The physical and psychological benefits of raising plants are well established, and if you are lucky enough to have a suitable space outdoors, you probably already take advantage of them. But as the weather cools and the evenings shorten, it may be time to think about moving your horticulture and floriculture into the home.
Indoor gardening is the only option for many of us and it’s a delight. One of the great advantages is that indoor conditions are, by and large, consistent and controllable, making them ideal for cultivating a multitude of beautiful and practical plants. Whatever the scale of your ambitions, be it a humble lawn of watercress on a meadow of cotton wool, or the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, there are a few practical considerations to think about.
Find a space with plenty of light. Of course, a conservatory is great, but even a windowsill that gets around 6 hours of sunshine can provide a suitable habitat. You can even optimise a confined area by using the ceiling space – either hanging baskets with built-in drip trays, or a Sky Planter or two. If you go for pots, consider repurposing existing containers. Try here and here for inspiration.
Once you’ve established a well-lit location for your indoor plants, it’s time to decide what to grow. If you need motivation, why not go for something practical? A few simple herbs are a great option to get you underway, being generally easy to grow and of course essential for any kitchen. Try basil, oregano, mint, thyme, rosemary, coriander and chives for starters. Either raise your own plants from seed or transplant small purchased plants into a suitable pot. Requirements will vary, but generally you’ll want to water sufficiently to keep soil moist to the touch - and drain saucers after watering. If in doubt, a useful aid to keeping plants properly watered is the Boskke Totem.
If you’ve mastered herbs, then a lack of acreage is no reason not to take the next step and start growing your own vegetables – you can maintain a practical crop of veggies with surprising limited space, and the normal conditions in most homes are ideal. Try greens like spinach, rocket or kale, chillies or even tomatoes! And these suggestions are just some of the most common choices – If you want to get really serious, there are actually a few fruits that you can grow indoors during the winter months.
And finally, even if you think you’re not cut out for full-on botanical husbandry, you can still brighten the home throughout winter with decorative plants. It’s generally more fun to start from seed, but much easier to begin with established plants. Many can be brought in from the cold outside, but these days it’s also easy to pick from a dazzling range of suitable indoor plants at your local garden centre (also a fantastic source of advice and inspiration if you need it). But do remember that plants brought indoors may need a little time to acclimatise - and make sure you don’t bring any pests along for the ride!
So, whether you’re fired up by the prospect of harvesting truly home-grown food throughout the dark days of winter, or just need a satisfying way to spend your time that also happens to reward you with cleaner air and a seasonal psychological boost, then don’t be discouraged just because the temperature is dropping. It’s time to bring the great outdoors indoors.
Joss Spry, October 2017