For some RVers, their home on the road is not complete without a garden. But, with the limited space of this recreational-vehicle-turned-house, this garden feels like a faraway dream. Other RVers who walk into their vehicles smelling like bouquets and fresh strawberries, however, beg to disagree. With an indoor container garden, your dream gardens can quickly turn to reality.
How do you make an RV Indoor Container Garden? Like any other project, you need to gather essential materials first. Next, you can decide on the kind of plants you want to grow. Lastly, create a routine for taking care of your plants.
An indoor container garden does not happen by itself. It needs hard work and patience. In this post, we will be discussing what the best materials you can use are. We will also tackle some techniques you can follow, especially since there may be lower light conditions inside. More importantly, we will share some tips, tricks, and facts that will save both your plants and your money.
Materials Needed to Make Your Indoor Container Garden
What container to use?
For pots, the debate for the best choice for indoor plants is often between plastic and ceramic. But, instead of going over the long list of pros and cons between the two, let me make it simpler. Getting a ceramic pot will not benefit you if you are going on the road. First, it would be one more thing you would have to always think about. You have to be careful with road bumps because they might break. Second, you have to provide more water for your plants because ceramic pots tend to absorb water too.
So, what you can do is get plastic self-watering pots. These pots reduce the need for constant watering and ensure that the soil is getting enough water. If you watch reviews on YouTube, you’ll find that getting self-watering pots actually helps you save your plants because they keep the soil wet but not too wet that it causes the plants to rot. As shown in most of the videos, remember to water the plants from the opening on the bottom to let the pot do its work naturally through capillary action.
Of course, DIY is not out of the picture. For those who want to save, make use of materials they already have, and most importantly, do something in their free time, this is the perfect option. There are tutorials showing how a self-watering pot can be made with just a PET bottle, stylus, scissors, and some yarn! To make the process easier and to make the pot look more polished, you can also use a clothes iron and a drill.
If you don’t want to go through the hassle of creating something, some RVers also make use of RubberMaid containers, soup cans, 2-liter bottles, or 5-gallon boxes. So to speak, any container will do as long as there are (or you are able to create) holes in the bottom.
Planter bags are also used instead of a pot. They are very convenient when it comes to RVs because they can fit in cramped areas. Another plus is that they don’t really weigh that much so you don’t add up to the weight of the soil and the plant.
What soil to use?
Of course, potting soil AKA miracle soil comes at the top of this section. Potting soil is made with ingredients that make it possible for a plant to grow in a container as healthy as it would’ve been on the ground. These ingredients usually include peat, bark, perlite, and even mushroom. Some say that their DIY potting soil is made up of (1) garden soil, (2) cocopeat, (3) compost, and (4) perlite.
Some also suggest to mix 1 part soil, 1 part cocopeat, and ⅛ part compost. However, there are simpler recommendations like going with 50% soilless potting mix and 50% compost.
How will the soil’s ingredients work together?
You might be asking why there is a need to combine both potting mix and compost. Well, the answer is that they serve different purposes for the plant’s health. First, the soilless potting mix holds the water but also allows it to drain in the pot if there’s too much of it. So, it saves you the trouble of dealing with overwatering. Next, the compost ensures that the plant gets enough nutrients and that the pH level is right for your plant to grow well. Other benefits of compost include the presence of healthy microorganisms that organically help the plant.
Where can you get compost?
There are several ways you can get compost. First, of course, you can just buy compost. This is an especially viable option at the end of the season when they usually go on sale. Next, you can, again, make your own compost. But, remember, that when you go for DIY compost, you are also foregoing the precise systems and accurate methods of commercial companies that produce it. Thus, you may unknowingly bring in pests that can devastate your whole indoor garden.
But, if you’re confident in your skills and you know that you can do the process properly, then go for it!
What is the difference between potting soil and potting mix?
Before we move on to the next material needed, let’s address one more question you probably have. Let’s learn about what the difference is between potting soil and potting mix. Often, these terms are interchanged but, potting soil actually pertains to any growth media that is used to grow a plant indoors, particularly in containers. On the other hand, potting mix refers only to soilless media that are manufactured specifically to enhance growing conditions for a plant in containers.
For seeds, you’re better off picking plants you know will grow well indoors with lower light conditions. Do not push for plants you would love to grow but you know won’t grow indoors. Conditions for a plant to flourish will not change if you do more of this, or do more of that. So, do your research! In fact, later in this article, we will be mentioning some of the plants you can choose from.
Seeds are generally cheap. At Walmart, you can get them for $0.20 to $0.50. When you do get them, you can place them in your refrigerator inside a glass jar. This ensures that the seeds are kept fresh and won’t go to waste. Of course, you can always choose to buy a seedling but that will cost you more. To learn about growing a seedling from a seed you bought, you can watch video tutorials on the DIY process of germination. It’s really not as complicated as it sounds!
Plants You Can Grow Indoors
As mentioned above, there are really a variety of plants that grow indoors. You don’t have to worry about being limited to a few choices because there are a lot of plants that can grow in containers. Among such many plants, some familiar names may be calla lilies, Anthuriums, ferns, ivy, and even Bonsai plants.
First, herbs are a popular choice because they don’t only serve as additional decorations that can contribute to your homey aesthetic. They also are very edible and you can just, one day, decide to use some of its leaves on your meals. The common herbs grown indoors are sage, basil, parsley, rosemary, and oregano. Other familiar names may be cilantro and chives.
As you can remember in the intro to this article, one fruit that many RVers have successfully grown indoors are strawberries. Strawberries can survive in small containers and thus can thrive even in an RV. Tomatoes are also a viable choice while bananas, although possible, may be too ambitious especially that they need a bigger space. But, if you really want to go with that, of course you can do it but it will really require more effort on your part.
Growing vegetables is very beneficial when you normally use them in your dishes. What’s more exciting is that, when you’re on the road with your indoor garden, you can experiment and try meals you haven’t had before. But, just to give you an idea, one recipe could be broccoli or radish sprouts over your eggs. These vegetables are also great with potatoes! Next, you can also put celery on your chickpea salad or your tuna.
There are really a lot of veggies you can grow. To give you a starter’s list aside from the ones mentioned above, you can also grow spinach, cucumber, mushrooms, lettuce, and pepper.
What can really make your RV look beautiful and smell nice at the same time are flowers. Common examples of flowers that thrive indoors with low light conditions are Anthuriums, African Violets, Kalanchoe, and Peace Lilies.
All in all, despite popular belief, you can grow different kinds of plants in your house on wheels! Exciting choices not mentioned yet include philodendrons, or “Heart Leaf” that when potted can even be hung in baskets. You may also want to grow ferns, bamboo, and Chinese evergreens.
What Do Plants Need?
When starting your indoor container garden, you have to remember that every plant has different needs. So, you have to be mindful of that in ensuring that your plants get the care that they need to thrive. Some may need more light than others. Some may need watering more frequently. Simply, your plants will thank you for doing your research! Here are some basic needs to get you started:
This need goes without saying but handling it is more important than you think. A lot of plants end up going to waste because their owners failed to take note of water requirements. Keep in mind that plants don’t benefit from overwatering! Make sure to give them only what they need or use self-watering pots to ensure the plants’ gradual intake of water. You can also use a spray bottle for more control in watering small plants.
As a plant owner, you also have to know the sun like you know your plants. You have to know how to take advantage of free sunlight because that’s one of the best ways to make sure that your plants grow as healthily as you would like them to. Get oriented with where the sun shines and do your best to place your plants in that area.
Where Should You Place Your Plants?
Since this question has a lot to do with the need for light, let’s answer it now. As expected, a good way to make sure that your plants get enough sunlight is to place them outside the RV. One creative example is using a shoe organizer and placing the pots there. This organizer will then be hung on the RV door securely. Another way would also be to create a makeshift portable garden at the back of your RV. This, however, will require some carpentry skills and a pinch of resourcefulness!
Inside the RV, you also have several choices. First, you can install a shelf near the windows and place the pots there. Next, you can place pots with suction cups on the windows themselves! This is a secure way to provide both space and light for your plants. Third, you can also place your plants on the dashboard. For plants with low light requirements, you can place them above the sink and even in the shower. But, you have to take them out once in a while to get natural light.
What Type of Light Do Plants Need?
There are also nuances when it comes to light. For one, you have to know the difference between filtered light and direct light. Filtered light is the one that reaches your plants but is diffused by the window that it goes through. Direct light, on the other hand, is what your plants get when you take your plants out and they get light directly from the sun.
Although placing your plants near windows or on the windows is good enough. It is also beneficial to take out your plants to enjoy natural or direct light. Plants need a healthy dose of the unfiltered sunlight to support their biological activities especially photosynthesis. Plants like succulents are even said to need 6 hours of natural light.
In connection to soil, another way to ensure that plants get enough nutrients and minerals is to supplement their ‘natural food’ with fertilizer. There are 3 kinds of fertilizers you should know for your indoor container garden. First, there are the ‘liquid fertilizers’ that are fed to the plants while they are watered. Check the label for this type of fertilizer to know how much you should mix with water to make for a healthy dose for your plants.
Second, you have the ‘slow-release fertilizers.’ These are the ones that come in pellets which slowly dissolve into the soil to supply it with additional nutrients. Slow-release fertilizers also come in different thicknesses so you can choose over what period of time they will leech into the soil. Some last up to 9 months but these are also more expensive.
Lastly, there are ‘granular fertilizers’ that are actually more common with outdoor gardening. Nevertheless, they can also be used in indoor gardening but they are harder to control when it comes to the volume of nutrients they provide. Since they are initially mixed with the soil when the plants are placed in containers, they will also release minerals once watered. This makes it hard for you to track how much your plant is really receiving. On the bright side, it’s a cheap alternative to options 1 and 2.
Popular fertilizers include Miracle-Gro Water Soluble All Purpose Plant Food, Osmocote Smart-Release Plant Food, and Jobe’s Organics 09524 Purpose Granular Fertilizer. You can also go for homemade plant food by following this tutorial.
Growing Plants in the Indoor Container Garden
Aside from perusing the basic self-watering pots with anti-slip mats, there are more established ways to grow plants indoors effectively. This is where the “hydroponic systems” we always hear about come in.
Hydroponic systems play a big role in RV gardens because they allow plant cultivation while ensuring that the soil used doesn’t get contaminated. This issue on contamination is very crucial especially that there are state regulations when it comes to transporting plants because of the diseases they may bring. But, we will delve more into these legal aspects later on. For now, let’s go back to hydroponics.
As you may already know, hydroponics is basically growing plants with water instead of soil, potting mix, or compost. The nutrient-rich water solution will ensure that even when the plants are not grown in the natural way we all know, they will still grow healthily. The most evident benefit of hydroponics for RVers is that water can be shaped in any way you want so you have flexibility when you choose containers. Plus, you can place them wherever you want like hanging them up with macrame or any other decorative or plain string you want.
Although there are DIY containers for hydroponics like bottles and plastic buckets, you can also opt to purchase more modern solutions. There are electronic containers for hydroponics that do the work for you. The #1 Best-Seller on Amazon AeroGarden Sage Harvest Indoor Garden reminds you to add water and to add plant food. It also has an LED built-in light hood which provides the 6 plants it can contain with the healthy dose of light.
Common Problems in Indoor Container Gardening
Because of the unnatural setup, it is common to encounter some problems in container gardening. For example, one challenge RVers have to deal with is clogging in the container. One way you can deal with it is placing stones at the bottom of the container to ensure that the soil doesn’t clump together. The stones help with this because they occupy the space where the soil notoriously clogs the holes.
Next, RVers also have to deal with pests like moths that lay caterpillar eggs on plants . No matter how hard you try, it will be impossible to stop pests from getting to your plants at times. A solution RVers recommend is purchasing sticky traps for bugs that crawl on plants. These are known to be inexpensive but effective in protecting your plants from pests.
Tech for RV Indoor Container Gardens
Talking about the AeroGarden Sage Harvest Indoor Garden, we have actually already touched this subject. Today, there are a lot of inventions that can make indoor container gardening much easier than it was before. Let’s discover more about what technology can do for gardening!
To expand on our discussion about this popular 6-pod countertop garden, let’s talk about its other benefits. First, it is easy to use. Its user-friendly control panel and purposeful shape make it a convenient addition to the limited space in your RV kitchen, for example.
Next, since it grows plants naturally in water, there is also less mess to deal with. Just imagine not having to deal with the light and brittle material of soil. You’ll surely have more time in your hands without having to clean up after planting or transferring plants. Lastly, the built-in LED grow lights are very energy-efficient and make for the plants’ faster growth.
BESTVA DC Series
Talking about LED grow lights, let’s look into the BESTVA DC Series which is rated as one of the best in the market. These dual-chip LEDs stimulate plant growth and assist photosynthesis. Users commend this brand because while it provides wide light coverage, its design allows better heat convection and doesn’t make the temperature too hot. This artificial light source is also energy-efficient which easily makes it a crowd favorite.
Precautions for Indoor Container Gardening
When traveling, always remember that some states impose restrictions on transporting plants because they may carry diseases or pests. For example, in the California Agricultural Code, it is stated that,
“All citrus plants are prohibited; in addition, private owners of pine, oak, fruit and nut trees are strongly discouraged from moving these into California unless all provisions of the applicable federal and state quarantines can be satisfied.”
Take note that this is only one of the many directives in the code. So you really need to do your share of reading. But, if there’s one thing you should remember from here it’s that plants are subject to inspection at the state border section. More importantly, plants can be denied entrance if they show signs of disease or even common insect problems.
Furthermore, remember that more than state to state requirements, these directives are also present when traveling the US-Canada route. When traveling to Canada, make sure to declare your plants to avoid complications and to avoid hefty penalties of up to $400. When going to the US, the same principle applies. You can bring plants provided that they are “declared, inspected, and found free of pests.”
Tips and Tricks for Indoor Container Gardening
When taking care of plants on the road, there are some tips and tricks you can follow to be a better plant owner. First, if you are planning to stop for a while, use this as a chance to bathe your plants in the much needed sunlight. Next, use anti-skid pads on your pots so that they don’t slip especially when you are driving through a particularly bumpy road. For a cheaper alternative, you can use yoga mats in Walmart and cut them up if you have to.
Lastly, this is more of a warning than a tip if you have pets. Remember that some pets are allergic to plants. So do your research because it could get as worse as having plants that are poisonous to animals.
To end this lengthy post, starting an indoor container garden is not an overnight activity. It’s daunting and it’s easy to get overwhelmed. However, if you start with thinking of the basic materials you’ll need and the plants you want to grow, you can work your way from there.
Remember the basic and important principles. First, that plants have different needs. Second, that growing them is a daily task you need to do. However, you can always use different materials to make it easier for you to follow through this everyday activity. That brings us to our third principle — that investing in things that can make your plants grow healthier is a good investment especially that they are growing in unnatural conditions. Lastly, that indoor container gardening also has legal implications since you are on the road. Make sure to do your research and be prepared for the requirements. If there’s one thing you can take away from this article, it’s that in indoor container gardening, knowledge is key.