The Journey of a Budding Indoor Gardener

Hello! My name is Caitlin Deaver, and I’m a Marketing and Communications intern on the Live Green! team – I help create our monthly newsletter. In the March Live Green! Monthly newsletter, the Now You Know feature shares some opportunities for the budding indoor gardener.

Being the author of this month’s Now You Know feature and a new budding indoor gardener myself, I wanted to share how I’ve come to love gardening through my ongoing adventure with many types of plants. I’ll preface by saying I’m also a new plant parent, and highly recommend doing your own research to fit your needs and interests before starting your own indoor garden! Here’s the story of my journey.


THE PLANT THAT STARTED IT ALL: MEET FERNIE

My gardening journey began in May of 2016 when a friend gave me a baby spider plant. She handed me a water-filled plastic cup with a little, green sprout floating inside. I was just moving into my off-campus apartment, and I had absolutely no idea what to do with “him” – my eagerness to become a plant mom gave him the name Fernie.

Little did I know, I was just gifted one of, if not the most, immortal of houseplants. Spider plants are great for first-time gardeners because of the following:

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Fernie has now grown up to be in a dirt-filled pot. To keep Fernie happy, I make sure to turn his pot in the windowsill (all of his leaves like to get sun exposure), and I water him with half a cup of once water every week.

I also learned how to successfully propagate baby spider plants when Fernie decided to reproduce – and yes, spider plants reproduce often, so it’s important to know how to remove the baby spider plant from the main plant, as well as have a nursery ready.

Propagating baby spider plants is as simple as clipping the plant right underneath the new sprout and removing it from the rest of the plant. Then you place the sprout in water, making sure to cover its base where the roots will begin developing, providing a root nursery. Keep the nursery in a windowsill, or wherever it can get some sunlight. Also, don’t worry if the water seems to be covering a large portion of your sprout – it loves it!

My first baby spider plant has taken about five weeks to really develop a structured root system – it is characterized by a few longer, main roots, as well as many shorter, finer roots also beginning to develop. At this stage, the baby spider plant is ready to be potted with soil.

TIP: Plastic bottles make great spider plant nurseries and “toddler spaces”. First, cut your bottle in half (top and bottom). Fill the bottom half ¾ full with water, and place your seedling in the water to support root development. Once the roots have developed enough, take the top half of the bottle and place two strips of wicking fabric in to the neck of the bottle. Add your soil and seedling, and watch as it grows!


MY LIFE WOULD SUCC WITHOUT SUCCULENTS

My first succulent came from a weekend getaway to Missouri just a few weeks after receiving Fernie. I was walking around the Soulard Farmer’s Market in St. Louis and came across a florist’s booth. After feeling like a tried and true plant mom for the lowest maintenance Fernie at home, I nabbed my first succulent and took him back to Iowa.

Then I came to realize I loved the look and feel of succulents and I loved talking about the little indoor garden I was starting. Before I knew it, my family and friends supplied me with more succulents, bringing me to my current herd of four.

In addition to acting as aesthetically appealing décor, a succulent can have so many more positive qualities.

Succulents

I haven’t tried properly propagating my succulents yet – I’m currently searching for the perfect Do-It-Yourself project to display them in first. That’s just another great thing about succulents – there seems to be no limit to the number of fun and creative ways you can display them according to what fits your taste, as well as your space.

To keep my succulents happy, I give them a small amount of water once every week or so.

TIP: Always keep a spray bottle handy. Succulents tend to enjoy a light misting of water every other week or so – a spray bottle helps keep the urge to overwater at bay.


THOSE MUSHROOMS CAME FROM WHERE?: A JOURNEY IN PRODUCE GARDENING

Even if you’re not a penny-pinching college student, there are many unique opportunities to not only save some cash, but also do something new and creative when it comes to crossing produce off your grocery list.

An item that is always on my grocery list is avocado — guacamole is one of my favorite snacks. It finally hit me one day as I was pulling the pit from an avocado to make guacamole, about to throw the pit away, that it’d be really cool to grow my own avocados.

Then, I thought, that there must be some way to do it. As it turns out, no matter where you live, anyone can start growing avocados. It only takes some patience!

Here’s how! Peel the thin layer of skin off the pit. It’s important to have the flatter bottom of the pit submerged in water, keeping the top 2/3rds of the pit above water. I used an avocado boat for my pit, but four toothpicks and a glass of water (like this) works, too. After a few weeks, the pit should begin to split and grow roots.

TIP: To keep your avocado pit healthy, be sure to change out the water every week, or to at least stir the water every so often. This keeps the water from becoming stagnant and a breeding ground for dangerous microbials.

I won’t be picking avocados from my self-grown avocado tree anytime soon, but you never know! Plus, I’ve been saving back my avocado pits to start even more potential avocado trees.

TIP: This is a great example of getting too excited and not doing homework first. Because I’d never dreamed of planting my avocado pits (especially living in Iowa), I bought an avocado boat online after seeing an ad for it on Facebook. Little did I know, at no expense to me, I could use a few toothpicks and a cup of water to get the same results. It goes to show: don’t choose the expensive way because the cheaper ways are not so obvious!

Mushrooms are also one of my favorite foods – they’re great in salads and pastas, on pizza, and basically in and on everything. This superfood is delicious, as well as incredibly healthy. So I decided to go out on a limb and try growing my own mushrooms.

I did what I suggest other newbie gardeners do: buy a mushroom farm kit and learn from it before starting to grow “real” mushrooms on your own – it’s a nice way to get an idea of how mushrooms grow best in your home.

I chose the Back to Roots mushroom farm because it was both affordable and philanthropic – by submitting a photo of yourself with your successful farm, the company sends a free mushroom farm kit to an elementary school classroom of your choice.

Another perk is that these kits grow both successfully and quickly!

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I keep my mushrooms happy and healthy by following the instructions on the box – keeping the farm exposed to indirect sunlight while also giving it 2-3 teaspoons of water each day.

TIP: Warm water sparks more sudden growth as opposed to cold water. This simple switch is an easy way to speed up your mushrooms’ growth!

Green onions also make up a favorite ingredient for many of my meals. They are a tasty addition to any dish, and have many nutritional benefits, too.

However, when I chop multiple bundles, I tend to throw away about an inch of the onions (the white part containing the roots), simply because I thought I couldn’t eat them. Unfortunately, I was throwing away part of what I paid for, as well as ignoring the potential to save some money.

Therefore, I took to the Internet to discover how to begin maintaining a wasteless kitchen for produce. A wasteless kitchen encourages the recycling of the non-edible parts of produce and growing your own produce in order to keep produce parts out of the garbage.

To “recycle” green onions, it’s pretty simple! Find a pot sized appropriately for the number of onions you would like to plant. Fill with potting soil. Poke your finger about half an inch into the soil where you would like to insert your onions. Proceed to insert the onions, leaving about half an inch of the onion above soil. Spray each onion with water each day. After a couple weeks, the onions should have grown upward, allowing you to clip the new, edible green part at the top. Just snip off the green parts whenever you want to use your green onions, and continue to nurture your ongoing onion garden until the next time you want them!

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Now I’m looking for other opportunities to keep a wasteless kitchen! Before you throw away any produce bits, learn about your options for growing your own small-scale food!

TIP: Storing soil in an apartment can be difficult – oftentimes there’s not enough room for a big bag of soil, and your landlord doesn’t appreciate it when you get potting soil in their carpet. I avoid this by keeping only a portion of my soil in my apartment, taking a gallon bag to my parents’ house to refill on soil every so often. I don’t use my soil often, plus it’s a nice excuse to take some time during the weekend to run home and spend time with family!

I hope my adventure in indoor gardening gives you some encouragement to bring some green into your home, too! Just remember to soak up as much knowledge as you can beforehand to have the most success – and fun!

For more information about some of the plant types mentioned here, check out the Now You Know feature of the March edition of Live Green! Monthly.

Happy (indoor) gardening!

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