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I think I can speak for everyone when I say that 2020 has been a rough year and challenges for 2021 are up there!
We’ve all spent a lot more time inside than we usually do. At first, it was fun and, in my best super mom form, I had very much a “We can do it” attitude. We did a lot of puzzles and crafts. Kids practised playing musical instruments a lot more often than usual. My scientist husband did what he does best: science experiments with kids. A few weeks into it and I was exhausted of entertaining (and educating) the kids… I needed a hobby that would give back as much as I put into it.
I decided to try my hand at expanding my indoor garden. For a self-proclaimed Enviromom, I must say I am no green thumb. I kill more plants that I can keep alive. However, I wanted to care for something that was living, and see the results unfold before my eyes. Pets were out of the equation, too much responsibility! So plants were the obvious choice! It has been so satisfying, especially with my edible and medicinal plants. I have a few suggestions for anyone who wants to start their own plant projects.
Your indoor paradise can look however you want it to and perform whatever function you need it to! It’s all about planning and figuring out what kind of plants you need. I like to go with a mix of functional, practical, edible, and beautiful.
One plant that everyone should have is ALOE!!! There are so many benefits to having an aloe plant and they are nearly impossible to kill. They are so common you can pick one up almost anywhere that sells plants or you can order one online.
An Aloe plant requires very little effort on your part in order to flourish, they just need to be watered once or twice a week and get a lot of sunlight. If you really want your plant to flourish and become huge, you can purchase succulent soil that is really good for them, and there are succulent plant foods that they will benefit from getting weekly. Both of those things will lead to you having a giant aloe plant that you can propagate to give your friends one as a gift for every birthday. They can easily be transplanted into your garden. If you just want to grow one for your own, regular soil will work. I like to test my soil every few days by digging one of my fingers into it down to the first knuckle. If the soil is completely dry, I give it a little water.
Although, I have never tried using my own Aloe for medical purposes, I have always been a big fan of Aloe Vera gels and creams and I find they work really well for insect bites and sunburn. Nevertheless, I know a lot of people that peel off a nice, plump leaf to apply directly on their skin. This may not be recommended for all skin types.
While aloe is technically edible, it’s not my favorite plant to eat.
The easiest and best plant to put in some dirt straight out of the produce section is green onions. If you trim them down to about 2-3 inches above the base, all you have to do is put them in some potting soil (5-6 to a pot works best) and they will keep growing! Alternatively, they also grow quite well in water, although they can attract annoying fruit flies!
Soil or water aside, the important thing is you’ll constantly have fresh garnish in your kitchen whenever you want to throw something together but give it a little extra pop, and they grow so quickly!
Just last night I harvested a couple for some homemade poke bowls, and this morning they had already noticeably grown. You can stretch a fifty-cent bundle of green onions for MONTHS depending on how often you use them. When you notice that they’re starting to grow smaller and become a lighter green, their roots are probably maxing out on space in the pot. When that happens, you can use up what you have and then restart with another bundle.
Green onions also require next to no maintenance, they just need decent sunlight (about 4-6 hours a day) and to be watered regularly. Use the knuckle test again! If the dirt is still really damp to the touch, no need to water. If it’s just a little wet and barely sticks to your finger when you put it into the first knuckle, then give the pot another little splash!
Warning: some people do not like the smell! Personally, I don’t mind it, but my daughter always complains so I transferred it to the laundry as a compromise.
Another great indoor plant is a Peace Lily. They’re fairly low maintenance but do require more care than an aloe plant or green onions. A Peace Lily needs indirect sunlight at all times (no direct sunlight ever!) and more water than most other indoor plants. They’re the most expressive plants I have ever had, their leaves wilt quickly when they’re thirsty and perk up even faster once they’re watered. I love how they talk to you!
If you want a plant that gives you an immediate response, a peace lily is really the way to go. They’re also great because they’re AMAZING air filters. They not only process carbon dioxide, but also carbon monoxide. If you live in anywhere that’s been affected by wildfires this year, having one of these guys in your home to help filter your air can help you sleep a little more soundly at night knowing that it’s working for you to keep the air in your house clean.
Peace Lilies will live for years as long as you keep them watered and only give them indirect sunlight, and fertilise them every spring so they have fresh nutrients in their soil which will lead to a beautiful flower every summer. When the flower starts to die, go ahead and trim it down so your Peace Lily can conserve its energy to make it through the winter.
These three plants will get you started with a diverse, beautiful indoor garden that will bring you joy and give new purpose to your life. All of them are easy to care for and will give back all the love you pour into them.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are all these plants pet friendly?
A: No. Peace Lilies can be toxic for cats, and aloe plants and onions can cause tummy aches for cats and dogs. More importantly your pets may not be plant friendly! My cat has never eaten an aloe plant, but he has knocked it over and sliced it to shreds just for the fun of it. It’s best to train your pets not to interact with your plants overall, but if you’re really worried there are some great DIY hanging plant baskets that could solve your problems!
Q: Do I need to buy plant food for these?
A: It’s not necessary, all of these plants will do fine with just the nutrients in potting soil. But if you want them to grow, fertilisers are definitely recommended, particularly during spring and summer.
Q: What will happen to these plants in the winter?
A: As long as they don’t get too cold, all three of these will survive the winter. Maybe pull them back from the window just a little bit, and expect that in winter your plants are not going to grow as quickly because there’s less sunlight in the day which means the plants are eating less! You may also want to reduce watering a bit in the winter. That said, you can also invest in some grow lights, which will facilitate growth during darker winter days.