I grew up in a home filled with plants. We had houseplants of all the usual indoor varieties from cactus to ficus to pythos, spanning the spectrum for what you can reasonably grow indoors in a cold, northern climate with no special greenhouse conditions or extra lighting. When I left home, I carried my own ficus in one arm fully expecting I’d fill my space with plants, too.

As it turns out, houses with plenty of light and space for plants aren’t as abundant as I’d imagined. Twenty years later, I’m still living largely without a whole lot of indoor greenery. My ficus is still with me, as is the Big Hoya I rescued from a cold, dark northern Minnesota garage near twenty years ago. Many smaller plants have come and regrettably gone in that time, all of them supposedly low-light plants. I gave up on the dream of those light lovers, like the Mediterranean herbs, surviving my dark conditions. It was just too depressing to think about what I’d been missing. That is, until this winter.

I was gifted with an Aerogarden hydroponic gardening system. It sounds all fancy, doesn’t it? It’s really not, at least on the surface it isn’t. It’s a nice, compact planter with an LED hood I can raise or lower as my plants grow. The set up and maintenance are super easy. A light goes on when it’s time to add nutrients and if the water gets too low. It even has a built in timer so I don’t have to remember to turn the light on and off. For the absent-minded gardener, like me, that’s a huge help.

The best part is my new garden fits comfortably on a book shelf with enough room on either side for my African violets, who were so happy with the extra light they bloomed for the first time in five years. How amazing is that? My dark little living room is an actual greenhouse! I never thought something like that could happen.

A week or so ago, my boy and I transplanted the first crop and got the second started. We kept the Thai and Genvenonese basils as they were. After a strong pruning so I could lower the hood considerably, they’ve recovered, bushed out and are producing more and stronger leaves. The dill, mint, and parsley we transplanted from the first planting, which was probably too big to safely transplant, managed to survive and harden off, so I know it can be done. We considered my massive store of seeds carefully and decided to try a couple for starts and at least one for our Bearded Dragon, who loves pok choi.

Today, my second crop is sprouting. Nasturtium and pok choi have already grown several fingers tall. Coreopsis has sprouted. I plan to transplant it outside as soon as it’s big enough. I’m waiting for the Hollyhock, another transplant potential, and the shiso to sprout. If they’re not up soon, I’ll put something else in their place when I move coreopsis. I’m amazed at how quickly these plants grow. They’re hardier than I expected, too.

African Violet Blooming, WhiteSo far, I’m having a lot of fun with this hydroponic garden. It’s a lot better than the huge, tangled mess of cords and messy, plastic troughs of water and plants I’ve always imagined when I think of hydroponics. I love that it gives me, and the many others who dwell in cave like conditions whether we like it or not, the freedom to enjoy success at indoor gardening.

Today’s indoor gardening tip is…put low light loving plants close to your Aerogarden if you can. They’ll love the extra light that spills over. If you’re lucky, you may even see a few blooms. African violets, moss orchids, and cactii are all good choices for potential bloomers.