Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
February, 2013
Regional Report

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My indoor plants live happily in an east-facing window in my office.

Tips for Successful Indoor Gardening

Adorning your home or office with green living things is rewarding. I have a few tips to share that will make your indoor gardening endeavors successful and enjoyable.

Keep Humidity High
Most indoor plants are tropical, meaning they require ample humidity and a period of semi-drought every year. The tropics have a rainy season that usually runs from May through September. That's when indoor plants require the most water, fertilizer, and humidity. The natural dry season, October through April, is when you apply less water, but it is still important to keep up the humidity. Dry, heated indoor environments are ideal for some insect pests. To avoid infestations of spider mites, mealybugs, and scale insects, you must provide ample humidity for your plants.

Make a humidity tray by placing gravel in the saucer of each plant. Then add water to half the depth of the gravel. This will prevent the plant's roots from sitting in water while allowing it to evaporate back up around the foliage, creating a simple source of humidity.

Water Properly
Watering indoor plants should never be done on a rigid schedule. Always feel the surface of the soil with your fingers to determine if it is damp to the touch. If so, wait a few days, then check again. The soil should be dry one inch below the surface before watering thoroughly.

Watering indoor plants is best done by soaking the entire pot in a large basin or sink. Immerse the pot all the way to the rim and allow it to soak until bubbles stop rising from the soil. Five minutes is usually ample time. Remove the pot from the basin and allow it to drain for several minutes.

Provide Suitable Light
Tropical plants live under the forest canopy where they receive moderate light, which is why they thrive indoors. Sunny windows are not the ideal location. Select a spot with bright, indirect light for best results. Even a light coating of dust will inhibit photosynthesis. Keep your plants clean by giving them a shower every month or so.

Feed Only Actively Growing Plants
Fertilizer should be applied half strength every time you water during the active growing season and withheld during the dry season. Slow release products work well.

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