A Brief Overview of Indoor Growing Methods

Growing Indoors - Rooting Herbs in Water

Indoor Growing Methods

As technologies advance, it’s becoming more commonplace to see people growing food indoors. There are many reasons people choose to do this. It could be because they have long winters or want to guarantee the quality and safety of their food. Regardless of the reason, growing your food indoors in controlled environments has it’s pros and cons depending on the method you use. In this article, we will touch briefly on growing indoors with and without soil. 

Soil-Based Growing

Growing indoors with soil is simple, just get a large pot, fill it with soil and then plant your seed or seedlings right? You can very well do that, but there are some things to consider first. Most gardening stores carry “indoor potting soil” which I highly recommend for indoor growing beginners. A quality indoor soil will contain nutrients for your plant and will most likely go through a process to ensure no bugs or other critters are in your soil. Assuming you’ve chosen indoor potting soil, you will need to also consider the light, climate, and plant variety when growing indoors.


If you’re going to grow indoors without any artificial light, your best bet is to place the plants near a large south facing window. This will allow them to receive the maximum exposure to the sun, especially during the winter. If you don’t have a south facing window or maybe plan to use a room in the basement, then I would suggest artificial led lights. You can easily find LED grow lights online that will fit your needs, but highly suggest you use this in conjunction with a smart outlet. A smart outlet will allow you to easily control the amount of light exposure your plant receives by setting On/Off times.


In addition to light, you have to understand the temperature at where you’re placing your plant. If planting in the winter, please be mindful of where your heat is coming from because radiators or baseboard heating will have a serious impact on your plant. Additionally, if you’re growing in your basement where it may be considerably more humid, you’ll have to watch out for white mold forming on your soil/plants. From personal experience, I’ve noticed that on some occasions when I used coconut coir to grow seedlings in the basement, the soil began to grow white mold when my dehumidifier was full. According to an article I found, this will probably not be harmful to the plant, but they provide some tips and tricks to handle the situation.

Plant Variety

Consider what plants you’re going to grow indoors. Herbs are usually a winner, but other plants require certain light and climate requirements that may not be met sitting on your windowsill. Other than herbs, leafy vegetables like lettuce or spinach are also commonly grown indoors. If you want to grow other plants like tomatoes, please try to consider the pollination requirements for them. You’ll most likely have to manually pollinate the flowers or purchase self-pollinating varieties that you can try.

Soilless Growing



Hydroponics is by far the most common soilless cultivation technique. It is the process of growing in a soilless substrate, suspended in nutrient-rich water. A popular method of hydroponic growing is the nutrient-film technique (NFT), where the nutrient infused water is constantly sliding past the roots delivering to them the vitamins and minerals they need to grow. In a home system, you can purchase liquid nutrients based on the growing cycles of your plant and add the exact nutrients as the plant needs.

Further information on Hydroponic Techniques in food production can be found at the USDA.


Aquaponics is an integration between two systems: Aquaculture and Hydroponics. It begins with a fish farm in most commercial operations, but at home you can simply use your fish tank. In its simplest form, the plants will be suspended over the fish tank with its roots emerged into the water. Bacteria and microbes transform the fish waste into a suitable nutrient-rich food that is consumed by the plant through its roots. Provided that there is a sufficient light source for the plants, an efficient and balanced system would simply need to regular inputs of fish food and water (due to natural evaporation).

Further information on Aquaponic Techniques in food production can be found at the USDA.

The Pros and Cons

Soil based growing provides a broader range of nutrients to your plants and is very similar to growing outdoors. Your techniques need not change significantly, they just need to be adapted for indoors. With respect to hydroponic and aquaponic, the first question should be whether or not you want to deal with aquariums and fish. If you prefer not to go into this hobby, then the choice is obvious, but the hydroponic method is not easy either. With both systems there will be significant research and testing required to ensure that either the plants are receiving the proper nutrients.

The Conclusion

With respect to the question regarding with or without soil, I believe it’s just a matter of what you prefer, because if you find a specific growing method more enjoyable, you’ll continue to garden and grow food yourself, which is the real goal.

If growing indoors, I personally am trying to push myself towards the aquaponic route. I already am involved in the aquarium hobby and I believe that this is a more sustainable growing method. Hopefully, when I get a more stable aquaponic setup, I can share it with you.