Plain white walls, stale air, and a disconnection from the natural world: is it any wonder that we’re frequently depressed, lost and in need of something to connect us to the world our bodies are meant to live in? You might not be able to quit your job and work on an organic farm, but you can incorporate a little of our natural environment in your everyday routine by taking advantage of indoor gardening.

Here are five common questions by those new to indoor gardening who want to turn their brown thumbs green!

1. How do I choose the right plants for my environment?

Not every plant can grow indoors, so you need to be careful which plants you choose when trying to do indoor gardening.

First, consider how warm or cold your house is. Plants from the tropics don’t like environments that are constantly cold, while other plants die if your house is constantly hot. Finding the right type of plant can mean the difference between having a flourishing indoor garden and feeling like you can never keep them alive.

Next, think about your own gardening abilities. If you remember to water your plants just enough – and you don’t drown them every day in water – you may be able to handle advanced plants that are trickier to care for, but if you don’t have a green thumb at all, you might want to consider sticking to certain types of palms that can store water in their trunks for a long time and cacti!
2. How should I water my indoor plants?

The watering requirements of every plant will differ. You should read the tag that comes with the plant, if there is one, carefully and keep it with the plant as a reminder in case you later forget.

If you don’t have a tag with the plant you purchase, look up the plant name in Google and search for care instructions. You can find instructions on how often the plant likes to be watered on gardeners’ blogs, gardening websites, and so on.

For those rare cases where you can’t find information, the general rule of thumb is to keep the soil lightly moist, but not wet. When the top layer of soil is dry, evenly water the soil until a bit of water comes out of the bottom if there are holes in the bottom of the container, or until the soil is saturated (don’t overwater so there’s a puddle of water left on the top of the soil). This obviously varies, however; cacti like to be more dry, while other plants must be kept in moist soil at all times.

3. What kinds of “practical” plants can I grow indoors, like veggies and herbs?

The most obvious type of plant that grows very well indoors is the common kitchen herb. Chives, oregano, parsley, rosemary, mint, basil, fennel, and even more will flourish if you give them a sunny windowsill and water them just enough. What’s more, you can use about a dozen herbs in your cooking that you grow indoors yourself, saving you money and adding more fresh food to your diet.

Some people swear by special contraptions that allow you to turn your windows into tomato gardens through bags that hang in the windows in which you plant tomatoes. Other fruits may grow indoors, but this depends heavily on your climate and how hot or cool you keep your house.

In general, herbs are the best bet if you want to grow something edible, while plenty of flowers will offer a classic reward for keeping plants well if you aren’t interested in producing something to eat.
4. Is fertilizer necessary for indoor gardening?

Most plants will grow better when fertilizer is used, with indoor plants certainly not being the exception to the rule, but the exact type depends on the plant. Some plants prefer soil that is more acidic, while others prefer soil that is alkaline. Ferns, for instance, love acids, while most tropical plants are happier if they have alkaline soil.

Before you fertilize, consider the type of soil the plant is in. Continuing with the examples from a moment ago, a tropical plant will prefer to be potted in clay or a soil mixture that includes limestone, while peat moss or leaf mold will make your fern grow much better. Orchids, cacti, and many other plants require soil that will drain easily, or their roots could begin to rot in soil that remains wet all the time.

Also, you need to deal with basic nutritional and health needs of the plant before fertilizing it. If your plant hasn’t had enough light or water lately, it’s weak and fertilizing could do more harm than good. Allow it a week or two of meticulous care, more if it has been severely deprived, before you try to fertilize it.

Once your plant is healthy and already potted in the correct type of soil, you can consider fertilizing it. This should be done only during the plant’s period of growth, which is typically in the spring or summer. If you have a tropical plant that is constantly growing and has heavy nutritional requirements, this might be constantly, though.

Look up instructions for your specific plant before you try to fertilize it, as only plants that require medium or high levels of light will require fertilizer, and the exact balance depends on the plant type and whether it prefers alkaline or acidic soil.

It isn’t strictly necessary to fertilize plants, and it may not be necessary depending on the type of plant you’re growing, but if you have a tropical plant or another type of high-maintenance plant, it may be very advantageous to your plant’s health and growth.
5. What can I do to create an unusual indoor garden?
If you aren’t happy with just the basic plants, there are more options you can look at to spruce up your home. You could create a terrarium, a self-contained environment with different types of plants that support one another, or arrange a number of potted plants in a tabletop garden, for instance.
The other way to make your indoor garden different from everyone else’s indoor plants is to use a few well-chosen “wow factor” plants. For instance, a bright and vivid tropical plant can catch eyes and serve as a live conversation piece!

Indoor gardening is satisfying, can give you extra variety in your meals, and can spruce up a dreary home during the long winters no matter where you live. Give it a try with some easy plants to care for at first, and you won’t be disappointed.