An indoor garden can last all year round. An indoor garden can give you a steady supply of beautiful flowers, herbs and can even help to feed the family. Since the garden is indoors, or in a grow box, all of the natural conditions of the outdoors must be recreated as closely as possible for the best results.
Soil needs many nutrients to thrive, but three in particular are nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Of these three, the most important is nitrogen, and while fertilizers are commercially sold that contain the right amounts of these ingredients, they are also not as healthy for the environment as ones that are naturally obtained.
Why is Nitrogen Important for Your Indoor Garden?
First, what is nitrogen? Quite simply, it is an elemental gas that is odorless and colorless. Nitrogen lives in the air we breathe but equally important, it is a major part of the proteins that are needed for soil to grow plants at maximum potential.
There are many commercial fertilizers on the market today that are rich in nitrogen. However, they are also filled with chemicals that the garden doesn’t need and may potentially harm the environment. This is especially important for those who are interested in natural organic gardening.
Plants go through a process where sunlight is taken in and combines with the water and carbon dioxide to produce the natural sugars essential to plant growth. Nitrogen contains chlorophyll, which is the compound that makes this process possible.
Nitrogen is also a component of the amino acids that make up proteins. These amino acids act as enzymes and also literally “build” the structure of the plant itself. Nitrogen exists in the DNA that makes the plant grow and create other vegetation.
Nitrogen often runs off through natural processes and when this happens, it must be replaced. Depletion can occur when plants are removed, or from natural water run-off.
For the indoor garden or grow box, the soil has been transplanted from the ground into another environment… one that will deplete it of nitrogen. To add this essential element to the indoor garden soil and plants naturally, there are many things that can organically break down back to the basics and replenish the soil with nitrogen.
Too Much Nitrogen?
As is often the case, “too much of a good thing” can cause problems for your plants as well so you want to makes sure that a good eye is kept on the plant production in an indoor garden or grow box.
When there is an excess of nitrogen producing materials in the soil compost, plants will grow at a speed much faster than they were structured for. This will cause the stalks of the plants to be weakened and reduce the production of any fruits, vegetables, or flowers.
Plant leaves that are too brightly colored green can be a warning sign as well.
Not Enough Nitrogen?
Plants that are not getting enough nitrogen are slow to develop in growth because without the nitrogen to produce the genetic materials, the structure of the plant cannot thrive.
Lack of light can cause yellowing of leaves in older plants, and soil that is lacking in nitrogen can cause that same effect.
Either scenario can cause a disruption of healthy vegetation, so it is something that should be carefully monitored by checking foliage, stalks, fruits and flowers.
How to Increase Nitrogen Levels in Indoor Gardening
One way to keep nitrogen levels where they should be is to move the plants to a larger space. Consider buying a bigger grow box if the problem keeps occurring.
Another way to regulate the levels of nitrogen is to start at the area that the roots begin growing well below the surface.
If there is a worm farm being kept for fertilizing purposes, the worm “tea” or the fluid that comes from the bottom sump bin of the composter is ideal to use. Periodically, this “tea” should be added to the root system and left to enrich the plant with nitrogen and healthy bacteria.
Crop residue from decaying plants is one way to add nitrogen to the soil.
Whenever the plants from the indoor garden are picked away or pinched, all of the excess scraps should be saved as well as the remains from harvested vegetation.
It is important that the plants used have had time to dry out and decay. This breaks down the components and reduces the plant back to its original organic state. This process is known as composting.
Legumes such as peanuts and lima beans are good sources of nitrogen once they are broken down to their base material.
The process of composting takes a period of time so patience is required for this method as well as careful planning to get it started early enough and keep it going all year round.
Another good source of nitrogen, believe it or not is the leftover beer that didn’t get consumed from the night before. Rather than empty those remains in the sink, pour some on the soil to add nitrogen.
Coffee waste is also a good source of nitrogen.
Because of odor issues, these should be used sparingly and in a well ventilated area.
Mulching with such waste as peanut shells, grass clippings, and bits of alfalfa or clover trimmings are also healthy, natural ways to keep the nitrogen levels in the soil from depleting.
The remains and droppings of animals can be used to add nutrients to the soil as well. Some people keep hamsters, rats and other small animals just for the purpose of composting with their manure and with their remains.
Droppings and decomposing animals should be left to dry and decay so that they break down to their most base components – one of which is nitrogen. Once these droppings and remains are decayed, they should be added to the top layer of soil and allowed to sit for several days undisturbed.
The number of small animals that are needed depends of course on the size of the garden. The ideal carbon to nitrogen ratio is anywhere between 20-30 to 1, so carbon materials should be in the majority of the compost pile to mix with the remains.
Indoor gardens do not have the same elements to deal with that cause nitrogen depletion, so remember to refer to the visual clues the plants will give.
To avoid underdeveloped plants that produce very little, always make sure that sources of nitrogen are kept on hand when needed.
If the plant starts to look just a bit too green or the stalks look spindly, consider moving the plants to a larger container.
Plants respond to good cultivation and care. Keeping the nutrients needed to encourage reproduction and hearty growth is easily done with just a little bit of planning. Either by using the remains and waste of animals or simply adding the trimmings to the plants that have been harvested (or a little of both), the indoor garden or grow box will take care of the families needs year round – without harming the environment.
Writen by Angela Sangster, Copyright 2012 HousePlantsForYou.com