How to Start a Basement Garden

By: Simon Elstad

How cool would it be if you could just go down to the basement to pick a few extra fresh and organic tomatoes and peppers from your own garden?

Yeah, you read that right – we are talking about a veggie garden, in your basement, while outside the soil is frozen. Is this really possible? 

As it turns out, having an indoor garden in a corner of your kitchen and having a basement garden involves the same elements and techniques. The only difference is that you probably have a lot more space in the basement than in the kitchen. 

Overall, growing plants indoors, you need three main things: light, soil, and seeds. Moving forward, we are going to discuss each of these elements and how you can use them to start an amazing and productive basement garden.



basement garden lighting

While your basement may have some windows, the sunlight that manages to go through is not going to be enough for healthy veggies and herbs. Even though there are plants that don’t need as much sunlight, most of them need a specific wavelength of light to grow and mature. 

But don’t fret! Nowadays it’s rather easy to find a grow light setup that fits your needs and doesn’t break the bank. Still, there is the issue of finding the right grow light setup for your specific needs.


The Right Grow Light Setup

One of the most used systems for crop production and indoor plant growth is full spectrum lighting. This is a solution that can provide plants with the complete spectrum of light given by sunlight (the 380nm-740nm range, plus invisible wavelengths such as infrared and ultraviolet).

Plus, LED grow lights can be set up to produce different wavelengths that fit the plants’ growth phase, specific periods of the day and night, and growing conditions. 



soil for indoor gardening

The soil is where everything starts, so if you don’t get things right on this front, your garden may not become a reality. Specialists recommend keeping things simple with a mixture of compost, peat, and vermiculite (which is sterile). 

It’s important to work with soil that doesn’t bring in any pests since in an indoor growing environment pests don’t have any natural predators and can multiply at lightning speed.

Plus, your soil needs to retain water and nutrients, but also allow for free drainage (most indoor gardens suffer from overwatering.)

This is why the use of vermiculite (or materials with similar qualities) is important. Besides being sterile, vermiculite also helps aerate the soil, retains water and nutrients, and keeps the plants happy and growing. 


Finding the Right Containers

Now that you have the right soil, you also need the containers. First, you’ll need smaller containers where the seeds can become seedlings. These containers also need good drainage (holes on the bottom) and can be biodegradable if you want to plant the seedling with the initial container. 

Next, you’ll need containers, beds, or pots that fit each plant’s needs for space and nutrients. 



seedlings for an indoor garden

What kind of plants can you grow in your basement?

With the right grow light setup and soil, you could, theoretically, grow any plants you want. However, the reality is that some plants don’t grow as well indoors even when you provide them with what may seem ideal conditions. 

Still, leafy greens and herbs feel quite at home indoors so, while most people rely on frozen or imported goods, you can have lots of fresh veggies for your salad and meals. Plus, the herbs are always better when picked fresh!

Here is a short list of plants to try growing in your basement garden if you’re just starting with indoor gardening:

  • Swiss chard
  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Radishes
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Bush beans
  • Peas

It’s also a good idea to get dwarf varieties if you’re not sure your basement can accommodate a full-grown regular plant. Also, dwarf varieties are more resistant to temperature changes and don’t need as much light. 


Build a Viable Environment

indoors grow environment

Before you start your basement garden, make sure plants really have a chance to develop. Basements can be quite finicky environments if they are prone to drafts of air (from badly insulated windows), floods, or lack proper ventilation. 

Plus, think about the energy costs.

Overall, if you use LED grow lights you can still keep costs down, but plants also need a constant temperature between 25 and 28 degrees C. Not to mention, you need to ensure the ideal level of humidity, which can be tricky when you’re using a heater that dries the air. All these make the energy bill grow, so you need to weigh the pros and cons. 

Sure, it is fun to have your own garden with delicious veggies and herbs, but is it worth the cost? After all, you can always set up an indoor herb garden for your kitchen!


Wrap Up

If you are ready to make a minimal investment and maintain it, then your basement can truly become a green oasis to get you through the winter months.

Plus, if things go well and you want to experiment more, you may want to add more advanced elements such as metal shelves, oscillating fans (for the airflow), automatic watering systems with timers, and so on.

In short, once you start gardening, you may not want to stop!

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