As two years living in a pandemic taught us, gardening is a powerful tool for relaxation and fulfilment. During lockdown, suddenly vast swathes of the population who had never previously experienced the urge to grow things were gripped. And, for those who didn't have a garden to call their own, house plants increased astronomically in popularity, with people paying closer attention to the quality of their living and working from home spaces under lockdown, newly aware of the ability of greenery to improve wellbeing and create a pleasant ambiance (particularly during difficult times. But beyond just a few plant pots here and there, some people have taken it to the next level with the ‘indoor garden’.
The concept embraces a variety of ideas, from the vertical garden – in which an entire wall can be taken over by plants, to ‘micro-farms’ with herbs and leaves you can install, grow and then cook with in your kitchen, whatever the season. Some options for indoor gardening are easy to set up yourself, with a bit of DIY and some reused materials, but there are also plenty of hi-tech products on the market, at a range of price points, to help you grow efficiently. Indoor gardens also make the perfect present for both the green-fingered fanatics and budding botanists in your life, allowing them to benefit from nature whilst staying warm and dry.
What is an indoor garden?
There are many ways to do an indoor garden, but the general idea revolves around a fairly dense collection of plants clustered together. These could be houseplants, arranged in a vertical garden or living wall, in which a frame is constructed to hold many plants together over the space of a wall; or they could be edible plants. Salad leaves and micro greens do well indoors, and there are various systems now available to facilitate the process. Many of these employ hydroponic methods, in which plants are grown without soil, using liquid solutions, sometimes alongside sand and gravel. These methods are popular for indoor gardens because there is no need for soil, which can be messy inside a house, and they reduce the need for watering.
One example we love is the Belgian brand Mother, which makes what it calls ‘at-home micro farms’, stylishly designed to enable you to grow plants from seed in your kitchen without soil. These come in various sizes, but we love the ‘HomeForest’ a vertical system you can fix to the wall or leave freestanding, which offers a reusable growing medium, built in light and hydroponic growing pods, making it easy to grow a wide range of leafy greens in an attractive setting. For a less expensive, more lowkey option, they also do a range of ‘MicroPods,’ in which you can grow fresh salad leaves – think rocket, watercress or iceberg, the perfect garnishes to salads and sandwiches – all year round. In the name of environmentalism, Mother's products are also built to last forever, meaning it's the gift that keeps on giving and giving.
We also love the hydroponic starter pack by Japanese brand Akarina, which is equally stylish, forming a decorative element in its own right, but on a much smaller scale. As a focal point on a kitchen countertop, it looks delightful and also supplies a steady stream of greens to use in your cooking. The 01 starter kit comes with a pack of seeds to get you started.
Another distinctly useful option for indoor kitchen gardens is the Click & Grow Indoor Herb Garden, a more affordable device which limits itself to herbs rather than greens in general. If you're constantly frustrated by the short life span of your supermarket herb pots, this is a super handy device to have on hand, and also makes a great gift. Click and Grow describe their mechanism a bit like a coffee machine, which you just plug in, add water and insert your seed pods containing all the nutrients the plant needs to thrive under its in-built UV light. Click and Grow also sell pods for over 75 species of plant, including fruit and vegetables and for the more adventurous home farmer and they also offer three-tier plant boxes.
How do you make a vertical garden?
Vertical gardens are distinctly on trend at the moment, and we can't deny the appeal of a wall full of living things. Although there are plenty of DIY options for constructing a framework in which to house your plants (see below for a helpful guide), if you're not a particularly handy person, there are products to help out. PlantBox by The Little Botanical is a great place to start, with kits available that include troughs, soil, and even the plants themselves. If you're truly committed to the living wall, you can buy multiple kits and line them up.
Supplies to Buy for Your Indoor Garden
A wooden pallet
1. Prepare the pallet
Firstly, you’ll want to prepare your pallet for the garden. This may include cleaning it, sanding it down, removing or adding extra slates and even painting it to fit the style and aesthetic of your home.
2. Staple the landscaping fabric
To keep weeds at bay and protect your vertical garden, landscaping fabric is a must-have. Place your pallet, with the back facing up, on the floor and cut the fabric to size. Remember, the fabric will need to cover both the back and the sides of the pallet. Staple the waterproof fabric around the edges of the slates running across the back. If you feel the need, you can also add a second layer of fabric for extra protection.
3. Create pockets for the plants
Once the fabric is securely in place, flip the pallet over and create pockets to fit inside the slates. Measure the distance between the bottom and top deck board and add an extra two inches. Then, cut as many pieces as you need from the fabric and staple them inside the top and bottom boards.
4. Fill with soil and plant
Lastly, put the pallet vertical garden in its final position, either outside or inside, and fill the pockets with soil. Then, plant your herbs, flowers, and whichever plants you desire, step back and admire your creation!
This story originally appeared on House & Garden UK.