Growing plants indoors can provide satisfying work and fresh produce for idle gardening hands in the winter. It is also a good choice for apartment dwellers who do not have access to a yard or community garden, or for elderly or disabled people who may not be able to take care of a traditional garden outside. Successful indoor gardening requires little more than good light, high quality soil, the right plants and regular watering.
Decide what you would like to grow. If you're merely looking to add a little greenery to your dwelling, there are dozens of species of houseplants that thrive in an indoor climate, which tends to have low light and humidity levels. Some good choices include pothos, spider plant and bromeliad, as well as many succulents like cactus and aloe. If you would like to grow something edible, herbs such as parsley, rosemary or sage are a good choice for beginners, since they tend to be tougher than most fruit or vegetable-bearing plants. However, you can also grow vegetables such as tomatoes, lettuce and spinach indoors, if you're able to provide enough light and fertilizer. You can also grow flower bulbs such as daffodils, tulips or hyacinth indoors.
Containers and Soil
Nearly all plants will benefit from a container that offers good drainage, so that the roots don't sit in waterlogged soil and rot. Garden centers sell specially-designed containers made to allow for drainage and prevent over-watering, but any pot with a hole in the bottom will do (make sure to keep a platter or dish under the pot, in case any overflow leaks out). Drainage can be further improved by adding a layer of stones to the bottom of the pot. Choose a high-quality soil designed for whatever plant you are growing---cacti, orchids and herbs all require different types of soil. When in doubt, ask the staff at your local garden center or nursery for advice.
While some houseplants thrive in low-light conditions, most vegetables, herbs and flowers require 6 to 12 hours of light a day. Place your indoor garden in the sunniest window of your house, and further supplement the light as needed with bright florescent lights directly above the plants. Regular light bulbs are sufficient, and you do not need special "grow lamps," although their design may be better suited for indoor gardening than your average desk lamp.
Watering and Fertilizer
Because indoor garden plants are restricted to their container, they depend on you to provide all necessary nutrients. Water requirements vary by species, but as a general rule, vegetables and herbs will require more water than succulents or other houseplants. Fertilizer needs also vary. Some plants, like African violets, require regular doses of specially-formulated plant food, while other plants will thrive with an occasional application of fish emulsion or bone meal. Your local garden center will be able to help you choose a fertilizer to best suit your needs.