Indoor and Semi-Indoor Gardening How Tos?
August 31, 2016 7:33 AM   Subscribe

Novice Indoor Gardener: What are your best pieces of advice and resources for growing and starting plants indoors, including using artificial light and possibly some sort of water rig?

Fall is coming, and with it, the end of the Canadian (Montreal) outdoor growing season. As an apartment dweller, it'll soon be time to take in my front balcony boxes and plant pots. However I want to keep gardening past first frost, and more than just a cactus or two.

I have, as my grow space, a "three season porch", which is to say a windowed but uninsulated former back balcony and bunch of windows with dubious light.

The three season porch is not currently heated in the winter, although I could probably extend the growing season of my existing plants by closing the windows at the end of October, just from passive heat venting from the house. Similarly I suspect I could start seedlings a little earlier by putting them into plastic hatted starter boxes.

Indoors, although there are plenty of windows, the position of the building (and our neighbours) is such that we get a lot of indirect light. This is fine for air plants, but not so much for anything else. The apartment is large but I don't like clutter.

I want to grow witchy things, like rue, wormwood and mandrake because I always wanted to be the wicked warty nosed hag in storybooks when I was a child, and kitchen herbs. I am not attempting to grow marijuana.

What are good communities for indoor gardeners? What do I need to transform wall space into a tidy starting space? What can I do with the three season porch other than store thing, in the winter?

The last time this was asked about was in 2008, so I imagine there might be some fresh information.
posted by Phalene to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
So I haven't yet invested in seed starting myself but one of my good friends has a big garden and starts all her seeds each year. She has one of those metal shelving units with wire shelves and reuses plastic starting trays (the kind that can hold water). She lines each tray with a thin board so she can pour water in and let it wick up to the plants without them sitting in water. I think she just got some industrial fluorescent light fixtures (the long narrow kind) and hangs them from chains on each level of the shelves. This allows her to gradually raise the lights as the plants get taller. She may also use some of the seed starter heating pads under the trays.

Feel free to memail me if you have any detail questions. I really want a setup like this of my own but don't have enough yard to justify it.
posted by brilliantine at 7:54 AM on August 31, 2016 [3 favorites]

Wormwood is a temperate herbaceous perennial. Generally, temperate herbaceous perennials are not well suited to growing indoors. You can in concept grow it in the winter, but it needs to shut down each year, and that would be in then be in the summer, which is the best growing period in Montreal. That's kind of a lot of effort and will give you far less wormwood than just growing it outside, but it might be fun. Or you could just take cuttings and see if you get can get them to last in water all winter.

Rue is much more reasonable indoors, IMO.

Mandragora is also an herbaceous perennial, but here is someone claiming indoor growing can work.

I'd personally look at LED grow lights as a way to keep electricity costs and heat generation down.

You can definitely start things early on the three season porch, and overwinter things that need to shut down but are not equipped to survive actual Montreal winter, the porch will basically add 0.5 to 1.5 to your zone rating, depending on its aspect, insulation, how warm you keep your house, etc. Maybe something like Amaryllis.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:05 AM on August 31, 2016

My favorite watering tool is a mustard bottle--a squeezy bottle with a small tip--because it makes it easy to control the flow and not squash the seedlings.

This blog post is not a terrific tutorial, but it might interest you in the basics of milk jug seed starting. What to Winter-Sow…And When (Updated for 2015).
posted by MonkeyToes at 8:38 AM on August 31, 2016

Going from the other end, put seedlings under fluorescent T5 lights to get an early start on next year's growing season.

Investigate microgreens as a winter salad crop (they don't need sunlight).
posted by Leon at 8:57 AM on August 31, 2016 [1 favorite]

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