Indoor Container Gardening
LESLIE: When summer turns to fall and the foliage outside starts to go dormant for the cooler weather, you may feel like your green thumb needs to take a rest.
TOM: Ah. But you don’t have to stop gardening; you just have to bring the green inside with container gardening. Here to tell us how to get started is This Old House landscaping contractor Roger Cook.
ROGER: Thanks for having me.
TOM: You know, indoor gardening has really taken off in recent years. There’s seed companies that are creating seeds specifically for this purpose now, right?
ROGER: Right. And there’s a lot of kits you can get that has the pots, it has the material and the seed all in one. It’s really easy for kids to do, too.
TOM: So just add water.
ROGER: Just add water, literally.
LESLIE: Now, are you starting off whatever these things that you’re growing from seed to then eventually move outside once the weather warms up? Or am I traditionally really making something to stay inside?
ROGER: Ninety percent of it, I would say, is to go outside in the garden. So you have to know when you plant that material. You want it to grow for 4-6 weeks before you put it out in the garden and that 4-6 week period has to lead up to a time when there’s no more frost. Because these little plants go outside, get a little bit of frost on them, they’re all going to die. So that’s one thing you have to be very careful of.
TOM: Now, are there certain plants that are better suited for indoor container gardening and that maybe would be transferrable to the outside?
ROGER: A lot of the mints – the different types of mints and herbs – are really good to start inside. And as they grow, you can take little cuttings off them and use them when you’re cooking. And then they’ll last very long that you can bring out into the garden.
TOM: I’ll tell you one time at the supermarket, I purchased basil and it happened to have root structure on it, right? So I said, “What the heck, let’s try it.” And I planted it and we had big basil bushes as a result of just buying the basil from the supermarket. Probably not the best way to do it but it worked.
ROGER: Oh, no. It’s fine, it’s fine. You just have to be careful. Some of these things will get out of control and just …
ROGER: I like to plant herbs in separate containers, so that way I can always control how big they’re going to get.
LESLIE: I mean it’s amazing: basil will grow like just a monster. The other one that will is also lavender.
LESLIE: Lavender just takes over. It smells fantastic but it’s the one thing that I don’t happen to kill in the yard. It does very …
ROGER: Yeah, lavender is one of the most common plants we use in the landscape now just for that purpose: it smells so nice and the silvery green foliage on it. It’s a good plant.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Now, is there anything that you can’t start indoors? I know Henry always wants to pick up seeds at the supermarket for like broccoli and eggplant. Are these things that I shouldn’t be thinking about starting inside?
ROGER: I have never seen vegetables that we were able to grow inside and get fruit off of.
LESLIE: Oh, really?
ROGER: Yeah, it just has never worked for me and I’ve never seen it done.
LESLIE: And if you can’t do it, then I definitely cannot.
ROGER: Well, couple things you could try with the kids that I have a lot of fun with is Paperwhite Narcissus.
LESLIE: Mm-hmm. Oh, they smell really nice.
ROGER: Yeah. And they grow like overnight. The kids love them because they can see them grow so fast.
LESLIE: Is that from a bulb, though?
ROGER: From a bulb. You just buy the bulb and it’s all pre-chilled, so you just put it in stone, keep it wet and it grows up fantastic.
LESLIE: Now, that’s an interesting point with the bulbs, because I’m thinking a packet of seeds when I’m thinking of an indoor container garden. But when it comes to bulbs, generally, you would be planting those outdoors in the fall.
ROGER: Right. There are some that we can just do this with in the wintertime.
LESLIE: Would it be labeled on the packaging? Or can you just buy a bulb of anything and stick it in?
ROGER: No, no, no, no. Not a bulb of anything. The majority of the bulbs have to be planted in the fall because they need a period to chill. The bulbs you’re buying now are pre-chilled. Sometimes you can buy a little container of tulips that are just starting to come up. Well, someone planted those and they were kept chilled all fall and then they brought out for sale at that period of time.
LESLIE: Oh, that’s interesting.
TOM: So there’s a lot of options. You can grow the herbs, you can grow the flowers, you can do it all indoors and enjoy it through the cold season.
ROGER: It’s a great way to make the winter go a little bit faster.
LESLIE: Heck. I’m looking at it – a great way to kill an hour with the five-year-old. Like what are you talking about?
TOM: Roger Cook, the landscaping contractor on TV’s This Old House, thanks so much for stopping by The Money Pit.
ROGER: I’m having a ball. Thank you for having me.
LESLIE: Catch the current season of This Old House and Ask This Old House on PBS. For local listings and step-by-step videos of many common home improvement projects, visit ThisOldHouse.com.
TOM: And This Old House is brought to you by Lumber Liquidators. Lumber Liquidators, hardwood floors for less.