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Indoor versus outdoor vegetable gardening

None of the two options is prefect; both, an indoor or outdoor vegetable garden, have benefits and potential problems.

No one said you could have a vegetable garden with no work whatsoever. The question is to choose the best option for your garden.

The Debate: Indoor versus outdoor vegetable gardening

Whether you prefer to grow your vegetables indoors or out, there are trade offs involved. Soil type and preparation, watering practice, light control, disease and pest control, and other tasks will differ between the two environments. Which is preferable can only be an individual choice, based on individual circumstances.

Preparing and maintaining the soil for outdoor vegetable gardening can be a major chore. Nutrients can be exhausted by yearly planting of the same crop. Fertilizers get leached away. Soil disease is more difficult to control. Breaking up clay or changing pH in a large area requires considerable effort. But you do save the effort of preparing multiple containers and changing them out.

Indoor soil preparation requires less fertilizer, but one has to be more careful to control the amount. Excess is more readily retained. The soil has to be prepared precisely in order to provide the right balance between drainage and moisture retention. Outdoor soil is much more self-regulating. More plants are killed by over-watering than under-watering.

But it is much more difficult to devise an automatic watering system for indoor gardens. Outdoors, a simple and inexpensive drip irrigation system is easy to install and use. Indoors, an automatic sprinkler system would be very costly and messy if it isn't done just right. But if you have only one or two containers and enjoy hand watering, it might well be a negligible effort.

In outdoor vegetable gardens there is rarely a problem with adequate sunshine, provided they're planned correctly. In most climates during the Summer it's not difficult to give plants the five or more hours they need daily. Inside the house that can be tricky. Few will want to move plant containers around all day, but finding a single window that receives adequate light without burning the plants can be hard.

But the type of light and shade is certainly much easier to control indoors. Drawing a window shade or closing curtains when the sun is too hot is simple. There are even automatic systems that will do it for you. And putting a plant near a glass window provides something of a natural greenhouse effect without the expense of a greenhouse.

Diseases and pests can be a problem in either environment. But fighting them outdoors is decidedly harder. It requires constant vigilance and generally more chemical assistance. Fungi are more likely from moisture on the leaves during the night. Insects have easier access to lay eggs that become larvae.

But the smell of controls, either in the form of artificial chemicals, organic substances or trap crops can be more unpleasant than many would want inside. Most insecticides don't have pleasant odors. Even plant-based oils can be overpowering, and they are much more expensive than other types of chemical control.

In the end, each grower will have to weigh the pros and cons for his or her particular situation. Either form of vegetable gardening requires effort, but both bring great rewards when done well. There's nothing quite like fresh vegetables for good taste and great health.