If you don’t have a yard to speak of, or if you hate the great outdoors, it’s still possible to green up your living space with some live plants. Arm yourself with the right gardening tools and a little expert guidance, and it can be almost effortless to cultivate a beautiful garden indoors.
There are a few things to know about indoor gardening before you roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty: Indoor gardening is trending because it has its benefits. Compared to a larger, more complex outdoor garden, indoor gardens are often more attractive to beginner gardeners — because you’re not at the mercy of the seasons. With an indoor garden, you can control the environment of your plants by regulating how much food, water, shade and light they receive. Plants cultivated in this kind of contained setting are likely to last through more than one season.
For many of us city folk, indoor gardening makes perfect sense. As the UGA Extension points out, supported by specialists from the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, we spend almost 90 percent of our time indoors. Cultivating a few beautiful interior plants can make your home environment more restful and attractive, and it can prove useful when you grow something you’ll eat. Indoor plants are also natural air purifiers that help to absorb indoor air pollution.
According to the National Gardening Association, you’re most likely to see success in your indoor garden when you pick plants that grow well indoors. The NGA recommends user-friendly indoor favorites like arugula, chives and lettuce and especially herbs like dill, basil, rosemary and sage to get you started.
Once you’ve picked up your preferred potted plants (or seeds), your hard work isn’t done just yet. Keeping up with an indoor garden requires regular care, but no one said it had to be time-consuming. With these handy tools in your toolbox, it’ll be easy to keep your plants alive:
1. Hand fork
Image: Jewson Tools
For those newbie gardeners who have no idea what a fork has to do with growing plants, keep right on reading. One key difference between indoor and outdoor plants is that indoor plants may not have the same access to nutrients. Adding fertilizer and compost to an indoor plant can provide it with the minerals it needs — when you use your trusty hand fork to break up soil and make sure it is properly fertilized. The Bulldog Evergreen Hand Fork is a top-rated, UK-manufactured gardening tool that comes with a 10-year guarantee, and you can also find reasonably priced hand forks on Amazon . (Jewson Tools, £5)
If you fondly remember Fiskars scissors from your kindergarten days, you’re in luck. Fiskars makes plenty of grownup tools too — specifically designed to simplify some of the most cumbersome indoor gardening tasks. Add the Fiskars PowerGear2 Pruner, used by Fiskars designer and urban gardener Russell van Kraayenburg, to your indoor gardening tool kit: The inexpensive pruner offers a strong grip with maximum leverage to cut through stems and light branches at up to 3/4-inch thick. (Fiskars, $25)
Cheap, strong and easy to use, it’s hard not to love the ergonomically designed Radius Garden 101 Ergonomic Hand Transplanter . The hand transplanter, designed with a patent-pending Natural Radius Grip to minimize hand and wrist strain, makes it easy to do the dirty work without overextending or wasting energy. This little guy is best used for planting bulbs and transplanting to and from indoor pots. (Amazon, $16)
4. Label maker
If you’re the type that gets off on organizing, this tool is definitely going to blow your skirt up. Not only is a label maker fun to play with, but it’s a must for indoor gardening because it helps keep indoor plants, seed packets and supplies organized. The P-Touch label maker — called one of the best tools of all time by Good Housekeeping — covers all the bases. Labels come in a wide variety of tape colors with different fonts, decorative patterns and even garden-themed symbols like flowers and tools. (Amazon, $40)
5. Indoor watering can
You can always count on the Swedes to come up with something innovative enough to turn indoor gardening on its head. Winner of the IF Product Design Award in 2010, Born in Sweden’s indoor gardening can is a confirmed work of genius. The functional yet practical stainless steel watering can uses gravity to dispense water — simply move the metal cylinder up or down to stop or start the flow of water. Use this unique watering can to hydrate your potted plants or to entertain your friends at a party. (Amazon, $50)
6. Self-watering pot
Image: Aqua Camel
This is where the line between lazy and brilliant starts to blur just a little bit: The new Aqua Camel is a self-watering plant pot that takes the guesswork out of trying to figure out how much and how often you need to water your indoor plants (often the hardest skill to master as an indoor gardener). Eliminating this under-watering/over-watering dilemma means fewer dead plants on your hands. The patented Aqua Camel pot, backed by University of Florida horticulturists, is designed to give potted plants as much water as they need to stay hydrated for up to 60 days, with no additional watering needed. (Aqua Camel, $15)
7. Moisture sensor meter
If self-watering pots are too futuristic for your taste, and you want to stick to the basics of gardening, there’s a gadget for that too. The Indoor/Outdoor Moisture Sensor Meter offers another way to bypass the common problem of under-watering and over-watering thirsty house plants. The easy-to-read needle meter has a color-coded gauge that reflects a plant’s soil water levels, with no batteries needed. (Amazon, $10)
8. Wi-Fi plant sensor
For those times when you need a professional gardener’s touch, as always, there’s an app for that. The Koubachi (a.k.a., your “smart” plant care personal assistant) uses built-in sensors to monitor the soil temperature, moisture and lighting of indoor and outdoor plants. Through the use of an iPhone or web app, this adorable little device that looks remarkably like a golf club will serve as a direct medium between you and your house plants — you’ll know immediately when your basil needs more water or would prefer a sunnier spot in the kitchen. (Amazon, $100)
9. Plant stand
Image: Gardener’s Supply Company
Once you’ve got the basics of indoor gardening down, it’s time to think about presentation. Instead of crowding all of your perfectly potted plants on a windowsill or end table, you can organize them nicely and neatly in a central point in your house. An A-frame plant stand can be used indoors or outdoors, with optional galvanized shelf liners to catch water run-off. Set up your plants on their shelves, wait for the first leaves to sprout and congratulate yourself on a job well done. (Gardener’s Supply Company, $80)