In the world of indoor gardening, there are many situations that require you to come up with unorthodox solutions. The best gardeners I know embrace this spirit. When you can’t purchase a ready-made solution, you often have to think of novel ways to accomplish your goals. For many folks, the first major challenge is choosing a location to set up the garden. The vast majority of people garden in their home or apartment. A standard indoor garden, if there is such a thing, is typically around 9-16 sq. ft.—the area covered by a standard light hood.
Much like finding a spot to install an additional full-sized refrigerator or freezer in your existing home, finding a place for an indoor garden can be a bit of a challenge. You may immediately consider the garage, basement, spare bedroom or back porch, but while those spots may work fine for an extra deep freeze for the home, they are often less than ideal for an indoor garden. However, there are virtually unlimited options for indoor gardening locations when you begin to think of unusual places. The following tips might just give you the inspiration you need to find that unique spot to set up your next garden.
Three of the most common concerns when choosing a spot for your garden are:
- Limited space: The most common complaint I hear is from people with limited real estate.
- Ease of access: A small herb garden positioned in the attic is not easy to use.
- Security or stealth: Indoor gardens are often misunderstood. Many landlords have a blanket policy banning them due to previous bad experiences.
In a perfect world, we would all be living in mansions so large, we never have to spend the night in the same room twice. These luxurious palaces would have 100 amps of power on every wall, as well as water and natural light sources in abundance. In a setting like this, we’d have no problem finding a climate-controlled utopia that would be an ideal environment for an indoor garden.
While this sounds like a great place to grow, I don’t think my bank account will allow it to happen. So, it seems we have arrived at the truth. The fact is many of us have small homes with only a couple of possible places to set up a garden.
It’s time to get creative. Fortunately, having a cool-running T5 grow light or two provides some great alternatives over traditional places to raise your plants. The following solutions are all made possible with help from the much-beloved T5 light fixture.
Creative Gardening Spaces
The other day, I walked around my house looking at every location I could use as a garden plot. Most of the locations were out of the question. For example, while the top of my china cabinet is about 6-ft. long and could hold a number of small plants, my wife was quick to inform me the dining room was off-limits. One room down. The garage and attic are way too hot in the summer and get way too cold in the winter. The spare bedroom is also off-limits, as is our office. The basement would be perfect, but I have big, freestanding shelves that fill the space…Wait a second! The shelves!
It would be simple to re-purpose one shelf of the large, rivet-lock shelving units to have a 2- by 8-ft. garden that’s about 4-ft. high. All I need to do is consolidate a few items onto other shelves to free up some room. Perfect. A pair of 4-ft. T5 fixtures attached to the bottom of a chest-high shelf should do it. I could use black and white plastic as a curtain around the shelving unit to keep the light from spilling out. This option works in a small space and serves the stealth function nicely. Not to mention, the basement is located down the stairs just off the kitchen. Fresh herbs and veggies for dinner, only 10 seconds away!
On the main floor of our house, we don’t have any unused areas to devote exclusively to gardening. For this reason, I’ve looked into creating a mixed-use area. My kitchen countertop has some serious potential. If I install a T5 light fixture, I can turn the 12-in. area against the backsplash into a nice little herb garden. A T5 will give me some area lighting as well as provide a cool, brilliant-looking photon shower to raise healthy little plants. Our small kitchen has two areas that could work.
Each section of countertop is 4-ft. long. If we annex the portion of the counter below our cabinets, we are left with approximately 8 sq. ft. of garden space.Since my wife will not likely give up that much space, I’ll make do with one 12- by 48-in. area. Instead of putting our fresh produce on the counter, I can mount a T5 light fixture under the cabinet and have a living herb garden. This placement requires only a minimal investment. It doesn’t sound like a lot of space, but just compare this footprint to that provided by an off-the-shelf countertop herb garden. A single plot this size is more than enough to provide year-round herbs for your family.
While eyeing the kitchen as a prospective location, I even considered the top of the refrigerator, which would provide me with more than 6 sq. ft. of space. It may take a small step stool to access it, but this spot is definitely out of the way of daily traffic. The top of the refrigerator stays warm, which makes it an ideal clone nursery. And in my house, it just so happens that the fluorescent light for the kitchen sits above the fridge. No extra light needed.
Across from our kitchen is the family room where we have a fireplace with a large mantle set in the corner of the room. I have been dreaming of placing a few of my bonsai plants on it, but while I was measuring the mantle for this story, my wife tripped out:
“Are you insane? I’m not letting you put a garden on our mantle. You might as well just put it inside the fireplace. We haven’t used it in years.”
“What? Seriously? That is the best idea I have heard yet!” I said.
In her rush to save the mantle, my wife had given me some inspiration. I could brush and vacuum out the inside of the fireplace and mount a small grow light as high as possible. I could paint the back of the glass doors black to hide the light, open the damper a bit to let the heat out, and voila! Instant stealth garden in the middle of the house. If we ever wanted to show it off, we just open the glass doors. It would look almost like a fish tank. I am having visions of carbon reversals all over the country—instead of burning carbon in wood fireplaces, we sequester carbon in our homegrown food.
When you are looking for an appropriate area for a small indoor garden plot, you are likely to find yourself looking at your garage. While the temperature extremes may pose a problem during winter and summer, there are ways of dealing with this issue. Two of my friends have converted old freezers into small garden plots. While it takes a bit of engineering to pull it off, the final product is well worth the effort. When you open your garage door, people just see a large deep freeze in the corner. It also never even merits any curiosity when the landlord comes over.
If you are on a budget—aren’t we all?—you can use an empty refrigerator box. A refrigerator box is large enough to have a proper garden inside. It can be also be stealthed-out quite easily. Nobody looks twice at a large cardboard box in the corner of your garage or basement. I like to use empty cardboard boxes to create a small wall on one side of my garage work bench. When my garage door is open, it hides my tool box and keeps passers-by from seeing all of my power tools. It is pretty amazing how well you can isolate an area just by stacking a few cardboard boxes. Out of sight, out of mind as they say.
Finally, my last idea is tucked away in the living room, where we have a small window seat. Under the seat is an ideal spot to construct a 1.5- by 3-ft. garden space. It is just deep enough to use if you mount a T5 fixture to the bottom of the seat. Our cats would love the nice warm seating with a view of the yard. Come to think of it, I think I would love it, too; gazing at the snow coming down with a warm behind and a purring cat, sleeping the day away on my lap. Life is good.