Indoor Gardening, 101

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If you’re like me, you can’t wait to get outside and get the garden growin’! Unfortunately, it will be a few more weeks in my area before we can really get gardening outside. That’s okay – we can garden indoors!

After weeks of mild weather, this was our "official first-day" of spring!

After weeks of mild weather, this was our “official first-day” of spring!

"What happened, Mom? Where's the warm weather?"

“What happened, Mom? Where’s the warm weather?”

This was my favorite exhibit at the Connecticut Flower and Garden show this year. I want a table like that!

This was my favorite exhibit at the Connecticut Flower and Garden show this year. I want a table like that!

I’m seed-obsessed!  I love everything about seeds- the promise of what’s inside, the photos and artwork outside the packets, and the pride I feel when my seedlings actually survive, morph into big plants, and produce yummy garden goodies!

It's the most wonderful time of the year!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

IMG_6789Here in Connecticut, many of our seeds are started indoors. I’ve started quite a few things already. I was pleasantly surprised to find this great quality, steel-frame greenhouse at the grocery store chain Aldi for only $29.99! It’s as tall as me, with nice sturdy powder-coated steel shelves and a heavy zip-up cover. Two grow lights have their own stands and were $34.00 each at Wal-mart; both are a one-time investment that will be useful for years! Grow lights should mimic natural light as closely as possible, so I turn mine on in the morning, off in the evening; my seedlings are off to a very good start this year!

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While I’m waiting to really get my hands in the earth, I check up on my houseplants, re-potting those that have outgrown their pots (going two inches bigger than the previous pot), checking for infestations, and giving my plants a little TLC.

When re-potting, go two inches bigger from your previous pot.

When re-potting, go two inches bigger from your previous pot.

I’ve heard some who have amazing gardens say that they don’t do well with houseplants. I used to kill a houseplant just by looking at it! With a little knowledge, patience and good tips, keeping healthy houseplants isn’t a big secret skill. Giving them what they need insures strong plants. Stressed plants are open to getting diseases and issues that threaten their health.

One of the best pieces of advice I gained from studying to be a Master Gardener is “Right plant, right place.” Light’s the most important thing for plants to survive – they need it to produce food. Knowing what kind of light a plant needs (low, medium, high) and which direction a window faces are two factors that can make a difference as to what plant should go where. Too little, as well as too much light can affect the health of a plant. Choose the plant based on the place you have.

My hibiscus loves its sunny window. When it blooms, its such a treat!

My hibiscus loves its sunny window. When it blooms, its such a treat!

Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata) does well in low light areas.

Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata) does well in low light areas.

My sun room, dubbed the "tea room" is filled with houseplants and where I over-winter some of my patio plants.

My sun room, dubbed the “tea room” is filled with houseplants and where I over-winter some of my patio plants.

 

Circulating air benefits plants by drying moisture from leaves, making plants stronger and sturdier, and keeping some kinds of infestations from insects away. I picked up this cool vintage fan for my warm sunny room at a barn sale

Circulating air benefits plants by drying moisture from leaves, making plants stronger and sturdier, and keeping some kinds of infestations from insects away. I scored this cool vintage fan for my warm sunny room at a barn sale.

One of the major reasons plants die is from either neglect or the opposite- “too much love”. Learning to water correctly is important. Watering on a set schedule isn’t ideal. While a reminder on your smartphone every week might sound like a good idea, some plants need water more or less than others. Too much water can damage the little root hairs, suffocating it from the bottom up. Too little water, and you can stress and dry out your plant. If a plant has “flagged” –  drooping before wilting completely, with limp leaves and pale color – watering right away might save it.

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Once it wilts completely, it’s lost. A good rule of thumb is to water when the plant needs it. Ideal soil should feel like a “wrung out sponge”.

  • Clay pots dry out faster than other types.
  • If a plant prefers soil on the dry side, then one to two inches of soil can be dry. Beyond that, it’s time to water. You wouldn’t like to be left thirsty!
  • Orchids don’t need as much water some other plants. Water from the bottom-up by submerging in a sink or tub of water, then let it drain, or use the “ice cube trick” that I learned from a member of the Orchid Society: give your orchid 2 -3 ice cubes per week on top of the soil.
I love my orchid sitting on my desk. Find beautiful orchids at a bargain price ($9.99 and under) at Ikea.

I love my orchid sitting on my desk.

  • If you keep your plants in plastic but then put them inside decorative, non-draining containers or have saucers underneath, avoid letting the water that has flowed through “puddle” and let the plant sit in it. This can cause root rot or accumulation of excess salts from fertilizers and kill your plants.
  • Avoid splashing water on African Violet (Saintpaulias) leaves. This will cause scarring on the leaves.
I need to give this violet some love. Water spots scars are evident and growth is uneven from not being turned in light.

I need to give this violet some love! Water spot scars are evident and growth is uneven from not being turned in light.

Terrariums are fun to assemble now when it’s not quite time to plant outdoors. They need a non-rubberized lidded jar, gravel, activated charcoal, soil and a few plants, and do best away from direct sunlight (such as on a dining table). Water about once every three months.

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Indoor plants need fertilizer, but not too often. Over-fertilization will burn roots. Plants need less in the winter when they don’t grow as much, and  low-light plants don’t require as much as those in sunnier areas. In the summer, once a month is good way to feed plants, when growth is at its peak. I prefer to use organic water-soluble fertilizer. I also sprinkle a bit of the vermi-compost from my indoor worm farm on top of my plants.

Vermicompost

Vermi-compost

To learn how to make your own worm bin, click here: http://www.farmgirlbloggers.com/6657#more-6657.

In addition to being beautiful and mood-lifting decor, plants filter inside air, converting carbon dioxide to oxygen, and absorbing pollutants such as formaldehyde (often emitted by furniture and carpets) and other harmful gases. The best houseplants for absorbing bad pollutants include spider plant (Chlorophytum comosum),  philodendron (Philodendron)  English Ivy (Hedera helix), Pothos (Epipremnum aureum), and Dragon Tree (Dracaena), all of which are commonly found. When shopping for houseplants, just because it’s in a store doesn’t mean it’s healthy – watch for smelly roots, yellowing leaves, over-dry soil, and infestations.

Houseplants don’t have to cost a lot. I have found stunning orchids for $9.99 at Ikea, and a five-foot tall palm at Walmart on clearance for $10!

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Every week, our forecast looks better. Warmer weather will be here soon…

Our forecast looks better every week. By the end of the month, we should see beautiful, native Spice bush blooms (Lindera benzoin) outside. Photo 4/24/15

By the end of the month, we should see beautiful, native Spice bush blooms (Lindera benzoin) outside. Photo 4/24/15

and before you know it, we will be in FULL GARDEN MODE! Happy Spring, dear readers!

Until Next Time…Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

Leave a comment 10 Comments

  1. Krista says:

    I love all your beautiful plants and the refresher on what plants like and need! In the past I have struggled keeping my house plants alive but have a beautiful bamboo plant that has survived 4 years now. It’s large and healthy! I am proud of that!! Can’t wait to be out in the nice spring weather gardening. Soon!

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Krista, I hear ya. I can’t wait to be outside more. We got a “teaser” and were wearing shorts and sandals with temps in the 70’s last week. I cleaned out some more of the flower beds and set up my shabby chic porch. We planted some spring bulbs in pots, but I’m not sure they are going to make it as we have had ice, sleet, and snow this week! I am ready to say goodbye to winter for good this year! Sounds like your bamboo is a real pretty specimen! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  2. Toyia Flowers says:

    What specific grow light did you purchase from walmart?

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Toyia, The grow light I purchased is the “Ferry Morse Grow Light”. It is in a long, thin box, and included the 2 ft. light fixture, the high output bulb, and stand. I bought two for my greenhouse at $34 each, at Wal-Mart. At our location near me they were found at the end on the same aisle as all of the seeds. My seeds are now going from seedlings to good-looking plants! I can’t wait to plant them, but this week spring left again as we got some more ice and snow. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  3. Sandi King says:

    Nicole, loved this article on indoor gardening and plants that filter the indoor air. Also the article on making your own worm farm. Will try that later this summer maybe. We are waiting on the wind and rain to stop being so prevalent here in Kentucky so we can get our double-wide moved in on our lot and get set up for house-keeping and gardening. I have tomato plants waiting to be planted and also some Colorado Blue Spruce trees that I got from Arbor Day Foundation. Our lot is small but I plan to use every inch of it to make it beautiful and useful and beneficial by planting bee loving flowers for pollinating as well as looks, making a wind-break with the trees, having a chicken coop and run later this summer, and planting bulbs this fall of tulips, daffodils, alliums, hyacinths, and iris’ as well as transplanting the ones I have in the ground already where I live now. Also going to transplant our blackberry and raspberry vines, hostas, rose bush and peonies and our strawberry plants. A lot of work but I can’t wait.
    Love reading all the columns in Mary Jane’s Farmgirl magazine and blogs. I wanted a milk cow too, but no room for one.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Sandi, Thanks for reading and commenting! I loved reading what all you have planned to do this spring – so exciting! It all sounds wonderful. You mentioned many of my favorite plants, like hosta, peonies, daffodils and allium. With your Colorado Blue Spruce, remember not to spray it with Horticultural oil – doing so may remove its beautiful, sought-after blue color. You will love having chickens…I really enjoy my flock. I’m with you – wish I could have a cow but can’t! 😉 Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  4. Dori Troutman says:

    Hi Nicole! Ohhhhh….. this just makes me so ready for spring planting! I always wait until April 15th to plant my gardens. That is kind of the magical date! If we plant any earlier, then 9 times out of 10 we get a late March, early April freeze. :-(

    Happy Spring!

    – Dori –

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Dori! Well, we got that for sure! Last week it was in the 70s. Shorts were worn, spring plants were planted and then this week, BOOM! Snow, ice, and freezing rain. The good thing is that it is thawing; at least when it is this late the snow doesn’t stay long. On a good note, the plants in my greenhouse are looking great! I can’t wait until they can go outside. Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

  5. Rebecca says:

    I bought that same greenhouse on clearance last fall, but I had forgotten about it. Thanks for reminding me…. That’s going to be my project for this evening; put it up and start some seeds since the weatherman is predicting snow for tonight. I love all of your beautiful plants. I have a big orchid on my desk that’s absolutely beautiful. I’ve had it for about 4 years and it’s the first time I’ve gotten it to re-bloom. I had forgotten what color it was, so I was very excited to see the blooms. Love your blog.

    • Nicole Christensen says:

      Hi Rebecca, Thank you! Isn’t it exciting when something that hasn’t bloomed in awhile decides to bloom? I love that. Have fun setting up your greenhouse! Farmgirl Hugs, Nicole

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