor gardening, in some ways, is just as complicated as outdoor gardening. It can be just as challenging, but this article aims to simplify the process and teach you how to maintain a healthy garden all year round.

Do It Right! Growing Microgreens Indoors With LED Lights

Have you ever been to a trendy restaurant or had an upscale dining experience and when you receive your meal, there are mysterious-looking greens garnishing your food? Greens that resemble clovers or some form of unknown sprouts?

Those, my friend, are known as microgreens and they are everywhere these days. They are beautiful to look at, add some pizzazz to any dish and they are packed with nutrients!  But, what exactly are they?

What are microgreens?

“Microgreens” is simply a marketing term used to refer to small, edible greens that are grown from the seeds of various vegetables and herbs.

They fall somewhere in the middle of baby greens and sprouts in terms of size and possess a vibrant flavor that makes them perfect for garnishing anything from salads to soups to a piece of perfectly cooked fish.

Although this variety of greens seems relatively new and trendy as of late, they have been used by chefs since the 1980s, starting in San Francisco. At one point, only arugula, basil, cilantro, kale and beets existed as an option for microgreens.

However, now, that number has grown to over 25 different varieties. They are not only aesthetically pleasing to look at on a plate but they also pack a punch when it comes to nutritional value.

What are the nutritional benefits of microgreens?

Microgreens are small in size but provide a number of important nutrients. Studies have found that these little seedlings of vegetables and herbs are loaded with vitamins such as vitamin C, E and K, lutein, and beta-carotene.

One study from the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service found that when you compare equal weights of microgreens to the mature leaves from the same plant, the tiny greens contained around five times more nutrients as a whole. That’s a lot of bang for your buck!

Of course, the nutritional value of the greens varies across the different types of plants and vegetables and cannot act as a complete replacement for mature vegetables.

However, they can be a great component to add to your diet to cover any gaps you may be missing with traditional herbs and vegetables.

Microgreens are not without faults. They can be incredibly pricey and can also be hard to find in your local grocery stores. Luckily, next to herbs, they are some of the easiest plants to grow at home and can be grown indoors with a little help from LED lighting.

What are the benefits of growing microgreens with LED lights?

As stated before, microgreens can be grown indoors fairly easily by using an artificial grow lamp, such as LED lights. They require soil and a lot of light to grow but otherwise are very low maintenance and will yield produce all year long. There are plenty more benefits to growing your greens this way.

Using a growing lamp, such as this option, is a great idea, especially for beginners as you have much more control over the growth process and how much light your little sprouted plants are receiving.

Many times, the grow lamps will have a timer option that you can set so you can ensure that the plants are receiving the same amount of light per day. Much easier than setting them near a window where you have no control over the sun’s placement or if it will be a cloudy day or not!

By using an LED grow light, many people are able to grow fresh produce, like microgreens, in an environment that is not ideal for plants to thrive, think dark basements, low-lit apartments, you name it!

LED grow lights, like this option from Amazon, are also beneficial as they are light, consume a lot less electricity, produce very little heat, and only give plants the blue and red ends of the spectrum which is what plants absorb.

Other light sources also emit green and yellow light which plants end up reflecting away, which is inefficient and a waste of energy. Using an LED lamp speeds up the growing process and produces the healthiest, most abundant plants possible without natural sunlight.

Microgreens need soil to grow and because of this require a box or container to grow them in. Lucky for the indoor gardener, there are varieties of LED growing lamps that are all in one such as this one or this one found on Amazon.

The best part of growing with these types of LED grow lights is that they are small and can be placed on any countertop or shelf and will look great too!

So, what is the process to get your very own microgreen garden started?

The process is relatively simple to get started and the most work you’ll have to do is getting your seedlings ready to be placed under your lamps!

  1. The first step in the process is to soak your seeds in water overnight and then let them air out in the same bowl you used to soak them in.
  2. After those steps are complete, you should begin to see little sprouts coming out of your seedlings. This is your indication that it is time to transfer them to your growing medium, i.e. the soil.
  3. The seeds will then need to be germinated for some time. This can be done in soil in any plastic container or box that comes with your grow light. During this time, the seeds do not need light.
  4. After they have properly germinated, this is where your LED grow lamp comes in! The sprouted seedlings require about 4 to 8 hours of sunlight per day.
  5. Finally, it will be time to harvest your microgreens! The timing of this will depend on what microgreens you are growing.

Using LED lamps during the growing process is by far the lowest maintenance option for growing your microgreens indoors.

Conclusion

As outlined in this article, you can see that not only are microgreens great for garnishing foods and packed with valuable nutrients, but they are super easy to grow inside with the help of an LED grow lamp. It’s a sustainable, simple, and convenient way to have fresh greens at your fingertips, year-round.

Do you have experience with LED grow lamps and microgreens? Leave your comments below!

Fun With Plants! Indoor Classroom Garden Ideas

Creating a classroom garden, and introducing plant life and horticulture to children, is an incredible educational opportunity and is a great way to captivate children with hands-on learning. Not only is it an engaging way to teach children about plant life cycles, botany, and ecosystems, but gardening is a skill that can serve them for the rest of their lives! 

Seed companies and local garden centers are often willing to donate seeds to schools for your students’ education. Plus, research shows that working in school gardens can: increase science achievement scores, increase knowledge of nutrition, increase their willingness to eat fresh produce, improve social skills and develop a sense of responsibility, community, empathy and teamwork.

So, we have assembled a list of indoor classroom garden ideas for teachers looking to start an indoor garden with their students. 


1. Mini Greenhouse

A mini greenhouse is a great, hands-on way for kids to learn about the greenhouse effect and the life cycle of plants. Kids can start seeds, and watch them sprout, have a conducive environment to clone existing plants, learn about creating microclimates and help to create an ideal atmosphere for plant growth. 

The Educational Insights GreenThumb Classroom Greenhouse is a great option for bringing a mini greenhouse into your classroom.

It is a two-tiered mini greenhouse which comes complete with two sturdy wire shelves that can be assembled in minutes. The snug vinyl cover will protect your classroom plants and will allow you to create the microclimate your plants love, yet the cover can easily be tied back for convenient access to the trays, seedlings, and pots within. 

This mini indoor classroom greenhouse can help you grow houseplants, herbs, flowers, vegetables and seedlings. If you create the proper microclimate, you can grow almost anything in an indoor greenhouse. But, seed starting is one of the greatest strengths of a greenhouse. Greenhouses trap the heat from the sun, or lamps, and create a humid environment that many seedlings thrive in. Beans are one of the most popular ways to teach the plant life cycle, because they are easy to start, and because you can really see their growth and progress at every step in their lifecycle. 

Two great ways to keep kids engaged with greenhouses is to create a watering schedule that allows your students to take turns with the responsibility of watering the plants and using clear containers that allow them to see the roots and seedlings as they grow. Kits like the Beetle & Bee See Thru Garden View is great for that.

Be mindful of when you plan to sprout seedlings, as weekends and holiday breaks will make frequent watering a challenge. Tiny seedlings dry out quickly, and may not survive long intervals between waterings. Established plants that are well-watered and moved out of direct sunlight can generally handle weekends and shorter vacations without any issues.

Also, be sure to monitor temperatures closely, since heat and high levels of humidity can build rapidly in these small structures. Humidity is great for many plants, but can sometimes lead to fungal disease and root rot.


2. Container Garden

Another captivating, engaging way to teach children about germination, cultivation and sustainability is to create a container garden. A container garden is the practice of growing plants in containers as opposed to the ground. You can use containers to grow with hydroponics, aquaponics, or in soil. 

Almost any vegetable, flower, herb, shrub, or small tree can grow successfully in a container as long as the containers are properly sized for the plants you’re growing. But the plants that are most likely to grow successfully in containers stay relatively compact. For example, bush varieties of pumpkin and squash (as opposed to the varieties that produce large, rambling vines) or tomato varieties labeled “dwarf,” “compact,” “bush,” or “determinate” will adapt most easily to containers. 

When choosing plants to sprout in containers, you will need to consider the size and shape of the plant’s root system and how quickly they grow. Plants with roots that have filled up every square inch of the available space won’t grow well. 

Herbs, vegetables, blueberries, marigolds, zinnias, petunias, strawflowers and dwarf fruit trees are all well known to grow well in containers.

Container gardens aren’t able to hold moisture as well as traditional gardens, and they can be prone to drying out quickly. You’ll need to check on your plants daily and water them if needed.

Some of the advantages of planting in containers is that they are fitting for a classroom with little space, the plants are mobile, and you have better control over sunlight, moisture and temperature. You can place them on the ground, on a shelf, or on a windowsill, depending on the sizes of the containers you choose. 

Container gardens can create a sense of ownership among your students, as they will be taking personal responsibility for the plants they sprout within the containers they bring into your classroom to use. An exciting way to keep kids engaged with a container garden is for them to decorate their containers, and for them to be in charge of the plants they sprout within “their” container.

You can easily recycle things found within your school as a plant container. A few excellent examples are: paper towel rolls, mason jars (we have an article on using mason jars, by the way!), milk cartons, yogurt cups, egg cartons, soda bottle bottoms, and toilet paper rolls. As long as you punch drainage holes in the bottom of the containers so that water doesn’t pool around roots and they don’t become waterlogged, you are good to go.


3. Tower Garden

A tower garden is a vertical, soil-free way to grow plants. They take up minimal space, and require less resources than a traditional garden. Instead of soil, plants get their nutrients by being sprayed with a mist of water and a nutrient solution. Because it’s vertical, the kids in your class will easily be able to see everything that’s growing, and because it requires no soil, you can opt to grow plants, yet keep dirt out of your classroom.

Tower Gardens can grow hundreds of different plants. Fruits, vegetables, spices, or flowers can flourish in a tower garden. The only true exceptions are root crops (such as carrots and potatoes), vines, bushes and trees.

The 5 Tier Stackable Planter Vertical Garden is an awesome option for bringing a tower garden into your classroom. The pots can be used as five separate plant pots or they can be stacked to build a tower. The tower can even be hung. Plus, the pots come with built-in drainage grids to help deter water pooling and root rot. 

Plants grown in tower gardens have been shown to grow much more rapidly than plants grown in traditional soil. This is a great way to keep kids engaged with and interested in gardening, as they won’t have to wait as long to see the results of their handiwork.


4. All-In-One Hydroponics Kit

As mentioned earlier, hydroponics is water based method of growing plants that doesn’t require soil. Aeroponics is a hydroponics method where plant roots are suspended in the air and are misted with a nutrient solution. 

Plants grow bigger and faster because they do not work as hard to obtain nutrients. Instead of focusing on expanding their root system, the plants grow much larger.

The Aerogarden Harvest 360 is an excellent entry point to aeroponics, as the system requires minimal setup, and comes with the supplies (seeds and nutrient solution) to get you started. With the Aerogarden Harvest 360, you simply insert seed pods into the garden and you can grow up to 6 plants at a time. A control panel tells you when to add water, reminds you when to add plant food, and automatically turns the included LED grow lights on and off. This kit comes standard with seeds for genovese basil, curly parsley, dill, thyme, thai basil and mint, but you can also grow other herbs, bell peppers, hot peppers, cherry tomatoes, salad greens, kale, lavender, petunias, celosias and zinnias. You can use the AeroGarden to grow just about anything, at any time of the year. 

Another similar option is the Click & Grow Smart Garden 3 Indoor Gardening Kit.

This system is ideal for indoor use, and is extremely easy to use. It is self-watering, lightweight, and easily portable. Just drop the plant cartridges right into the container, refill the water reservoir, plug the device in, and you are good to go! The LED technology makes the garden energy efficient and it’s perfect for basil, thyme, sage, parsley, cilantro, cherry tomatoes, rosemary, peppers, flowers. and even strawberries.

Your students will love choosing what to grow, inserting the seed pods or cartridges, refilling the water reservoirs, watching the plants grow and the sampling the herbs, fruits and veggies they grow.


5. Aquaponics Ecosystem Kit

Aquaponics refers to any system that combines conventional aquaculture with hydroponics in a symbiotic environment. It mimics a natural ecosystem by using the waste by-product from fish that is then converted into a perfect fertilizer for the plants, which clean the water for the fish. It utilizes the waste of the fish to benefit the plants. 

An Aquaponic ecosystem kit is a mini aquaponics system that you can place on a counter, or tabletop. They’re perfect for a classroom, as they don’t take up much space and are a great way to teach symbiosis, and a sustainable & efficient way to grow food. Just feed your betta fish, and watch the plants on top start to grow within days.

A great option is the Back to Roots Water Garden. It is a scaled-down aquaponics system, mini-ecosystem, and self-cleaning fish tank that grows organic microgreens on top. You’ll be growing in no time, and harvesting your organic microgreens after only 10 days. Everything you need to get started raising sprouts and herbs comes included in this kit. It even comes including your fish coupon and a free downloadable online curriculum for kids about the science behind aquaponics. 

Your class is sure to love experiencing the magic of growing microgreens while raising a beta fish. Not only do they get to learn about growing plants, but also about animal science, symbiosis, and how the Beta is able to coexist with the plants. 


Final Thoughts

Any of these options would be an awesome asset to your classroom. All of them take up minimal space, are able to be used indoors, and are conducive for kids to contribute and learn. Whether teaching about seed sprouting, plant lifecycles, the greenhouse effect, sustainability, symbiosis, animal science, or another related subject, any of these gardens would be a great way to engage your class with hands-on learning.

Hydroponics: Using Mason Jars For Your Indoor Garden

Hydroponics has been having its time in the spotlight in terms of gardening methods for the last few years. It seems that everyone who grows plants, fruits or vegetables has either utilized the method or is interested in trying it out.

So, you may be asking yourself, what exactly does the term “hydroponics” mean and what is the process?

Simply put, hydroponics is the process of growing plants without the use of soil. It utilizes only water, nutrients and a medium on which to grow the plants. The word itself means exactly what the process is. “Hydro” means water and “ponics” comes from the root word “ponos,” which means labor.

Hydroponics have been utilized as a growing technique for centuries and has continued to be a great option for farmers and novice gardeners alike!

But, what do you do if you don’t have space for a huge hydroponic system in your home? Use mason jars! People have been using mason jars as a space-saving, hydroponic alternative for years. It’s a fairly easy process to get started.

In this article, I will be highlighting how to grow your garden in mason jars using the hydroponic method and the benefits as well as what veggies (and fruits) are the best for indoor gardens!

Hydroponics In Mason Jars

Mason jars are an inexpensive alternative to the pricier hydroponic systems on the market. Plus, they take up significantly less space and therefor can be placed almost anywhere that is convenient for you.

It’s a simple process to get started and can be done in a few easy steps. 

The first thing you’ll need to do is to gather all of your materials you’ll need to successfully create your garden.

You’ll need a few things such as a mason jar, three-inch net pots, rockwool cubes, hydroponic nutrients, tin foil, hydroton pebbles, and seeds for whichever produce you wish to grow.

Next, you’ll need to begin the germination process for your seedlings. They will need to germinate for about two weeks before they able to be planted in your mason jars. This is where your rockwool cubes will come in.

You must soak the cubes in water then place them in a container filled halfway with more water. Then you can plant two seeds in each cube and let them sit in a sunny window. Make sure to water them daily!

After the germination process is complete, the roots of the plant should be sprouting out of the bottom of the cubes, at which point you can transfer them to the mason jar along with the hydroponic nutrients, after washing the mason jars thoroughly.

Then you will place the three-inch net pot in the jar and screw the metal top on to secure the net in place. Fill the jar about ¼ of the way up with water and mix it with the nutrients.

Add your sprouting seedling and pull the roots through the net so that they are dangling in the water. At this point you will add the hydroton pebbles, fill the net cup up without covering the growth of the plant and wrap tin foil around the jar, being sure that no light can penetrate through.

After all of the previous steps are complete, you can place that baby in a sunny spot, water it about once a week and make sure the water levels remain the same to submerge the roots! That’s it. Simple, right?

The last step is reaping the benefits of your mason jar hydroponic system. Harvesting the produce is relatively easy.

There are plenty of online resources to help you get your own mason jar hydroponic system started! Check here for our article on growing an indoor herb garden using a system called the Kratky method. We also have a guide on what the Kratky method is if you want to know the basics., that many people use for their first time trying to grow plants this way.   

So, what fruits and vegetables can be grown this way?

Leafy vegetables and herbs are perhaps the easiest and most popular options when it comes to indoor hydroponic gardens. That does not mean that you are limited to lettuce and spinach, however. In fact, there are more veggies and fruits than one would expect that can be grown indoors and without the use of soil.

Lettuce: This is one of the easiest vegetables that can be grown indoors. There are plenty of varieties and they can be harvested continuously as the plant will continue to grow even after you cut some of the leaves off. All you need is a nice sunny window to set them near.  

Green onions: Also known as scallions, this vegetable is small enough to be grown indoors. You can start these from seedlings or pick up a bunch from your local grocery store and stick the roots in your hydroponic mason jar.

Tomatoes: Tomatoes are another great option that can be harvested year-round with the hydroponic technique. They are a vine-growing plant, so they require little space, as they grow up instead of out!

Blueberries: This fruit requires a very specific soil condition to grow so they are much easier to handle if they are grown hydroponically. You can easily control the PH and nutrient levels in your mason jar garden.

Strawberries: Strawberries love wet conditions which makes them an ideal candidate to be grown in a hydroponic garden. These are great to have year-round!

Basil: Herbs are one of the most popular options for indoor gardens because they require the least maintenance and usually produce the best crops. Basil is great to have on hand for all of the meals you prepare throughout the year or to jazz up a cocktail!

Of course, these are not the only fruits and vegetables that can be grown indoors using mason jars. There are numerous options and you can tailor your garden to your liking! The best part of growing these particular vegetables and fruit this way is that they can all be done year round. Seasons are not an issue!

What are the benefits of using hydroponics?

Growing your garden indoors using mason jars and doing it hydroponically has plenty of benefits other than saving you space!

One of the benefits of hydroponics is that you can grow plants and fresh produce in places that are non-arable and that have little to no soil, as mentioned before. This has been proven successful in plenty of instances, including the space program.  

Another benefit, and perhaps the biggest, is that by using hydroponics to grow plants, it conserves a great deal of water.

When you grow plants in soil, you must know exactly how much water to give to each specific plant. Too much or too little can greatly affect the outcome of your growing process. Hydroponics can help rectify this issue in a few different ways.

  1. It has oxygenated nutrient reserves: Oxygen levels are much easier to control, ensuring that your plants get the right amount consistently.
  2. Total control during the growing process: Perhaps the biggest benefit of the process is that you have complete control over the environment in which your plants are growing. Bugs and other pests have a harder time accessing your plants and any soil related issues are off the table.
  3. Saves water: The process uses way less water than traditional growing techniques. Water can be recirculated for additional uses.

As you can see, the benefits of hydroponics are immense. However, many of us do not have large outdoor or indoor spaces where we can easily grow produce and plants this way. That’s where the use of mason jars come in!

Conclusion

As highlighted in this article, there are plenty of ways you can utilize mason jars for your indoor, hydroponic garden. By following the simple steps that I have laid out for you previously, you can have your very own garden set up in no time!

The best part is that you don’t have to be limited to produce that’s only available and fresh at certain times of the year. You can have fresh, easily accessible fruits and vegetables year-round that you grow yourself.

This is a great way to hone your gardening skills without all the fuss of traditional gardening methods. No soil equals no mess and it can be a money saver as well since you’ll be buying less from your local grocery store!

It’s also a great way to support the environment by sustainably growing your own food and reusing water via the hydroponic method. Not to mention that you can use the mason jars over and over again as a growing medium as they can be washed. Another great benefit for our environment!

Have you tried a hydroponic garden? Have you had experience using mason jars as a growing medium? I would love to hear your thoughts or stories on your own experiences with growing vegetables and fruits inside your home!

I would also enjoy seeing what other fruits and vegetables you have had success with! Leave your comments down below and happy gardening!

   

The Kratky Method – The Pros, The Cons, and The Lettuce

Aloha

Facebook is a crazy place!

Recently a good friend of mine decided to try his hand at gardening and reached out to me on Facebook to ask me for advice. While I’m glad he’s joining our side, it surprised me. A couple of years ago he was the typical beer-toting man’s man who would scoff at my gardenias. But he has since changed his tune!

He proudly claims he saw a video of a girl making a pizza from scratch with home-made ingredients and is going to do the same. I applaud his ambition. I guess it’s a change. It’s a nice change, actually!

I sat down with him and we began talking. We quickly began talking about hydroponics. I began raving on about lettuce and the Kratky method.

So, what is The Kratky Method?

The Kratky method is the simplest and easiest way to grow more leafy greens than you and an army of rabbits can handle. It’s simple to set up. It’ll teach you the basics. You can even make your builds out of things lying around the house. Best of all, after you have it set up, you won’t have to touch it again until you’re ready to harvest.

In other words, it’s the best way to get started in hydroponics. And a certain someone understood that very well.

The Man Behind The Lettuce: B.A. Kratky


The year is 1993. The sun is shining, the air is dry, the lettuce is growing, and the waves are roaring. At the University of Hawaii, a young researcher named B.A. Kratky makes a great discovery. It turns out, you don’t need an air pump to make a hydroponic system work. 

In fact, you don’t even need to check on it.

The roots do all the work here. In a typical hydroponic system, there needs to be a source of oxygen for the plant to stay healthy as it grows. This is usually an air pump. What Kratky found out was that if you suspend the roots in the right mineral solution and leave it alone, the air pump was not necessary.

It goes like this, as the plant consumes the water and the water levels begin to decrease. A pocket of air begins to form between the surface of the water and the nest of the plant. The roots will begin to extract oxygen from the pocket of air while the tips submerged in the water send the nutrients up to the plant. This is the key idea. This is what separates Kratky from the Deep Water Culture (DWC) method. 

Cool, right?

So cool he went on to secure 2 patents.

Did I mention it also yielded 24% more growth on his crops?

Let’s get a little more in-depth on that…

What’s Happening Inside?

It all starts with a baby seedling. Maybe about 2-3 weeks old. You put him in a net pot or any container with enough space for the roots to grow out. You fill the container with water until the net pot is submerged by around 2 inches of water. Add the appropriate nutrient solutions to the water for each plant and close the system.

You have to cover the container so light doesn’t get in, otherwise, algae will begin to grow on the roots. While they don’t directly affect the roots themselves, they do compete for the nutrients and oxygen in the system and can hinder plant growth. Thus, a sheet of aluminum is usually used to surround the container. You can also spray paint the container black, wrap it in newspaper, etc. Anything that blocks the light from your reservoir.

And thus, the plant begins to grow. The Kratky method is probably the simplest out there, although it does have its ups and downs like any other.

The Pros

Just as Effective – Test after test has been conducted on the efficacy of different hydroponic builds and Kratky is always on top in crop yield.

Dead Simple to Maintain – It’s as simple as it gets. Make sure you get the nutrient solution right and you’re good to go. You might want to test the waters around the second week to make sure everything is fine but that’s just good fortune.

Easy and Cheap to Set Up – Due to the flexible nature of the idea, it can be made with materials lying around the house. Just make sure the seedling has lots of room for the roots to grow. Get a dark material so light doesn’t seep through. No algae allowed!

Excellent Gifts – There’s something incredibly personal about gifting a plant. The hands-off nature makes it perfect for busy people.

Good for Beginners – The Kratky method will have you go through the essentials of a good hydroponic build.

Good for The Kids – Since it’s so simple, you can build it for your kids or a classroom in a single day and let the kids watch the plant grow! They will grow especially fond of it knowing they helped put it together.

Great for hobbyists with little time – Let’s face it. Gardening can be a time-consuming task. Electronic failure or a missed watering day could mean the end of your little plant. And when work is always getting in the way, the fruits of labor seem near unattainable. The Kratky Method is great as it doesn’t need to be checked often.

Make Some Extra Cash – Once you have a setup going, you can expand and sell your crops to local restaurants and farmers’ markets. Anything home-grown (and especially organic) will usually fetch a premium.

YOU GET TO SEE ROOTS IN THE AIR – Probably one of my favorite things about The Kratky Method affords you the ability to actually see the beautiful root system that usually lies hidden in the dirt.

Source: Uponics

The Cons

Not That Great for Larger Plants – While the system is great due to how low maintenance it is, bigger plants need much bigger containers.

Needs to Be Surrounded by Aluminum Foil (or some other covering) – I know, I just got done talking about the beautiful root system. The issue at play here is that the roots’ exposure to light promotes the growth of algae which can “hog” the nutrients from your liquid plant food. You want all of that goodness to promote your plant’s growth – not the algae.

Make Sure That Lid Is On Tight – You fought long and hard to make sure the water inside the container is just perfect for your new crop. It’d be a shame if it were to rain and all that contaminated water got inside your container, now wouldn’t it? Or if an insect managed to crawl inside and wreaked your delicate root system.

You got one shot to do it right – So get it right – If you don’t get the pH right the first time and don’t check on the system afterward, you could be dooming your plant from the beginning. 

Individual testing is required, thus large-scale production can get tiresome. Testing the water for each container becomes inefficient at larger scales. While some farmers have managed to make larger systems profitable, most tend to switch to electric systems for more control.

In Conclusion

All in all, The Kratky method will always be the first thing I recommend to new people interested in gardening. It’s very simple but can feel incredibly rewarding for someone just starting off. It’s one of my favorites and it’s a nice little gift when I have a 4-liter bottle laying around. If you like this, you’re gonna have a blast with everything else there is to know.

House Plants That Grow In Water: The Ultimate Guide

Growing indoor plants is very enticing, BUT it can be quite discouraging in equal measure. As a green thumb myself, I constantly feel the urge to plant some in my home but then get discouraged by a plethora of reasons not to. They range from “not enough space” to “not enough time to tend them,” and many more.

That’s when I decided to opt for water-based planting. It is not only an alternative, but it can also be the better option in some cases (take mine as an example), as it is much easier to care for. Some plants naturally grow in water without the use of a full-scale (and expensive) hydroponic system.

These plants are easily grown in bottles, glass jars, and other suitable containers. Read on if you’re interested in learning more about plants that grow in water only.

So, Which House Plants Can Actually Grow In Water Alone?

The following is a list of plants that you can effortlessly grow in your home with water. The list includes various types of plants, such as decorative plants, herbs, and vegetables.

English Ivy

This is a beautiful flowering plant that can grow in the absence of soil. To plant this, get a slim neck container ready, and pour water into the container. Cut at least a 6″ long section from an existing plant and transfer it over to that container.

Before cutting, make sure you properly wet the plant the day before for the best result. While cutting, be careful not to affect the node. And remember to change the water if you start to notice an unpleasant smell or change in color.

Purple Queen

The Purple Queen is another flowering plant that can add that extra touch of decoration to your home. It is one of the easiest to grow as it grows faster than lots of other plants. It doesn’t require you to wait forever before it starts rooting and blooming.

The variety can be planted easily by cutting from existing plants. Depending on the size and shape of your container, you can simply cut stems and put them in the water holding container. However, stems should each be placed in smaller containers at the initial stage.

While cutting, cut right over the last leaf, and cut off leaves from the lower part of the stem, leaving only the nodes. Carefully place it into a cup-sized container, and wait for the emergence of roots, leaves, and branches. This should not take more than two days to happen.

After this, you can transfer the stems into the original container and voila! You have your beautiful Purple Queen to complement your home.

Quick Tip: Make sure to have enough water in the container, or just enough to keep the nodes immersed.

Lucky Bamboo Plant

Yeah, ‘Lucky’ Bamboo plant! It’s called ‘lucky’ because it is believed by many (especially in China, and some parts of Europe) to bring luck. Who doesn’t want a symbol of good luck in their home? This plant does not require a large or deep container; it can actually grow in a pretty shallow container. As long as it contains enough water to help the plant grow properly, it should be just fine! Cut stalks and put them in a water-filled vase. Water should be changed weekly.

The Pothos Plant (Devil’s Ivy)

This plant has a very funny nickname, but it can be a very great houseplant that can be grown without soil (in water). The Devil’s Ivy can spread pretty quickly, but with regular care and maintenance, your home should be fine. Like other aforementioned water-based houseplants, the Pothos plant can be cultivated by getting grafts from an existing plant. This plant, however, might need some additional application of essential nutrients such as phosphorus and nitrogen. This can be achieved with the help of liquid fertilizers. Grafts are usually around three, each bearing at least three nodes.

The Chinese Evergreen

This plant also belongs to the group of decorative houseplants. It is said to be a bit tougher to grow.

Planting the Chinese evergreen requires you to get a six-inch graft. These grafts should have at least a leaf already for a better success rate. Cut and place in enough water to keep the bottoms immersed. Also, while cutting, be sure to cut a little below the nodes to make sure that you got them.

Pro Tip: Rainwater is allegedly the most appropriate to use in growing the Chinese evergreen.

Peace Lily

This houseplant is one that you should add to your list of “plants that I can grow in water.” To plant the Peace Lily, pull the existing plant out of the vase, scrape the roots clean and rinse properly with lightly warm water so you don’t suddenly alter the normal temperature of the plant. Clean till the roots until they are completely devoid of dirt. Afterward, place into a container filled with water enough to keep the roots submerged. Constant checking is required, as the roots can become jam-packed.

The Spider Plant

They are generally easier to grow in soil, but they also grow in water. Their survival in water requires greater effort and might need a little application of liquid fertilizers to grow properly. This plant has plantlets that can be dropped into water-bearing containers. These plantlets then start rooting, with all other growth features coming after.

The Coleus Plant

This plant has two types of stems. The first having nodes and the apical, which has buds (more or less secondary). The node-carrying stem, as well as the secondary, can be used to plant the Coleus plant, which leaves two effective options. Only the nodes (and not the leaves) are required to be in the water. Therefore, the leaves at the lower part of the stem should be cut off.

Philodendron Plant

This plant is particularly great at flourishing, hence, making it pretty easy to grow. Growing this plant requires you to get six-inch-long grafts from an already existing plant. Make sure to cut a little below the nodes. Clear the leaves from the lower part so that there are not more than three leaves on the entire stem, then place it into a container. Also, make sure that the nodes are submerged in water.

There are still a few more plants that can be grown in water but the above mentioned are the most commonly and easily be grown types. There are also a few herbs that can be grown using this method such as lavender, basil, mint, lemon balm, chives, to mention a few.

Advantages of Growing Plants in Water

  • You can avoid soil altogether! This method is suitable for you if you are not comfortable – or just don’t want to – deal with the mess that comes with dirt.
  • Prevents pest infestation, as bugs and certain bacteria love the warmth and moisture that comes with soil.
  • Your water-based garden can occupy a lot less space

General Tips on How to Grow Plants in Water

The general process includes;

  • Cutting stems off the desired plant
  • Clear the lower part of the stem of leaves; about three leaves should be left at the upper part.
  • Fill glass jar or vase with water
  • Place stems in the jar (or any other container you choose).

After doing this, all you need do is to wait for the emergence of roots, followed by the rest of the growing process.

Precautions to Take When Planting in Water

Certain details should never be ignored when you embark on your water-based planting journey. They are:

  • Be careful when cutting, so the nodes don’t get destroyed. These nodes are very important and essential for the growth of the leaves.
  • The water level in the jar/container should ALWAYS be enough to have the nodes underwater.
  • Change the water regularly. This can be done every week, or if/when the water begins to ooze foul, unpleasant smell, and change color.
  • Add pebbles, gravels, beads, etc. into the bottom of the container. These provide support for the roots of the plants. Most plants need this, so to be safe, I recommend doing this for every container you fill.
  • For most plants, a slim neck jar is preferred to act as support for the stems.
  • It is also advisable to make use of darker but clear containers. This is required to prevent the formation of algae, which would not only disrupt the beauty of your plant but also compete with it for nutrients. The idea is to reduce the penetration of sunlight, which aids their formation and growth of algae.

Finishing Up…

In conclusion, the long term survival of the plant almost wholly depends on the beginning of the planting. First tries at times can be very frustrating if you don’t get it right the first time, but don’t get discouraged. A few more tries and gradual accumulation of experience will eventually make you an expert.