Containers - size does matter

As an indoor grower you may know you can produce a good amount of food in a small space. To be a good grower you need to use containers that are the right size for your plants. Plants need adequate volume of soil to reach their full above ground potential. Below, I have listed the MINIMUM depth of some common plants you could grow indoors. If you don’t see your plant and are not sure, go with the bigger size you are debating between. To optimize efficiency indoors you want to give you plants enough root volume to maximize growth, but you don’t want to waste valuable space under the light with containers that are too large. There may be an infinite number of possible things to use for containers.  If you want to do it yourself, the first thing you should know that is true for all containers, make sure they have drainage holes.  The second thing is to make sure you have a container to catch the water that drains out.  The easiest thing to do is to order them from HTGSupply.com and have them sent to your house.  The 5 gallon buckets from HTGSupply.com don’t have holes so they can be used in hydroponics. I actually use 5 gallon buckets with soil, you have to drill holes in the bottom and you can use a second bucket as a tray to catch drainage. It is a good idea to put some stones or pellets in the drainage bucket for better drainage. With the 2-3 gallon pots a tray is needed below to catch the overflow of water. The plastic flats that are designed and manufactured specifically for germinating seeds seems to be the best solution for me.

In my greenhouse I REuse the plastic containers, I soak them in a garbage can over night and scrub them with a brush to wash them.  I add bleach if I had any pest problems.   I have also used the grow bags and coconut fiber husk pots sold by HTGsupply.com and would recommend them assuming you understand the limitations of size with the coconut fiber pots and the rigidity of the grow bags. They have there use but the plastic pots are the best all around in my opinion.

Minimum container depths for some vegetables, herbs, and edible flowers. I am listing in terms of containers sold by HTGSupply.com

Basil 1 Gallon
Beans 2-3 Gallon some with trellis
Cucumbers 2-3 Gallon with trellis
Chives 2 Gallon
Eggplant 2-3 Gallon
Lettuce 1 Gallon
Marigolds 1 Gallon
Nasturtiums 1-2 Gallon
Oregano 2 Gallon
Parsley 2 Gallon
Peppers 3 -5 Gallon
Radishes 1 gallon
Squash 3-5 gallon with trellis
Strawberries 1 Gallon
Sunflowers - (small)1-2 Gallon
Sunflowers - (large-mammoth) 2-5 Gallon
Tomato’s 3-5 Gallon with trellis


Eating Flowers

We all eat plants. In some of my classes when we talk about herbivores, carnivores and omnivores, people joke and say they are carnivores (eat only meat). The truth is, no human can live on just meat, but we can live healthy lives with out meat. Some of us grow the plants we eat, indoors. For most people, when you think of eating plants you usually think of eating the fruit, seed or leaf. You can also eat the flowers of many plants. This is not really a new idea of course. Fried squash blossoms, rose petal tea and chamomile tea are common in some cultures/locations. Since WWII there has been a push by corporations to have society eat packaged food which is not nearly as healthy as growing your own, nor is it good for the environment. The truth is most processed food you buy is made to make money, not be healthy.

Edible flowers include nasturtium (spicy/hot) Johnny jump up, (wintergreen), borage (cucumbery), and marigold (citrusy). Other edible flowers include clover, dandelion, lavender, lilac, pansy, and sunflowers to name a few. Sunflowers are best when you harvest and use the unopened bud flower. Some people also enjoy eating the flowers of some common herbs, such as my favorite oregano, or other herb flowers like chives, cilantro, mint, sage, and thyme. You can also eat flowers from vegetables like beans, peas, pumpkin and squash. Moreover, cauliflower, broccoli and artichoke are really flower buds.
NOT ALL FLOWERS ARE EDIBLE. Some are POISONOUS. Examples of poisonous flowers are those on tomato, potato, eggplant and pepper plants. Other POISONOUS flowers are azalea, calla lily, daffodil, foxglove, hyacinth, hydrangea, iris, lantana, lobelia, lupine, morning glory, oleander, poinsettia, Ranunculus, rhododendron, sweet pea, and wisteria. This is not an exhaustive list just because you don’t see a plant here does not mean it is safe to eat. Also, I imagine if I had a lawyer they’d advise me to say that you should not eat any flower unless you are sure you are not allergic to it. Also, never eat a flower or plant unless you know the exact species. Also, never eat a plant that you find unless you are certain that no pesticides or other chemicals have been applied. Many parks and other public areas use chemicals to enhance and protect the plants since the plants are not registered for consumption! This is also true for flowers growing along the road side. Flowers that are not grown specifically for agriculture can legally have applied pesticides on them that are not registered for crops. i.e. are known to be toxic to consume.

If any one has any other flowers that they enjoy eating, I’d like to hear about it.

Good growing,

Dr. E.R. Myers


E-mail - Nanotechnology in growth mediums

Dr. Myers,
I'm curious about your opinion on this is:


Since the nanotubes are able to penetrate the seed coat, would they also penetrate the root cells and end up in the circulation system of the plant? Wouldn't that make any produce grown such way carcinogenic?

Hello again,

What an interesting article, this is new to me! What I know about nanotechnology, which is just synthesizing things that are very small* (molecules basically) is that nanotechnology is very diverse. It is a new and exciting field in science which I am sure will branch into many divisions and expand upon many other fields of biology in the future. With something so revolutionary as nanotechnology the problem is that there are pro's and con's. Some of these molecules are so small they can as you suggest get inside cells, which means they could be in any part of the plant. This can be good if they do their designed task but bad if they just mess up things on a sub-cellular level. There does seem to be some carcinogenic properties to these and other nanotechnologies... I don't think scientists know exactly what ALL the consequences of using some nanotechnologies are. If it is in the growth medium it will be in the plants you consume. That’s a piece of karma you should keep in mind.

I hypothesize that how these tubes work is similar to mycorrhizae (beneficial fungus) these tubes are small enough to stick into cells and somehow aid the plants in taking up nutrients and water which means plants will have a more advanced rate of growth in the short term. I can’t predict what long term consequences would be.
With unknown long term consequences, I would NOT suggest using anything with nanotechnology until it has been thoroughly tested by the FDA or some non-corporate sponsored organization. As I said there may be some positive benefits to using nanotechnology in soil to help plant growth, but I think there is a lot of testing to be done until this is a safe and effective technological with wide spread use. Too often today we see products pushed to consumers to increase or make a profit. Prudence and patience are a good thing with something this new and lacking real world field tests.
Thanks for the information!

Dr. E.R. Myers
* Nanotechnology deals with things that are smaller than 100 nanometers. One nanometer is one billionth of a meter. {Only 3 countries in the world don’t use the metric system it’d be so much easier if we’d just play nice w/ everyone else} Now you know where the NANO in nanotechnology comes from (-;



Hi Doc,
I got my seed starter plugs from HTGSupply.com.  I planted seeds yesterday and am wondering if the material that the plugs are made from (compressed tree bark) will provide adequate nutrients for the seedlings (complementing the seedlings' own energy store already inside them) for the first few weeks and until I transplant into a larger container. I have them under FL lights and am lightly watering with spring water for now.

I really enjoy the starter plugs, they are more earth friendly than rockwool, but are just as versatile. I highly recommend them. I even put them in my compost after I use them.  I do not like the jump up starter plugs that expand, they are very messy but the one's made of tree bark with the preformed hole (link); I do like.  There may be some nutrients in the plugs, but I'd use a diluted fertilizer. If the plugs are made from coco coir it is usually recommended you use a high magnesium (Mg) and calcium (Ca) fertilizer like 'Calpex' -see picture.  I have used these 'Organicare' fertilizers with all mediums and seedlings and I have good results.  After I put a seed in each hole, I water the plugs or soil with a diluted 1/3 - 1/2 the recommended amount of fertilizer. I use this fertilizer mix until the plants start to grow rapidly, then I use the regular recommended amount of fertilizer per gallon.

For seedlings and young plants, use a fertilizer that is higher in the first number (nitrogen) like Fox Farm's Grow Big, but you want a good all around fertilizer with NPK and trace minerals too for young plants so that they have all the nutrients they need.  I use the "Nitrex" - see picture - to supliment other fertilizers.  I supliment because, 'Nitrex' only is 6-0-0, and I think you should always give your plants some potassium every time you fertilize.

A good way to tell if your plants need nutrients is to see if the cotyledons (The first leaves you see) stay green or turn yellow. If they turn yellow, you need more nutrients, or light etc. If your fluorescent light is close to the plants, yellowing will be due to lack of nutrients. If your cotyledons stay green, you plant does not need more nutrients.

Good growing,
Dr. E.R. Myers


E-mail- Yellow lower leaves

Q. My plants are 30 days old and the lower leaves are starting to yellow. Please help

A. Hi, thanks for your E-mail

There are a couple things that can cause yellowing leaves.  One that I doubt is your problem since your plants are only 30 days old is that when plants start to flower, often the leaves will turn yellow.  The lower leaves will turn yellow as the nutrients in these leaves are used to make flowers. If your plants are flowering, this is normal.

The first thing your problem may be is a lack of light reaching the lower leaves. When leaves do not get enough light, the cells break down and send the chlorophyll (which makes them look green) to the new cells in the upper leaves that are getting the light (at the top of the plant).

To fix this, you can get a brighter light from HTGSupply.com over your plants so the light gets to the lower leaves. If you are using fluorescent lights, switch to a MH or HPS, if you have a MH or HPS, you may want to get a higher wattage to get more light reflected to your grow area. Your second option, something I have done in the past, is mount fluorescent or LED lights horizontally beside the plants a foot or so below the plant tops depending on what type of light penetration you are getting from your over head light.. This side lighting will provide more light to the lower parts of the plants. You should also consider using reflective mylar or white paint to help reflect the light in the grow room.

The second thing that may be your problem is a nitrogen deficiency. Are the leaves at the top of the plant a light green or a dark green? If they are light lime green, I would give your plants more nitrogen. Nitrogen is the first number listed on a fertilizer, so use something like Fox farm grow big  6-4-4 or anything with a high first number. If the leaves are dark green, I think you need more light.

Btw.   If you think the plants are not getting enough light you may want to induce flowering soon, since light is not getting to the lower parts of the plants, you won’t get flowers or fruit on the lower part of the plants so there is no sense growing the plants much bigger, they will just be putting energy into growing tall with thick stems.
Good Growing,
Dr. E.R. Myers


Plant Regeneration

In fall, or at the end of a growing season, you could try to clone your plant  to bring it and its characteristics into your indoor grow area. However, many plants don’t clone well during flowering. Another option may be try to regenerate the entire plant into vegetative growth to bring it inside or to get a second flowering inside. Many plants can be regenerated and you can get a second or more harvests. Normally, when a plant reaches the end of the growing season something in the environment tells it that it’s time to stop growing. This could be the change in day length, a lack of water or changing temperatures. In other words when the environment becomes unfriendly the plants die. If you can change the environment you may be able to regenerate you plants.
Some reasons to try to regenerate a plant is that you know its characteristics. For example, if you have a potent pepper plant you may not get the same pepper characteristics in the seeds (LINK to  BREEDING). If you regenerate that plant you can continue to harvest your favorite peppers again and again. Another reason is that a regenerated plant already has a well developed root structure and a main stem. Regenerated plants don’t need to use energy to grow these parts. What this means is you could get 30% more vegetative growth in LESS time with a regenerated plant than if you started from seed. This will not be true for all type of plants.
Being an indoor grower you have this option of regeneration; you can regenerate a special plant that was outside by brining it inside and providing the right environment.* You do this by giving the plants increased light per day and giving the plant a fertilizer high in nitrogen like grow big (6-4-4). After a few days you should see small leaves coming from some of the meristematic tissue** or buds you left on the plant. These leaves may not look ‘normal’ but as the plant grows the new leaves will take on a more normal appearance.

How To Regenerate -- you should try to leave any big leaves that are attached to the main stem if you can. You can leave most of the stem or cut it close to the ground but the more leaf material you leave the faster the regeneration process will go. Also, try lo leave some meristematic tissue/ buds on the nodes of the main stem; this is where new growth will occur. You will need to give the plant supplemental light. A florescent or MH would be your best bet. If anyone has done this with a mostly blue LED I’d like to know (or any LED for that matter). I also think that you should give the plants a few days of 24 hours of light. This will help to “white wash” the molecular signals in the cells that tell a plant to flower. This will reset the plants hormones back to GROW vs. FLOWER. After a week or sooner if the plant starts to put out new growth, switch to 18 hours light 6 dark until the plant is big enough to fruit again. One warning is that while seedlings of most plant species can go a month without turning out the lights, (lights on 24hrs.) this will harm an older plant if done too long. With regeneration give the plants 4- 8 hours of dark after the first few days. I recommend you give the plants a general fertilizer like 10-10-10 for the first watering. Then, until you want the plant to flower or fruit continue to use a high nitrogen fertilizer like grow big (6-4-4)

If you are bringing in an outdoor plant, the 1 ton gorilla in the room is the RISK OF PESTS. I have brought outdoor plants inside a few times; and brought some pests in as well. As I am finding by your E-mail’s many of you are very involved with your hobby. I believe you may find this a more useful technique if the entire process is done indoors: grow, harvest and regenerate all indoors. It is possible to put a regenerated plant outdoors next year. Regeneration, like taking cuttings is not the end but simply one technique in being a good grower, it will only work for so long. After a plant is regenerated a couple times you will have slower growth than if you started from seed. Annual plants older than one year may start to show increased susceptibility to disease and pests.  Like cloning, regeneration will only work so long, then you have to go to plant breeding.
I will write about pests in the coming months unfortunately. I say unfortunately because I am dealing with a white fly infestation in one of my grow rooms.

Good Growing,
Dr. E.R. Myers

* This is an idea to keep in mind for next year, if you put a plant in a container in the ground, its roots will grow out the bottom and it will be as if it was planted in the ground. But you can dig up the plant and a large percentage of roots will still be in the container. This is of course after you have pruned / harvested a large percentage of the green growth above the soil.

** Meristematic tissue is tissue made of growing cells, or cells capable of further division. Most plants have an apical meristem which is where it grows from i.e. at the growing points of roots and stems. The secondary meristems (lateral buds) at the nodes of stems (where branching occurs) also occur in some plants