So, you are looking at growing herbs indoors and you are perhaps wondering about the best type of growing medium that you should use in order to generate the best possible results. Well, that is only natural and in doing so there are several important factors that you need to take into consideration before you go ahead and start trying to grow anything.
The Most Common Mediums for Growing Herbs.
Let us begin by stating that the most common medium is of course going to be soil although it is important that you do have the correct potting mix and understand how to add nutrients to get the most out of it. However, it is not the only option that is available to you. In actual fact, if you thought that you just had soil to use then you are going to be rather pleasantly surprised.
For example, we will also look at the possibility of you using hydroponics and also a soilless option that can also produce some rather spectacular herbs.
Basic Explanations of the Different Mediums.
We just mentioned three different options when it comes to the different growing mediums for herbs indoors and a brief explanation of each one to help you in deciding which option may be best for you depending on your own abilities when it comes to growing plants.
First, if we look at soil then clearly this is the most popular way of growing plants but you cannot use normal garden soil. Instead, a potting mix should be used that is a mix of compost, sand, perlite, vermiculite, and moss as this will give you the correct consistency as well as the correct moisture retaining properties.
Hydroponics technically means any growing medium that is not soil, but most people refer to this when they are talking about growing in water. With this, the roots are in a nutrient rich water or they are being sprayed with the solution but there is also a need for oxygen to get to the roots. Some systems water from the bottom while others spray water onto the plants as well as the roots.
Soilless means using natural materials instead of soil in order to grow plants but the most popular version is coco coir. This is an area that is often new to people, but it is certainly something worth exploring.
Key Advice for Each Growing Medium.
After an explanation it is also important to consider some key tips on each growing medium just so as you know what to expect and how to get the best out of whatever it is that you choose.
For soil, the most important part is to make sure that you have the correct potting mix. Never use normal garden soil as it sticks together too easily in a container and herbs generally love good drainage and that is why the perlite, vermiculite, and sand is so important. Soil should be light and never fill the container to the very top especially if you are growing from seed. Also, remember the fertilizer and use a slow-release version included into the soil and if you are not sure about it then purchase a quality potting mix that already includes this.
For hydroponics the key is to be honest in your ability to either build your own system or purchase one that is already complete. There is a real need to understand nutrients and how to add the correct levels or you run the risk of giving the incorrect amount of feed and your plants will struggle. Also, oxygen is very important so make sure that this is included in your system or plants will not grow.
For soilless, the important part is the mix as things such as coco coir can hold onto moisture so you need around 30% of perlite to help with the process. Too much water leads to diseases and the perlite will also encourage more oxygen to get to the roots promoting stronger growth in your plant. However, you do still need to add nutrients but this is going to be entirely on your own head.
So, keeping all of that in mind, what should you be considering depending on your own experience levels when it comes to growing plants?
Option 1: For People New to Growing Plants.
So, if we consider that you are brand new to trying to grow plants indoors and you are then interested in making sure that you use the correct growing medium because clearly you do not want anything that is too complex or too easy to mess up. To ultimately decide what is best for people new to gardening we should look at the three options to decide which one fits in best of all.
Soil is easy. You buy a ready-made mix, a container, some slow release fertilizer and pot your plant and then care for it. If you keep a close eye on things then there is little that can go wrong although we have to admit that it is not exactly fail safe either.
For new people the idea of growing plants in a water and oxygen system is going to be slightly terrifying as it does require some assembly and you just feel that there is too much that could potentially go wrong with the plants having the wrong amount of water, insufficient nutrients in the water, and the wrong oxygen levels as well. Overall, this may not be the best option for the person just starting out.
The final option is soilless and for us this sits comfortably in between soil and hydroponics when it comes to your capability of dealing with this kind of growing medium. For example, the main difference is just in that you use another medium other than soil but apart from that there is not much of a difference. You still use a container but you are going to be required to spend some extra time keeping an eye on things as the water retention can be different and you could potentially cause a problem for yourself.
So, what can we conclude in this instance? Well, for people just starting out and with limited experience in growing any kind of plant then keeping with the tried and tested soil method is going to be the easiest way to move forward. Also, avoid making your own potting mix as that is also something that you can make a mess of and you are best advised to go ahead and purchase a quality mix where the fertilizer is already included.
2. You Already Have Experience.
But what if you already have some experience in growing plants in general? Well, to some people the idea of growing in soil is not going to be much of a challenge. Now, because you have experience it does open up new doors for you to check out and, once again, we should look at the three options to decide which one would be best on this occasion.
You are probably going to be used to growing plants in soil already and with this level of experience it could be a good idea to try making your own potting mix for your containers. Of course, you have to look at getting the correct mix including perlite and vermiculite but it also allows you to keep better control over the nutrients levels and how often you feed the herbs. This is not something that somebody brand new to gardening or growing plants would be able to do, but if you have some experience then it is not going to be too tricky.
At this stage, the idea of using hydroponics is certainly something that could come into play but even with this there should be limits as to the kinds of hydroponic systems that you then try out. Now, some could argue that you are able to go out and build your own system, but that is more advanced so the best option would be to purchase a ready-made kit that you just need to set up and let it run. However, you are best to have some experience in adding nutrients to plants just to make sure that you get this part correct.
The soilless option is certainly something that you should consider when you have this kind of experience in growing plants. The main thing is to do with the fertilizer part and as long as you do have an understanding of what the plants need then there is no reason why you cannot give soilless a go.
In this instance, when you have some experience of growing plants then there are several options available to you. If you do go for the soil option then make your own mix. If you go for the hydroponics idea then buy a ready made kit. Finally, if you prefer to try soilless then only do so if you understand the importance of nutrients.
3. Extensive Experience and Wishing to Experiment.
Finally, what happens if you have extensive experience in growing plants and you want to try something that is new to you? Well, clearly there are several options to explore.
First, if you are very experienced then growing herbs in soil is perhaps not going to be that attractive a proposition. In actual fact, the very idea of it might bore you because there will be no surprises and there is no way that you would be able to learn anything new especially if you have previous experience of making your own mix. For people in this position, the idea of growing in soil might be something that they would rather miss.
This is where hydroponics might really appeal to so many people because there are such a range of systems out there that you could try and this does mean that experimentation is key. Furthermore, you also have the option of building your own system and that is going to be a bit of a challenge but the results that you are able to achieve does generally make this worth your while. Now, you obviously need to have a good understanding of nutrients and what is required for each plant but as long as you have that knowledge then hydroponics is a great idea.
Soilless is certainly something that is worth checking out especially if you have only ever grown in soil before. Use a growing medium made from coconut husks and throw in some perlite and vermiculite to help with the drainage. This is something where you are going to have to keep a close eye on the watering as there is every chance that plants could suffer if you are not careful so it does take somebody with experience to really grow successful herbs.
For experienced people, the world really is your oyster when it comes to being able to grow plants and if you are looking for a bit of a challenge and to try something new then we think that hydroponics is the way to go, but only if you have the space to set up the system. If not, then soilless is certainly an option as well just make sure that you have the correct mix, but then that is part of the fun.
4. What About the Container?
The main thing to remember about the container is that it needs to have drainage holes in it or else you will develop problems with the root system. It is also important to be aware of the size of the container in relation to the size of the herb you are growing.
You do have options with the container from a clay pot to plastic garden pots and even containers made from fabric. Also, you can make your own by re-using something such as a metal bucket and adding your own drainage holes to the bottom. Just remember that materials that are more porous will dry the soil out faster as more air gets to the roots so if it is warm then you are going to have to water more often.
So there you have it. There are a number of options available and to be perfectly honest it all depends on your own gardening experience levels when deciding which one you should opt for. Our best advice is to study the various options and see which one you feel most comfortable with but take into account the amount of time that you can spend looking after the plants as this can also have an impact on the medium that you choose. By the end of it all, you should hopefully have a batch of herbs that are not only strong plants but able to provide you with an amazing ingredient for your recipes.