How To Control The Climate For Your Indoor Garden
There are three major aspects that would control the climate necessary for your indoor gardening: (1) temperature, (2) lighting, and (3) humidity. Each one of these aspects is critical to the life of your plants and their development. It may look and sound very complicated to ensure the perfect climate for your plants, but it is not. Of course, you need to initially research the plants you plant to grow and their requirements. Once you have that down, regulating indoor climate is not that difficult with the modern appliances available today.
Most plants are happy with a temperature of 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit. Plants consume more energy when the temperature is warm than when it is cold. They will definitely adapt to a cooler room – for example rooms with air conditioner – but it will stress out the plants because they need warm temperature in the daytime and cool at night.
Air conditioning (making the room cold in the day time) would confuse the plant and interfere with its ability to carry out photosynthesis. The plant will start photosynthesis at night (when the temperature rises) and there will be no light to help it produce food. The result will be a sick plant which will soon die if the climate is not corrected. It’s okay to run your air conditioning if you have house plants in the summer! Just make sure that it’s not below 65 degrees and that your plants aren’t directly underneath a cold vent.
For best results you should provide at least a 10 degree fall in temperature at night (this will most likely happen naturally unless you’re running air conditioning 24/7). Pay special attention to this aspect in the summer when the temperatures tend to remain high even at night. If the climate is not corrected, the plants will drop leaves, fade and die; even if all other aspects are perfect.
To ensure that your plants are happy, arrange them in groups according to their temperature, humidity and light requirements. This will save you a lot of effort, and money by managing the climate with what you already have rather than of trying to make drastic changes that would actually work against the natural rhythm of your environment at home.
Light is a vital pre-requisite for an indoor garden as it helps the plant to produce chlorophyll through photosynthesis. This is the process of making food – the process of advanced life on Earth itself. It’s also the process which will keep the plant looking healthy, green and beautiful. Nothing manmade can replace the intensity of sunlight; however, there are the HID (high intensity discharge) lights, which can do an excellent job keeping your sun-loving plants happy.
If you do it right, your African Violets, orchids, citrus and hibiscus plants will flower and look bright and green throughout the year. This is no small achievement; the key is, ‘doing it right’.
The Right Color of Light
Sunlight offers the complete spectrum of light and plants use it all in the process of photosynthesis. However, the red and blue lights were found the most critical to their growth and positive photosynthesis (light that makes plants grow towards it). Blue light regulates plant growth and is especially beneficial for growing plants with foliage.
The Right Intensity
You will need to regulate the intensity of the light to ensure that your plants receive the right amount necessary for their growth. Plants react differently to color of light as they do to the intensity of light. Most plants do well in light that is kept about 1-3 feet away. Flowering plants are happier when the intensity of light is high – say 10-12 inches away, while foliage plants are okay with the light some 36 inches away.
Each plant has its own requirements. The trick is to group like-type plants together so you could provide the right type and amount of light to them better. When you design your indoor garden keep in mind, which plants want what and group them accordingly. Unless this is done right, you will have some plants happy and some wilting away – and you do not want that.
To find out what each one of your plants needs, you might like to research on the Internet about each one and note all the requirements where you can refer to them every once in a while. You can also do it through trial and error; plants have a way to “tell” you that they are not happy. Look for telltale signs such as wilting of leaves, drooping leaves, yellowing of leaves, etc. The change comes pretty fast within a few days; so you can know for sure what the plant likes and dislikes. Adjust the light to the intensity it likes; you will know when you hit the right combination for your plant will look as beautiful as it would be out in the sunlight.
The Right Duration
All plants can be divided into three major groups:
- Short-Day Plants – in this category are the plants that will need less than 10 hours of light. In this group are plants such as azaleas, chrysanthemums, begonias, and kalanchoe. For these types of plants to flower you need to provide about 10 hours of direct light.
- Long-Day Plants – in this category are plants that require a minimum of 14-18 hours of light. In the group you will find the majority of garden flowers and most vegetables. When the light is inadequate these plants yellow and droop.
- Day-Neutral Plants – in this category you will find foliage plants, coleus, African violets, geraniums – these are plants that require about 8-12 hours of light throughout the year.
There are all kinds of light specially designed for indoor gardening whether this is for starter seedlings, flowering plants, or green foliage. There are many types of lights available and each type caters to a particular aspect of growing a healthy indoor garden. You will need to mix and match to ensure that your indoor garden gets what it needs best.
- Incandescent Lights – this type of light is perfect for lighting a room where low-light plants are grown such as dracaenas, ferns and vines. These lights will give plenty of heat (10% light and 90% heat); hence, are not suitable for most plants unless they are cacti, tropical plants or succulents.
- Fluorescent Light – this type of light is best for day-neutral plants that require low-medium light such as vegetables and African Violets. The lights come in the form of tube-like bulbs in various sizes (T12, T8 and T5). The thinner the bulb, the brighter the light it provides would be. They provide full spectrum light and use 75% less energy than the incandescent lights. They provide 6500 Kelvin light when most indoor plants require 4000-6000 Kelvin degrees.
With this type of light you could emulate the conditions required to grow all types of herbs, starter seedlings, greens, orchids, succulents, and so on. These plants perform well when exposed to the full spectrum lights fluorescent bulbs provide. The T5 and T8 bulbs placed at about 2-4 inches away emulates sunlight and are excellent for germinating seeds. For grown up plants the plants will benefit if they are kept 1-2 feet away from the light source.
- Compact Fluorescent Lights
These are the lights you would like to use for your indoor garden not only because they are the best suited, but also because they cost a fraction of what the incandescent lights do. To ensure to get it right (and not waste your money with changing the lights often) ask a specialist to help.
Points to Keep in Mind about Lighting
Do not worry too much about finding the right lighting for your garden. It is easier than it looks. Consult a specialist in the beginning and afterwards you play it by the ear. You will find your plants have a way to tell you what they need. Every gardener will swear that they can tune in into what they plants need. What is left, you will learn with experience. Give yourself about 6-12 months and you will know that there is to know about the plants you are growing. In the meantime, you will need to keep in mind certain important things about lighting:
- Plants Need Darkness, Too
All plants – even the ones that love the highest intensity of light – need a period of darkness. They take rest during this time and respirate (take in oxygen and give out CO2), which is a very important part of their growth process. This will influence the rate of their growth, flower and fruit bearing abilities as well.
- Keep Lighting Even
You will need to rotate the plants each week preferably, though you can do once or twice a month as well. The centre of the bulb will provide the highest intensity of light (and heat) and hence, rotating the plant will ensure that the whole plant is exposed to light equally.
- Proper Maintenance of Fluorescent Lights
When the ends of the tube darken, the bulbs/ tubes need to be replaced. A spent up tube/ bulb will give much less light than it is designed to do. Unless it is replaced in time, the plants would suffer.
You will also need to clean the surface of the tube/ bulb regularly for dust would also diminish the intensity of light that it transmits.
- Check the Heat Level
Do you know a great way to find out whether the light arrangement you are providing is okay with the plants or not? Just place your hand above the plants that are provided light; if you feel any heat, then the light is too close. Move it away until your hands do not feel any difference in terms of heat.
Without proper air circulation you can never have a perfect garden. Stagnant air over-heat and creates conducive atmosphere for pests to grow. This is why you should never overcrowd the indoor garden area; nor should you allow foliage to touch.
You need to control air circulation if you want your garden to prosper. Keep in mind that any type of light arrangement – which is vital to the healthy growth of your indoor garden – will generate heat. The best way is to let fresh air in at regular intervals. If you do this, you would hardly need any additional system to regular your air circulation. However, this might not always be possible for various reasons.
There are many ways to control your environment among which, two are very popular and easy:
- Intake and Exhaust System
You may like to consider installing intake-exhaust systems that will ensure proper air circulation in your home and provide your plants the much required “fresh air”. These systems are able to reduce the temperature and with the help of circulation fans you would be able to control your environment with relative ease.
- Air Conditioning Systems
This is even easier than the intake-exhaust systems for everything is automated, i.e. temperature, humidity; and it even has an automatic cut off. Most people prefer air conditioning, because it is easier to set and monitor and it feels better, especially in climates where heat and humidity are high.
No matter what system you use, keep in mind that your plants would still need fresh air. Hence, you should at least 3-4 times a week leave your windows open to let the sun and fresh air in. If you can do it daily, it would be ideal.
You are aware that absence of CO2 can sabotage the growth of your plants, no matter how perfect everything else is. If your CO2 level is too low, your plants cannot create photosynthesis. To avoid this problem, you need to add a CO2 generator and meter to your indoor garden as well. Ignoring this important element in their environment will create plenty of problems with the flowering, growth and looks of your plants.
Humidity Control and Indoor Gardening
After the temperature and air circulation, humidity is the most important aspect that requires regulation to ensure a healthy and beautiful indoor garden. Plants adapt well, but there are certain elements that they need to be perfect. Humidity is one of these aspects. If it is too humid or too dry, they stop the photosynthesis process, which results in malfunction in the absorption of nutrients. This in turn, would interfere with the ability of the plant to take in water and carbon dioxide (CO2) – which will result in a very sick plant.
Also, in the dark, a poor humidity control is likely to lead to mold formation, pest infestation and diseases setting in. Without proper control of the humidity, plants cannot be or look healthy no matter what you do for your garden. You need to get it right.
Install a humidity meter in your home, especially in the places where you keep your plants. This meter will tell you whether or not you need to intervene to maintain the optimal humidity levels for your plants. Use a humidifier or de-humidifier as the case may be to ensure that you create the proper ambiance for your plants to thrive.