Growing Mushrooms Indoors

While it is now winter but many gardeners are itching to see something grow indoors. There is something that anyone, a student in the classroom or in a dorm room or an adult at home or at her desk at work can grow at any time of the year. And that is mushrooms.

Mushrooms need a warm indoor climate and water. Companies sell the kits and all you do is follow directions. Of course, it is a bit pricier than shopping for your mushrooms in your local grocery store. But grocery shopping does not seem like as much fun as ordering a kit for growing mushrooms, following directions on how to open the package and water the growing mushrooms and watching them grow and harvesting your mushrooms in 10 days or less. Then you can enjoy your own gourmet treat with the freshest mushrooms. If you are lucky, you can grow a second batch from the same kit.

Where do you get the mushroom kits? A few suggestions to check out are:

Back to the Roots

Midwest Grow Kits

Park Seed Co.

Fungi Perfecti

Peaceful Valley Grow Organic

Have fun all you budding fungologists or mycologists.

Grow Lights for Growing Food in the Dorm

Indoor Gardening with LED Grow Lights by Rachael & Zane Ross

TheGardenLady received this question from Kayleigh.

I really want to grow food in my dorm room. It doesn’t have a particularly large amount of sunlight. Is there a type of lamp I could buy? I want to plant some sort of easy-to-grow vegetable and/or some herbs.

Before considering any lamp for raising plants indoor, please CHECK with your college or university and dorm to find out what is and what is not allowed. They may reject having lamps for growing plants in the dorm room for a number of reasons including: extra electricity costs, insurance restrictions, light pollution and fear of fire.

For vegetable plants to grow successfully, electric lights have to be on for long periods of time. Even if your college and your dorm will allow lights and will allow them to be on for extended periods every day, will your roommate/s want to sleep with lights on in the room? And will you want to sleep with the light on? Grow lights have to be on for up to 16 hours each and every day.

Scientists seem to recommend that for best rest, one should sleep in a totally dark room; some scientists say that even light from your phone or digital clock may not be healthy. One article said that sleeping with your TV light on may lead to depression.  See here.

Know also that raising plants indoors is tricky in that the plants can attract insects. You may be lucky and not get any insects; but most greenhouses use insect traps- another thing to think about when raising vegetables in a small space like a dorm.

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Pest Problems Related to Indoor Plants

Mealy bugs by mpshadow2003

TheGardenLady received this question from Ben about pests problems with indoor planting.

I know you have answered a few questions on dormitory planting before, and I have settled on starting with an Aspidistra and branching out once I’m comfortable with what seems to be a relatively easygoing plant. I’m simply looking to spruce up my room aside from the obvious posters and lights, so a plant and a small fish tank are on my to-do list this summer.

However, no one seems to address any kinds of pest problems related to indoor planting. Are there any major bug issues I should watch out for when dealing with dorm room plants? I have a room to myself as a Resident Advisor next year, so a south-facing window sill will be available year-round in Midwest temperate weather.

I like to keep the window open during the day so stagnant air should not be a problem, but I worry that circulation will increase the risk of infection either to or from the plant(s).

If I have missed anything or made some kind of gross assumption, your input would be much appreciated. Thanks!

You want to be prepared. Though you are correct to be concerned about raising plants indoors, most people have plants indoors and get away without serious problems. Raising plants indoors would not be such a popular hobby if there were that much to worry about.

Since all living organisms can have problems, I hope you are aware that fish can have health problems in their tank.  I remember how sad we were when our fish developed a disease known by its abbreviated name, ich.  We knew something was wrong in our first aquarium when we saw all those white spots on the fish. But raising fish is still popular and fun. You just have to be vigilant to see that everything in the tank is healthy.

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Growing Herbs in the Dormitory

Indoor Herb Garden- Day 1 by Talkingsun

TheGardenLady received this question from Alexandra.

I saw your article about growing plants in a dormitory room that you did quite a long time ago (2006!) and I was wondering if you would be okay with answering a kind of similar question.

My roommate and I want to grow lots of plants in our dorm room next semester because it’s so drab in there (white walls, white ceiling, white floor, etc.) and we both have agreed that it would be cool if we could start growing herbs. We both like making tea, and we both think that it would be nice to have plants that would smell good, taste good, or be useful instead of plants that just look good.

We are going to live in a corridor-style dormitory room, and it has one big back wall window. I am not sure if it faces south, or not (new room) but I have stayed in the room style before and I know it lets in a decent amount of light. The dormitory IS air conditioned/heated, so keeping plants warm is not a problem.

What kind of plants would you suggest? And is this a good idea at all?

Good for you to want herbs in your dorm and I am so pleased that you checked out TheGardenLady archives.

You can grow herbs indoors but the crucial item that you will need is light. Herbs come from the Mediterranean where they get lots of sunlight. You need a minimum of 6 hours of sunlight to grow herbs. Rooms, even with windows, generally don’t get enough sunlight for herbs. So the first thing I recommend is getting good growing lights into your room.

One suggestion is to buy a special lamp already created to raise herbs.

Herb Garden – Post-Potting by a crafty vegan

A company called Aero Grow makes one with a planter attached to make it easy – everything you need for your indoor herbs in one compact piece.  See here.   I saw one in my local hardware store. It is not that large, but it would be a start.

If you want something larger, perhaps you and your dorm mates could build a grow light to put over a planter. A friend of mine who loved African violets had her husband build one where she raised show quality African violets that were always in bloom.

You could probably get information on how to build grow lights with a planter at your local lumber yard or Home Depot or Loews. They would also advise you on the best bulbs that are needed. You want a cool bulb so the heat doesn’t get too much for the little plants.  See here.

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Growing Food Plants in the Dorm Room

Indoor tomatoes, 2nd part by tillwe
Indoor tomatoes, 2nd part by tillwe

TheGardenLady received this question from Daniel:

I would like to grow a food plant of some sort in my dorm room. I was wondering what kind of plant you would suggest. I don’t have a lot of time or gardening skill, so an easy to care for plant would be ideal. Also, our room has a window, but does not get direct sunlight. It stays around room temperature year round. Finally, it would be nice to be able to harvest something before the year is over. I don’t know if anything fits the bill, but suggestions would be great!

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could grow our own food in our home or dorm room? I think most of us would convert a floor to a garden just to have fresh produce year round. I know that I would create a garden in my lower level which has lots of windows that are on the West and North sides of the building so they get no sunshine. And to have harvest fresh vegetables at the end of the year, for Christmas dinner, would be a gourmet’s delight. But alas, this dream has not quite been realized in my lifetime. Many of the Dick Tracy comic book inventions have come true (Dick Tracy, a popular comic strip in the 1940’s and 1950’s) and I imagine that some day growing vegetables or food easily in a dorm room will also come true. But today one really needs a green house to have success. Food plants want lots of SUN to produce food- usually at least 6 hours of sun. That is how nature created them. People who have a glass or plastic greenhouse can attempt to raise food indoors. But without that sunlight indoors, you are asking for difficulties.

I am not sure what temperature you say your dorm room is when you say “it stays around room temperature year round.” People regulate the amount of heat in their rooms and it can usually be from approximately 68 degrees to 78 degrees in the rooms. Some plants like it warmer that is why they grow in the hot summer though plants like lettuce prefer a cooler environment. And also, because a plant is in a pot, you will have to be sure that you water the plants enough. Some plants might even need humidity around them as well as to be watered. To get added humidity, put the pot in a tray with water and stones. Site the pot above the water, on the stones not in the water. In many cases the plants will need a pollinator to produce fruit. People do help pollinate when insects aren’t available to do it.

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Growing Mints and Herbs in your Dorm

yerba buena by randomtruth
yerba buena by randomtruth

TheGardenLady received this question from Jessica.

I was wondering what you thought about Yerba buena. I discovered this plant today and love the lemony minty smell to it. I wanted to know if it’s a dorm friendly plant. I’ll be living in Mills College in Oakland, CA. I was thinking of buying a small bamboo shoot and another plant (yerba buena?). Maybe you can recommend other plants the do well in dorm rooms and has a nice fragrance (not to strong)? I also like plants that can be used for different things, like made into a tea to sooth the throat. Something like that.

Yerba buena is Spanish for good herb. Another common name is Oregon-tea. The Latin name is Satureja (savory) douglasii, sometimes called Clinopodium douglasii and is in the Lamiaceae or Mint family. The common name Yerba Buena has been applied to several species of mint, especially Spearmint (Mentha spicata), but in the West it generally refers to Sartureja douglasii.

Sartureja douglassi is native to western N. America. It grows in redwood forests and was much used by tribes in the Pacific Northwest. It needs moist, sandy, slightly acid loam and partial shade when grown outdoors. It is used as a trailing plant for the front of window boxes and hanging baskets in semi-shade. TheGardenLady has never heard of it’s being used as an indoor plant, but since most mints will grow indoors, give it a try. Just know that it is a creeping perennial that likes to spread up to 6 ft. across. So give it a big pot, put it in a window with good light but not sun and keep the soil moist. If you are lucky, you will be able to make a mild tea from the leaves.

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