In or Out? 5 questions that will determine the best location for growing your own food
Whether it’s for fresh Caprese salad, mojitos, or herbal teas – if you’re thinking about starting a home garden there’s never been a better time to do so.
The following 5 key questions will help you determine whether you’re better off indoors or out.
If the quantity is a priority, you’ll almost certainly need to be planning something outdoors.
A small windowsill garden (such as the World’s Smallest Garden) will only produce enough herbs for the occasional meal garnish. Even larger and more productive indoor systems will struggle to produce more than a few meals worth of food a week.
So if you have a large family, or you’re aiming for a material level of self-sufficiency, then outdoors is the better bet. This spacing guide will give you a sense of how much real estate an outdoor garden is likely to take up.
Seasonality & Climate
Different herbs and vegetables like different types of weather, and most will have a specific season in which they’ll do best. Depending on your location, the ‘season’ for some varieties can be as short as a month or two. There are plenty of ‘gardening calendars’ available for free online such as this one from Burpee that will tell you when to plant each variety.
One of the main benefits of indoor gardening is that you can do it year-round. A comfortable indoor temperature for you is likely to work just fine for most plants. The one caveat to this is lighting; winter’s shorter days and less direct sunlight may not be sufficient for a lot of plants. Although temperatures might be ok indoors, you’re likely to need an artificial lighting supplement.
Bottom line: if year-round availability is a priority then indoors is the way to go.
It’s impossible to guarantee pest-free gardening regardless of the location, but the risk of an infestation is greatly reduced by growing indoors – for obvious reasons. The flow-on benefit of having a physical barrier between you and the critters outdoors is that you’re less likely to have to use pesticides and sprays. It’s not the end of the world even if you do have to use a spray – there are many natural and organic options available these days – but if you can avoid needing them in the first place, wouldn’t you want to?
Even if you don’t eat them, there’s actually a ton of benefits to just living with your plants – including stress reduction, improved focus, attention, and mental health. In one study researchers even found that patients recovered and left the hospital sooner when they had plants in their room. (that’s + 1 for indoors!)
Most people do their cooking at dinner time, and depending on when you eat that may mean its dark. Growing a small herb garden on the kitchen window sill or somewhere else easily accessible is a heck of a lot easier than grabbing a torch and wondering out to the backyard to harvest your greens. Of course, we wouldn’t want you to think we were discouraging you from going outdoors! Everyone is likely to have a different view on this one – but the point is that amenity and convenience of access should definitely be considered. This applies not only to harvesting but also maintenance and watering!