Why You Should Start an Indoor Garden The esthetic appeal of having plants inside your house is the reason the majority of people decide to start gardening indoors. Whether you have researched and planned on them or not, there are additional benefits that are derived when a green space is created inside you house. The decor aspect of inside greenery is a given, plants add to and beautify space -- indoors and outdoors. The different plants choices available include various colors, sizes, shapes, flowering vs. non-flowering and this is just the tip of the plant life ice berg. Just as trees and plants are crucial to our air quality outside, plants can provide the same service for you inside your home. By taking in carbon dioxide from our breathing, plants flourish. If you smoke inside your home, plants can help clean the air of the excess carbon dioxide. Besides the exchange of oxygen for carbon dioxide, plants will purify the air from other unhealthy elements such as air-bound mold particles. This makes them a natural air filter for your home. It is well known that gardening is a relaxing past-time. Having an indoor garden will give you the benefit of this relaxation year round when it is too cold outside to garden. If you live in an apartment, an outdoor garden may not be possible. Gardening inside is only limited by the amount of space you want to dedicate to it in your home. Beautifying your living space and caring for living plants makes owning an indoor garden a peaceful endeavor. Another benefit of indoor gardening is you can decide how much time you have or want to dedicate to caring for the plants. If you want a plant that has to be watered less go for a cactus or if you want the challenge of coaxing a flowering tree to blossom buy a camellia. Watering and Fertilizing your Indoor Garden Plants Unless it is the middle of summer and there has not been enough rain, watering your outdoor plants is usually not necessary (or not very often). But indoor plants rely on you as a source of water and extra nutrients in the form of fertilizer. It is important to know the individual water and nutrient needs of each plant to keep them healthy. As mentioned, individual plants will require different amounts of water to keep them growing optimally. But what all plants do like is moist soil. If you are worried about over-watering your plant, make sure that the pot you choose has a good drainage system. With holes in the bottom of the pot or gravel inside the pot the soil and plant will soak up the necessary water and the excess will run out through the bottom. If your houseplants are not thriving no matter what you do, there are two things to look into. If you are using tap water to water your plants there may be too much chlorine or salt present. A solution to this is to use distilled or, filtered water or you can leave a container outside to collect rainwater. Choosing to fertilize your plants is another way to give them a boost. Fertilizer contains nutrients and elements that plants need to grow. Indoors plants do not need as much fertilizer as their outdoor counterparts do. Because of a slower rate of growth, feed your plants minimal fertilizer. In the winter time you can probably skip this step altogether. The spring or summer time is the best time to fertilize indoor plants. This is during their growing phase when they need the extra nutrients the most. The Best Pots for Indoor Gardening You have researched the benefits of having an indoor garden and found the best plant for you home now what do you put it in? From terra cotta pots to decorative ceramic ones, there are many choices available and in various sizes. Not only do you want to choose a pot that looks good in your home but you want one that is the best size for your plant too. You want to look at the long-term growth expected in the plant you have chosen and use that information to pick an appropriately sized container. If you pick a pot that is too small your full-grown plant the roots will not have enough room to grow and the plant will be come "root bound". This is a rectifiable condition with re-potting, but it can put the plant through unnecessary stress and creates more work for you. Your plant may look unbalanced at first in a container that is out of proportion but you will be glad you thought ahead as the plants continues to grow. The container you choose needs a form of drainage too. The most common method of drainage is one or more holes in the bottom of the pot to let excess water drain out. If you have chosen a pot that does not have these holes there you still have two options to provide drainage. You can put your plant in a smaller pot with drainage holes and then place the smaller pot inside the larger one with no holes. Or place an inch or two of gravel in the bottom of the container before you put in the soil. The gravel will allow the excess water to run through the soil and into the rocks instead of staying in the soil and water-logging the plant. Safety Considerations for Indoor Gardening It is most likely that your indoor plants will be safe from hard other than the odd garden pest. But if you have young children or pets in the home, the danger can be for them. There are many plants that are not recommended for indoors (or outdoors for that matter) when children or pets are present. Some plants are poisonous, even fatal if ingested. Listed below if a few of the more popular plants that aren't safe to have around. The seeds of Rosary Pea and Castor Bean plants are lethal. Fatalities have been reported from the ingestion of just one seed. If a young child or cat chews on one of the leaves they are sure to get sick. You can purchase necklaces that are made from the seeds of this plant. These are not meant for children and can cause skin irritations in adults. Parts of the Oleander plant (the leaves and bark) are also poisonous. It is not worth the risk to have these in the house. Even with due diligence children or pets are bound to get into a houseplant at one point or another. It is hard to safeguard against falling leaves or other unavoidable events. The bulbs of certain flowering plants are considered poisonous too. Even if you are planning on planting the bulbs outside, be careful they are stored in a safe out of the way area that is not accessible to little heads. The flower bulbs in question are from the Hyacinth, the Daffodil and the Narcissus flowers. If you own any of these plants and don't have little animals or children running around to get into still use caution. Be aware of what plants in your house are potential hazards to humans. In addition, be a considerate host or hostess and put the dangerous plants in a safe way when young visitors are coming over. Temperature Regulation for Indoor Plants Depending on the individual plant different temperature and humidity levels are recommended. But in general, plants don't like it too hot, too cold, or too dry (with certain exceptions of course). Finding and keeping a balance is important to the survival of your plants. To make it easier on you, the gardener, select plants that thrive in similar conditions weather conditions. Consistency in temperature is important to plants. Once you find the ideal temperature, try and maintain it daily. It is okay for the plants to be colder at night time; this is natural as the same happens outside in nature when the sun goes down. An average temperature range is 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit (18-23 degrees Celsius) during the day and a drop in temperature to 60-65 degrees Fahrenheit (15-18 degrees Celsius) is acceptable. As this is within the temperature range most houses are kept at this should not be hard to maintain. You may be tempted to place a plant beside a sunny window to keep it nice and warm. Just remember that exposure to extreme temperature ranges is not good for a plant. It can get overheated during the day and then too cold at night. Give the plants natural sunlight but doing so on a windowsill is not recommended. Inside a house is a lot dryer than outside. A lot of plants like at least some moisture in the air. Controlling the humidity in the house will help the plants and you if it tends to get dry inside. You can purchase a mister or humidifier for your house or another option is to get the plant's leaves wet. By taking a spray bottle, you can lightly spray the leaves or you can use a cloth or sponge. Take care of any special instructions your plant may have, some do not like to get their leaves wet. Natural Way to Deal with Pests on Indoor Plants It is inevitable that insects or another infestation will make its way to your plants at one point or another. If you are dealing with pests in your indoor garden you may want to find a natural way to eliminate them especially if you have young children or pets in your home. There are ways to do this and most of them require ingredients that you can get at the grocery store. When you find insects or another disease that is making your plant sick. Isolate the plant immediately to prevent the problem spreading to the other plants inside your house. Depending on the type of problem the solution will be different. If your plants are being eaten by spider mites, you can eliminate the problem by making a solution of buttermilk and water. Put the solution into a spray bottle, put the plant in the bathtub and give a thorough once over. A mix of 50-50 is recommended, if this is too thick to use with the spray bottle, add more water for a thinner consistency. You may be able to control aphids with a thorough washing of the plant leaves with water. Another recommendation is to kill a couple of the aphids and leave them in the bottom of the pot. They then emit an odor that lets the other aphids know that danger is near and they abandon the plant. If this method is used, do it outside so they can find another home that is not inside yours. The natural and organic methods available for the wide variety of problems your plant can encounter are too numerous to list. These are the two most common pests, but with some research there is a natural solution to many more different insects or diseases that can affect a plant's health. Germinating Seeds Inside It doesn't matter if the seeds you are starting are going to be making their way outdoors once germinated or if they are going to be additions to your indoor garden -- starting seeds inside is the best way to ensure success. The tiny seeds and seedlings do not do well with harsh weather changes and a late frost or excessive rain can prevent them from growing. There is also the problem of birds getting into the seeds as a food source. There are many commercial helpers you can buy to make germinating seeds an easy project. Peat pellets that come with a miniature hot house require nothing more than adding water to the seed and peat and covering with the supplied lid. But some water, high-quality soil, sunlight and time are all that you need. Like plants, seeds like to be kept moist so a good drainage system in the pot is necessary so they do not get too much water. There is no solution to them getting too dry though, just don't forget to water them. Don't count on all of the seeds sprouting even if you have purchased seeds from a reputable source some will be duds. For this reason, make sure you plant more of each seed than the desired number of plants you are looking for. As the seedlings begin to sprout, continue to keep them moist and turn them regularly to create even sun exposure. When the leaves start to come out you can begin the process of transplanting. Whether you are going to be growing the plants indoors or outdoors it is the same procedure. Gently take the new seedling with the roots and plant it in a new pot, if you are taking it outside you can plant it directly into the ground. Flowering Plants -- Getting them to Blossom Indoors You may have heard that it is hard to get shrubs or trees to blossom indoors, that's because it is the right conditions are essential. But if you have the patience and the correct amount of light (the brighter the better) to provide you can be successful. In addition to having the right conditions, you will also need to choose a flowering plant that has a history of blooming in indoor gardens. If you purchase you flowering tree at a green house, be aware that the plant will be acclimatized to the optimal conditions found there. You may have better luck purchasing at a nursery or bringing an outdoor plant indoors -- they will be hardier and used to changes in weather. Look into your garden center's return policy too, many will guarantee the life of your new plant for a certain period of time. They will also give you important information on the care and maintenance your flowering plant will need. Humidity is important too, you can purchase a humidifier to help or you can simply place a tray of water close to the plants and as it evaporates it will create more moisture in the air. Some of the best plants to buy that have been proven to easily flower indoors are: * Camellias * Azaleas * Crimson Bottle Brush * Gardenias * Zebra Plant Keeping the soil moist, fertilizing approximately twice per year and plenty of direct, bright light -- if you follow these tips you are sure to see blossoms on your trees or shrubs. Be careful with open windows, if you do not have screens bees and other pollinating insects are sure to find their way inside your home. They aren't the best houseguests but if they show themselves back out they are great for the flowers. Aloe Vera and other Beneficial Houseplants Many families have grown up with an aloe vera plant in the kitchen. This succulent plant is great for indoor gardening as it is hardy and easy to care for. Moreover, they are great for skin care and minor cuts and burns that can happen in the kitchen while cooking. To use as a first aid item, cut a portion of one of the leaves and squeeze the inner gel onto the hurt area. With repeated use, the aloe vera will aid in healing and sooth the pain. In addition to the aloe vera plant there are other helpful plants that are good to have around the house. An herb garden is a convenient way to add flavor and natural ingredients to many dishes. From fresh dill in a homemade tzatziki sauce to chives mixed in with cream cheese for a delicious bagel. Many herbs can be dried and used for loose leaf teas not only a relaxing beverage, some herbs are known for their medicinal qualities too. Some herbs that can be used as tea leaves or as part of a mixture are peppermint and ginger. There are many edible plants that you can grow indoors to aid in digestion. They can be broken of the plant as needed or some may need some preparation first. * Anise is a popular and widely used for aiding in digestion and easing colic in infants. * Coriander in addition to helping with digestion it is also a tasty addition to salsa. * Fennel oil is used to ease upset stomachs too. It is also used for increasing the amount of breast milk produced in mothers. This is just a brief look at some of the other uses for houseplants. It is recommended to research your plants before ingesting any to ensure they are safe. Creating an Indoor Herb Garden Fresh herbs can make a world of difference in your meals. Instead of buying them at the grocery store and getting too much at once or a bunch that isn't as fresh as it could be, grow your own. Grow a variety or just your favorite, in a window box or on the kitchen counter. It is an easy introduction to indoor gardening. To start your own herb garden you have two options, you can go to your local nursery and purchase some seedlings or grow your own from seed. Either way is fine, but if you are a novice the seedlings are the way to go. Once you have your seedlings at home, you can replant them or for the first season you can leave them in the small plastic pot that they come in. If you do decide to replant them, do not pack in the soil too tightly and place a small amount of gravel or woodchips at the bottom of the pot for good drainage. If you want to grow your herbs from seeds, follow the instructions on the package carefully and use a container large enough to accommodate future root growth. Herbs also like air circulation, placing near an open window can provide both the sunshine and air movement that they need to thrive. If your herbs are growing too large for their pots, you can separate a portion of them (including the roots) and transplant them outside in the spring or summer time. You will double the amount of herbs you can grow. On the flip side, if you already have an outdoor herb garden it is a simple matter to take a portion of each plant indoors to have fresh herbs all winter long too. Read the recommendations and information that comes with your herb plants, not all are suitable for indoor gardening. Choosing an Indoor Houseplant When you are choosing a house plant you need to go beyond the appearance of the plant although that is a good place to start. If there is a certain kind of plant that you want to have look into the care instructions first. Some plants need more care and others are best left to an expert gardener as opposed to a novice one. If you fall into the latter category of gardeners you will want plants that are easy to care for, are hardy, and have a low maintenance schedule. Ferns are a popular choice for indoor gardens as they are easy to care for, do not require to be repotted very often and are attractive. There is a wide range of fern varieties available and each one has a unique look. Some of the different ferns great for houseplants are: * Maidenhair Ferns * Davallias * Fishbone Ferns * Cretan Brake Ferns Begonias are a great choice for the indoors too especially if you do not have a great light source. This plant can survive on very little light each day. Some will flower indoors but the leaves are beautiful on their own too. They also don't mind cooler temperatures either, but it should not get colder than 45 degrees Fahrenheit (7 degrees Celsius). A few the begonia varieties available: * Rex Begonias * Iron Cross Begonias * Begonia Masoniana The fern and begonia aren't the only breeds of houseplant that will survive even the newest of green thumbs. Here is list of different kinds of plants you can try too: * Spider Plants * Devil's Ivy * Cast Iron Plants * Chinese Evergreen Once you have a few plants in your indoor garden and are comfortable with the care required, you will have the skill and confidence needed to take care of a higher-needs variety. Pruning and Maintenance Tips for Indoor Plants To keep your indoor houseplants healthy and thriving they will occasionally need to be pruned or re-potted. The process is very similar to the plants and just as important. Dead or sick branches can affect the overall health of the entire plant and should be cut off. And there is the esthetic aspect of pruning, it gives you plants a nice and tidy shape. If you are pruning a branch off of a plant that is diseased (with fungus) it is very important to disinfect your pruning shears after using them. If you do not, and continue to prune your healthy plants there is a chance the fungus will spread to your other plants. A solution of bleach and water will kill the unwanted organisms nicely. When you look at the plant if it appears too full you can thin it out, this is important around the base trunk or stem. You want good air circulation around the plant and if the branches and leaves are too congested this will not happen. Trim enough of the excess foliage away to let the plant "breathe". When you are trimming branches to keep a uniform appearance to your plant just trim what is necessary. Prune the new growth to keep it inline with the rest of the plant. As plants grow so do their root systems. If your plant isn't thriving or you notice that the roots are visible around the outside of the pot, your plant is most likely root bound. It is important to transplant the plant to a larger pot. Once you have chosen one and have prepared it for the plant very gently loosen the roots on the outside of the root ball. Then put the plant in the middle of the new pot surrounding it with new potting soil.
Fertilizing Indoor Plants Plants need different elements from the soil to grow. If they are not present in the right amount the plants will not be as healthy or grow as they should. This is the reason plants need fertilizer, to add the missing elements (nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium). You can give your plants too much fertilizer and that will have the opposite affect you are going for. The same species of plant that is grown indoors or outdoors will have different fertilizing needs. Plants that are grown indoors have a will not need as much fertilizer as the ones grown outside. The rate of growth is slower indoors and you can harm your plant by over-fertilizing it. How do you know how much fertilizer to give to your plants and when to feed it to them? If you have purchased a plant meant for the indoors chances are the information tag it comes with will give fertilizing instructions. But a better method to follow is observing your plant for any signs that would indicate it is lacking nutrients. Your plant might need fertilizer if it is not growing as fast as it should. If you notice the growth of the plant is stunted and it is spring or summer you can safely add fertilizer in small amounts over a period of one to two weeks. Many indoor gardeners will add fertilizer as part of routine maintenance each spring and that is fine too. Just be careful not too over-fertilize. Some signs that you have added to much fertilizer are the tip of the leaves are turning brown or the leaves are drooping downwards. All fertilizers are not made the same; they are available in different ratios of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. Purchase a fertilizer meant for indoor plants or one that is made for a specific type of plant. Diagnosing your Sick Houseplant Your indoor plants are going to let you know if something isn't right. The leaves will fall off, turn brown or some other symptom will manifest itself. The are various causes, some that can be rectified and others that cannot. When you are trying to figure out what is wrong, start with the simplest solution as a starting point. The most common cause of a sick houseplant is watering, either too much or not enough. If the plant's leaves are starting too look wilted or are drying up, check the soil and if it is dry add a good amount of water to wet the dirt and leave it moist once the water has run through. If you have over watered a plant, make sure the drainage hole is not clogged and if you have a dish that catches excess water, empty it out to make room for more water to drain out of the pot. If the edges of the leaves are turning brown and are starting to look dried out it is from too much heat. In this situation it is best to remove the plant from direct sunlight, adjust the temperature inside the home if possible. These symptoms can also show up if there is not enough humidity in the house. As a quick fix you can put a small dish of water near the plant and as it evaporates the plant will soak it up. When a plant looses its leaves it could be because the roots were damages from over watering, the plant is not getting enough water to support the amount of foliage, or it is too hot. Assess the plant's environment to begin nursing it back to health and giving it what it needs to get better. If you need more information you ask the experts at your local gardening center. Keeping Pets our of your Plants Cats and dogs love dirt, they dig in it, play in it and if a cat's litter box isn't clean they may find a back-up location in your potted plants. Some pets will leave the dirt alone but are irresistibly drawn to the leaves, either to nibble on or bat at. There is no fail-safe plant but there are some tips and tricks you can follow to make your pets leave the plants alone. The biggest problem and the most damaging to an indoor plant is a cat deciding to use the dirt as a litter box. Once a cat has done this once, the odor is there and it is going to be hard to stop them from going back. To prevent this from happening in the first place, cover the dirt in larger pots with lava rock or wood chips. A cat will not like the feel of either of these materials on their paws and will not feel comfortable using the pot as a bathroom. Dogs are easier to train and keep away from plants but it is harder for other animals. Especially for cats -- a deterrent may be necessary to keep them away. You can use a spray bottle of water to stop them from chewing on plant leaves or digging in the dirt. Since cats don't like anything from the citrus family you can put fresh citrus rinds at the base of the plant too -- their sensitive noses will stop them from getting too close. Keep your soil nice and moist, not only is this good for the plant, cats will not enjoy digging in wet dirt. Some trial and error may be called for until you find the right solution that works for your pets. If all else fails, buy hanging plants instead or put the plants in an inaccessible location. Giving your Indoor Plants Enough Light The three things that all plants need to survive are food, water, and dirt. The food for plants is created when enough light is provided. The water and dirt part of the equation are pretty straight forward as long as you follow the recommended care instructions and don't forget to water your plants. But how do you ensure that your indoor plants are getting enough light? Finding the right location in your home may require some trial and error before you find the perfect spot. Before deciding on what type of plants you will have in your house, look into the light requirements. The four categories that describe the different light requirement for plants are low, medium, high, and very high. If you have a sunroom or skylights in your home and can position your plants in or under them you can purchase plants that need high or very high light exposure. Be aware that some plants can get too much sun, in which case the light that comes in from a regular window should suffice. There are options you can utilize if you want a certain type of plant and know that your house is not going to provide it enough light. You can purchase specially designed grow bulbs to supplement the amount of light the plant is getting. Be aware of the light requirements for your plants when choosing this lighting method. Although plants require a lot of light to grow there is such a thing as too much light too. The exact ratio for your plant may differ but a good guideline to follow is 14 hours of sunlight to 10 hours of darkness. Your plants will let you know if they are getting too much or not enough light (either they will begin to look dry or will become limp). Try different locations in your home to find the best place for them. Plants That Should Be Left Outside When you are an indoor gardener the same rules apply to your plants as they do to any other type of gardener. Your plants will need water, food, and plenty of light as does the ones grown outside or in a green house. Of course there are special considerations such as temperature and humidity control but they can be overcome with relatively minor adjustments. With that being said, there are some plants that are best left to the outdoor gardener. The type of plant that won't do well indoors is really dependant on the climate you live in. If you live in a warm area and have the air conditioning or fans on during the day a plant that is used to higher temperature will not do well inside your home and should be left outside. The same goes for the opposite, if your house is overheated a plant will most likely dry out from lack of moisture in the air. Other plants that are best left outdoors are perennials and bulb plants that need the seasonal rains and temperatures outside to grow again. You could bring some tulips or daffodils inside in a pot but they will do much better outside. Most trees are best left outside too; by trying to grow certain trees inside you will only have a smaller less sturdy version than its outside mates. If you do decide to grow a tree indoors plan ahead for a transplant that may have to occur. You do not want to wait until the tree becomes too heavy to move. When a larger plant is repotted or planted elsewhere it will usually go into shock -- meaning it will not grow for at least one season (it may be more depending on the size and age of the plant). Part-Time Indoor Gardening There are part-time indoor gardeners; these are the ones that live in an area with cold winters -- too cold for their outdoor plants to survive in. By transplanting or bringing the plants indoors, they can survive the colder months and add greenery inside the home. There are some considerations and preparations that should be made before you decide to become a part-time indoor gardener. The most important point to think about before bringing a plant indoors is whether or not it will survive being an inside plant. If the plant has high or very high light requirements and your house does not get a lot of light in the winter time -- it may not be a good solution. As a back-up you can invest in an artificial light source to supplement the natural light the plant will get. How will you get the plant indoors? If the plant is already in a pot that will fit inside it is easy enough to move it indoors. But if the plant is in the ground you need to find a pot large enough to contain the root system and one that will not be too difficult to move. Keeping in mind that when a large plant is transplanted (re-potted or put in a pot for the first time) it may go into shock. Although with careful attention, you can nurse your plant through this. Most likely you have been taking care of your plants outdoors and they do not have any pests or bugs on them. But it smart to double-check. By bringing an infested plant indoors you are putting all of your other indoor plants at risk of becoming infected too. Either forego bringing the plant inside or treat the pest problem before the cold weather arrives. You may enjoy having your plant inside all winter that you decide to keep it there come springtime. Growing Cacti in an Indoor Garden The homeowner who wants to start a home garden that is light on the maintenance needed may decide to buy cacti. This is a good plan because they need less water than most plants and are quite hardy. Although there are still care instructions that need to be followed to increase the life and longevity of a cactus. Cactus plants are used to the heat and being dry, for this reason putting them in a windowsill with full sunlight is optimal. Depending on the cactus and the amount of heat it is getting you may not have to water it for weeks at a time (once a month is the recommended watering schedule). Cacti like coarse soil, it is recommended to use a soil that is meant specifically for a cactus instead of a generic mix. When a fertilizer is needed you should also purchase a fertilizer that is just for cacti. When watering a cactus, you want to be careful not to over water it. A good tip to prevent this from happening is to place the cactus pot in a shallow dish full of water. The plant will soak up all of the water it needs through the drainage hole in a period of 1-2 hours. Complete this task and don't worry about it again for another month unless the plant is starting to get a shriveled look. When handling your cactus, be careful they can hurt. If the pot is not large enough to hold onto without your hands getting to close to the prickly part of the pant use a folded newspaper and place it around the plant. This will protect both your hands and the plant when moving it. If you do get a piece of a cactus in your finger, remove gently with a pair of tweezers or a piece of strong tape. Hydroponics and Indoor Gardening If you have heard of hydroponics or other methods of growing plants without soil and want to try it out at home, you can. Hydroponics is easy to care for and set-up at home. There are materials you can buy or some you may be able to find around the house. The dirt or soil that you use to grow plants in a traditional method is substituted for a growing medium (full of nutrients the plant needs to grow) in hydroponics gardening. The growing medium is fed directly to the roots by method of a drip-feeder. The system can be automated and the gardener can control how many drips the roots receive in a specified time frame. The more of the growing medium the faster the plants grow. Since the system can be automated, the amount of time and energy that is required to maintain a hydroponics garden is less than with a traditional garden. As long as enough water is present and growing medium the plants can be left unattended for a longer period of time. A home-based hydroponics garden can grow vegetables year round. The concern about pests and the composition of the soil are not an issue with this type of gardening. Another bonus with this type of gardening is how fast you can have mature vegetables indoors (by increasing the amount of growing medium). The types of plants that are best for hydroponics are ones with thin spider-like roots. Plants that have a bulb root system are still best grown in the traditional soil method inside a pot or outside. When you are ready to begin, germinate the seeds for your plants like you normally would. When the seed has started to sprout and has approximately 2-5 millimeters of growth it is ready to transplant to the hydroponics container and begin growing. A Terrarium as an Indoor Garden There is a solution for you if you love the look of plants indoors but don't have the time or a green thumb to take care of them. A terrarium is a self-contained plant habitat. Once you have set-up the terrarium and closed the lid (on the jar or other container you have chosen) the plants inside create their own eco-system -- all you have to do is enjoy it. The choices for terrarium containers are only limited by your imagination. Traditionally a smaller aquarium is used with a lid but a glass jar or other container will work nicely too. Plastic will work as well, just make sure that it is a clear plastic or you won't be able to admire your handiwork once it is completed. Whatever size or material you choose for your terrarium the most important factor is that it does not leak. You need the water and moisture to stay inside for it to work and you don't want a mess inside your house. The plants that you choose should all thrive in similar conditions and grow well in a humid environment. Popular plants to put into a terrarium are carnivorous (Venus Fly Trap, sundew, or pitch plant) or rain forest plants (chamaedorea palms, small ferns or fittonia). Terrariums are a low-maintenance indoor garden. They need indirect sunlight (not too bright) and no water is needed after the initial water is added. The heat from inside the terrarium evaporates the water and then it condenses on the lid falling back down to the plants. This process will continue keeping your plants alive. If there is too much water present, you may need to vent the terrarium (with a vented lid or opening the top a small amount) just be sure to keep an eye on the soil's moisture level (not too wet or dry). Tips for Home Hydroponics Gardens The requirements for plants are the same whether you are growing a garden traditionally or with a hydroponics method. In hydroponics, the nutrients the plant would get from the soil are replaced by a growing medium that can be purchased at gardening supply stores. The need for water and light is still just as important though. Light can come from a natural source, an artificial source or a combination of the two. Depending on the type of hydroponics system the method that your plant gets water will differ too. In order to get the best results from your home-based hydroponics garden, find a southfacing window to give the plants the best natural light. If this isn't possible, you can purchase special lights that are specifically designed for plants. Instead of using a fluorescent light, buy what is known as a discharge light. This imitates the light the plants would naturally get from the sun and will produce healthier and hardier plants. The water that the root system is growing in needs to be healthy water full of nutrients and this can be determined by checking the pH level (it should be a pH level of 6). The pH level should be checked on a regular basis to ensure it is not too acidic or alkaline. If the reading is too high, add small amounts of vinegar and keep re-testing until you can the reading you want. If the water reading has a pH level that is too low, use the same procedure to raise the pH level except use baking soda instead of vinegar. By growing your plants with hydroponics, you will see faster and more abundant growth. The method that the plants get their nutrients is more efficient and results in robust and prolific plants -- whether they are houseplants, vegetable plants, or herbs. Bring a Plant Cutting Indoors If you love an outdoor plant but it is too big to bring indoors you have the option of taking a cutting from that plant. Once you have taken a cutting, you can start a new plant that is smaller and more appropriate for an indoor garden. Depending on the type of plant you are taking a cutting from there is a few methods you might want to try. Taking a cutting from a plant is also known as propagation. If you have a hardwood plant that you want to propagate the process is slow but easy to do as the cuttings are quite hardy. Take the cutting (about 5 inches worth) when the tree is dormant (in the middle of winter) and place the cutting cut-side up in a pail of sand. Fill the pail with water and wait until spring. Then submersed side will have little nodules that will turn into roots once planted. When you are taking a cutting from a soft-wood plant, it will require more care and attention. Taking cuttings from soft-wood yields quicker results and you do the actually cutting when the plant is in the active growing phase. You are cutting off the new growth back to a nodal (from the point it stopped growing the year previous). This method benefits from the use of a root producing medium found at nursery stores. It is important to place the cutting (cut-side down) into the root medium immediately. If the cutting dries out it will lessen the changes of a successful cutting. Next, pick a pot or container suitable to the type of plant you are growing and plant it once the roots have developed. At this point, you can follow the regular care instructions for the type of plant you have just propagated. An Inside Vegetable Garden Houseplants and herb gardens are well-known as common plants that are grown indoors. But they are not the only plants that can be grown indoors. By using the right containers and having the ability to mimic the ideal growing conditions you can also have an indoor vegetable garden. The benefits of having one go beyond the beautification of your home or the relaxation you get from gardening, but you can also pick your own vegetables right in your kitchen. Carrots, tomatoes, and radishes are three of the easiest vegetable to grow indoors. Each grows differently and will need separate containers but with some research this is not a problem. A south-facing window is the best source of natural sunlight for your vegetables to grow in. If you do not have the right exposure, you can invest in an artificial bulb to provide supplemental light. As with any container you choose to grow plants in, making sure there is enough drainage is key. If your plants sit in too much water they are not going to survive. If the pots you choose do not have holes in the bottom be sure to put a layer of gravel or wood chips to allow the water to run out of the soil. The flip side of this is not to ensure the water does not run out too quickly either. When choosing the types of vegetables to plant, follow the same guidelines as you would for outdoors. On the seed packets it will give recommendations on when to plant, the amount of light and water that is needed and the spacing requirements. Tailor your water schedule according to the condition of the soil, make sure it doesn't get too dry or stay too wet either. By the end of the summer or early fall you should be able to harvest the vegetables grown inside your own home. An Indoor Garden for Children If you have young children around an indoor garden is the perfect project to teach them about nature. It is also an avenue to teach children about the responsibility needed to care for something on an ongoing basis. Simple is best, even for older children -- as they prove themselves and their garden thrives they can expand the plants that they grow. To enrich the learning opportunity purchase clear containers to grow the plants in. If you can not find a traditional pot that is clear make sure the container you use either has a drainage hole in the bottom or layer gravel on the bottom before adding the soil. Once the plant starts to grow more the roots will become visible in the pot. Children will love to grow their own vegetables and maybe even eat them once they are ready. Buy each child a large container that is theirs to take care of and let them pick the type of vegetable they want to grow. The easiest vegetables to grow indoors are carrots, tomatoes, and radishes. There are a wide variety of tomatoes that you can grow from beefsteak to cherry tomato. The next time you eat an orange, save the seeds. Children can plant the seeds in small containers about 1 inch down into the soil. By giving the plant watered and in the sunlight, in two to three weeks they will have their own citrus tree growing. They can choose to keep it indoors or plant it outside in the summer when the small plant has become bigger and stronger. Try the same with other fruit seeds too from watermelon to apple seeds. Getting children to help with your houseplants is a good idea too. Children love to help out with adult chores and it gives you a break at the same time.
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