So you've decided to take on a new gardening challenge and try growing your own food indoors. Relative to other types of gardening, Indoor Edible gardening has a number of unique challenges and differences.
Failing to understand and appreciate these differences is almost certainly going to result in dried-up brown plants, and a whole lot of wasted effort - which is an outcome we'd both like to avoid.
In this blog, we will explain how Indoor Edible gardening differs from other types of gardening so that you can make a smooth and successful transition from one to the other.
Before we start talking about the differences, let's get clear on what we mean when we're talking about Indoor Edible Gardening.
- EDIBLE gardening means that we’re talking about food. Edible plants tend to grow much quicker than non-edible (decorative) plants, and therefore they need much more light. Light requirements for edible plants can be 5-10x higher compared to non-edible plants. More on this below.
- INDOOR gardening means that we’re not doing this outside. This has a few important implications. 1) we’re likely to have less space, so space optimization is important, 2) we’re likely to have less light, and 3) we’re less exposed to weather - so it is conceivable that we do this year round, not just in Spring/Summer.
Click here to learn more about How to Start Your Own Indoor Garden.
Now we can talk about the differences between indoor edible gardening and other types of gardening.
Edible Indoor Gardening vs. Edible Outdoor Gardening:
There are lots of differences between indoor and outdoor gardening. While outdoor gardening often has more sun and space - it also has some disadvantages:
- irregular water
- temperature swings
- varying soil quality
Indoor gardening, on the other hand, relies on a clean, controlled, and relatively stable environment. The focus is generally on getting the most out of small spaces, such as your home; often by using tools like grow lights, self-watering containers, and window shelves.
Edible Indoors Gardening vs. Indoor Houseplants:
For many people, taking care of houseplants is their first step toward edible indoor gardening. While Edible gardening does have some similarities with houseplants, there are also some important differences.
Experiences like sprouting from seed, pollinating flowers, using grow lights, and picking fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables might be new for many houseplant parents, but many indoor gardening skills will carry over.
Perhaps the biggest difference between edible indoor gardening and taking care of houseplants is the amount of light required. Edible plants typically need 5-10x more light than your more decorative (and non-edible) house plants. Light can be supplemented by using grow lights and window shelves.
Another important difference is the amount of care and attention each requires. Decorative houseplants typically only need to be watered around once per week, and pruning might only be once every few months. Edible plants, by contrast, grow much quicker. This means they need more frequent watering, more frequent feeding, and more frequent harvesting.
Edible Indoor Gardening vs. Cannabis
Whether they realize it or not, the edible Indoor gardening community has gained a lot from the cannabis industry. Since the value of cannabis crops is much higher than it is for other herbs and vegetables, the cannabis industry has also been able to afford to invest much more into research & development.
Many of the technology advancements we’ve seen over the past decade or so, particularly in the area of grow lights, is thanks to work that has been done by cannabis growers.
You may have come across some of the fancy at-home gadgets for growing cannabis at home. These can cost $1000 or more. For some people, this sort of technology can make the hobby more rewarding and if that sounds like you, then go for it. But for the rest of you - just know that these sorts of devices are overkill if all you want to grow is herbs and veggies.
Rather than go blow hundreds or thousands of dollars on this sort of equipment, we think you should just be grateful that someone else is building this sort of product, because things like grow lights have become much more affordable because of them.
The Edible Indoor Gardening Secret
Growing plants for food is an activity that we, as humans, have done since the dawn of civilization, so lucky for us, there is a lot of sagely wisdom to take into our practice. Here are some of the best gardening quotes that will help you start with a time-tested mindset and the secret to a successful indoor gardening journey.
“There are no gardening mistakes, only experiments” – Janet Phillips
As the gardening quote says, there's a lot you can do to set yourself up for success, and if you do the legwork to understand the indoor gardening basics, such as setting up your indoor light correctly and choosing the right container, you’ll have a lot more crops than flops. That being said, inevitably, you’ll try something new that doesn’t work out. We’re not perfect and plants aren’t perfect, but by understanding what happened you’re becoming one step closer to a master gardener.
Just by regularly observing your plants, you’ll develop your ability to read them and adjust your indoor and outdoor gardening experiments on the fly. Are they tall and skinny and asking to get more light? Are the leaves drooping like they could use a drink of water? Does lettuce grow great on one windowsill, but not the other? Our advanced blogs will teach you what to look out for with each type of plant, but there is no substitute for observing with your own eyes, nose, and hands.
“Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished.” - Lao Tzu
Put another way: “you can’t keep pulling up a flower to check the roots!” Compared to the rushed pace and fast results of modern life, indoor and outdoor gardening can seem a little slow at first. While it can take a little bit of an adjustment to calm our busy minds, the patience and trust that a garden requires is a nice counterbalance. Plant a seed, nurture it, and in its own time, it will develop.
If you want to learn more about how to have a successful Edible Indoor Garden, check out below. You can also check out our various articles about edible indoor gardening here.