Apartment Gardening: How to Grow Herbs and Vegetables in a Small Space
In our tiny city apartments, we barely have enough space for ourselves, let alone for plants! However, there is a way to turn your apartment into a wholesome, nutritious garden without utilizing too much space.
This is through (drumroll, please) … Apartment Gardening.
Did you know that indoor gardening is one of the easiest gardening practices, even in the city? It is creative, nurturing, can be meditative and of course, provides food. But what do you need to keep in mind before planting your first seeds? What is required to start an indoor garden? And, how to take care of your apartment garden?
This is a guide for absolute newbies that offers the answers to all such questions and more! Even if you have never planted or grown anything before, soon you’ll be able to kick-start your own apartment gardening journey!
Why Start an Indoor Garden?
Indoor gardening has a wide scope. Many gardening methods fall under the umbrella of indoor gardening, ranging from a few potted plants on your windowsill or balcony to a fully automated indoor smart garden.
Besides the benefits of a normal garden, indoor gardens have a few other advantages:
No special skills required: Indoor gardening can be a hassle-free, comparatively easier form of gardening. There are no requirements for huge plots of land or irrigation systems. With a few pots, seeds, and some soil, you can easily start an indoor garden.
No climatic limitations: Some plants that would not survive outside will thrive in the cozy regulated conditions of your home. Hence, the options of plants for your indoor garden are limitless. Since your plants grow indoors, you have the added benefit of not worrying about pesky pests eating your crops.
Growing your own food: Indoor gardening is a great way to produce fresh, organic, healthy food. By doing so, you can also save money that would otherwise be spent on pesticide-ridden, plastic-packaged food from supermarkets.
Improving air quality: A study by NASA shows that one plant can clean the air of 100 square feet in a house. Some of the most effective plants to freshen your air naturally include rubber, palms, Ficus, and bamboos.
Community: A benefit of gardening that is often overlooked is the wonderful gardening community. Whether a local or an online gardening group, these communities always have plant lovers who are willing to help out.
How to Start a Garden in Your Apartment
Before you plant your first seed, let’s consider a few requirements for a successful apartment garden:
How Do I Decide Where to Plant My Apartment Garden?
The most essential requirement for indoor plants to thrive is sunlight. Depending on the available space, you can plant your garden indoors or outdoor.
To ensure that your plants get enough sunlight, place them in a south-facing windowsill in the northern hemisphere, or a north-facing windowsill in the southern hemisphere.
If you do not get enough sunlight in the winter, consider purchasing a grow light.
Herbs can be grown in jars on your kitchen windowsill for easy access when cooking. You can start with a herb garden and then proceed to increase your plant collection as you hone your gardening skills.
Some vegetables can be grown outside on the balcony or a rooftop, depending on your space.
You can grow vegetables in grow bags, hanging baskets, small garden beds, or you could even make a trellis for creeping plants.
If you live in warmer climates, lay straw out so that the soil doesn’t dry out.
Don’t forget to bring all plants inside during the winter, except for those like kale, that can withstand frost.
Different gardening methods such as container gardening, hydroponics, or vertical gardening offer plenty of options when it comes to selecting the best place for your indoor garden.
Potting Soil or Compost
Once you decided where to plant your garden, you need some potting soil. If you are doing apartment composting you can use your own compost. Otherwise, the soil is available at most supermarkets or your local plant nurseries.
It is important to start your seedlings in smaller containers for them to develop healthier root and shoot systems. Once they have a few true leaves, you can transplant them into bigger pots.
To start off, you can reuse containers from at home (like cut-up juice boxes or milk cartons). Make sure to make a few holes at the bottom for drainage, and place a tray under the container so the water doesn’t drain away.
Depending on what you want to plant and how much you want to invest in planting material, you can:
- buy seeds from shops
- propagate from saved scraps (celery, onion, carrot, salad, etc.)
- save and plant seeds from various vegetables (tomato, paprika, etc.)
Steps to Start Planting
Once you’ve prepared your potting mixture, containers, and seeds, and selected the best spot, you are ready to plant your first seeds:
- Fill your trays with compost or potting mixture.
- Mark rows where you will sow your seeds.
- Place a few seeds in each row.
- Cover with a small layer of compost or soil. Lightly press down on this layer to ensure the soil is compact.
- Water your seeds. If you do not have a watering can, take an old plastic bottle and poke a few holes into the bottle cap with a pushpin for a makeshift version.
- Place the containers in a warm space. To trap the warmth, you can also put a layer of cling film on the trays. In a few days to weeks, you will see your seeds sprouting!
Sprinkle a little bit of cinnamon powder on top of the soil after you have planted and watered your seeds. This will avoid mold growth and prevent gnats!
Once your seedlings have produced a few leaves, you can transplant them into a bigger pot. Fill the pot with compost or potting mixture, poke a hole, and gently transfer the seedling. Take care not to touch the roots too much when transferring. When you have refilled the space around the seedling, pat the soil down and water it before placing it in a sunny area.
Salads can be propagated through scraps. Leave the bottom 1-inch piece in water and you will see new leaves sprouting in a few days. Cut off leaves to use in a delicious salad for a healthy addition to any meal.
If you are not familiar with any of the above terms, please check our Glossary of Gardening Terms.
What Plants and Vegetables Can You Grow in Your Apartment?
When growing an apartment garden, the possibilities are endless! You can grow just about anything that fits in a pot or your container garden. However, for optimal results, keep in mind the climate and sunshine hours where you live.
|Plants that can be grown indoor (windowsills, kitchen tops)||Plants that can be grown outdoor (balconies, patios, rooftops)|
|Herbs: Herbs like parsley, rosemary, cilantro, and basil are a great addition to your cooking, and can be easily grown on your kitchen windowsill.||Capsicums: Capsicums set fruit all year round and can be easily grown in pots. You will be able to harvest enough peppers to make stuffed peppers or chilly con Carne!|
|Salads: Salad plants like lettuce, arugula, kale, and spinach grow quite easily indoors. They are fast-growing plants that only require plenty of water to grow. They can be also grown in hydroponics systems.||Lettuce: A sun and water-loving crop, make sure you water this plant regularly in order for it to thrive.|
|Tomatoes: Tomatoes need an environment sheltered from the wind, making them the perfect plant to grow indoors. Although they might get a bit heavy, they grow well in containers.||Peas: Hang a rope or a trellis along the side of your balcony and trail your peas on them. The varieties of peas that can be grown this way are endless.|
|Microgreens: Microgreens are the hot new thing in gardening. You can grow microgreens from just about anything, including radishes, amaranth, cabbage, mustard, or broccoli. All you need is a damp flat surface, such as a muslin cloth or a damp kitchen towel to sprout the microgreens, and you’re all set to grow.||Strawberries: Not only will you be able to harvest the delicious berries, but the strawberries will add a beautiful feature to your home.|
Apartment Garden Care Tips
Although starting an apartment garden is an easy job, there are some things to pay attention to maintain a healthy, flourishing garden. Apart from the sunlight that we discussed earlier, pay attention to the following:
Watering: Pay special attention to the watering requirement of your plants, as every plant is different. Both underwatering and overwatering can kill your plants and should be avoided.
A common test to check whether your plant needs water is the “finger test”. Simply stick your finger into the soil as far down as you can, and if there is soil sticking to your finger when you remove it, it indicates moisture. If your finger comes out relatively clean, it’s time to water. Don’t worry too much about this though, your plant will look sad and droopy when it needs water!
Feeding: After transplanting, most crops require some special nutrients to reach their full potential. According to what crop you are growing, you can get special feed from your local plant nursery.
A homemade feed that works wonders with indoor plants is a mixture of eggshells, and used tea bags or coffee grounds.
You can either apply this directly into the plant’s root zone or mix it with a little water in a jar and keep it for a week before straining. This mixture is nutrient-rich, especially for crops like tomatoes. If you live near the beach, you can also consider making your own liquid seaweed fertilizer.
Pests and disease infestations: Watch your plants for infections and signs of pests, like holes in leaves and eggs, to catch it early and provide treatment.
Be careful if using soil from an outdoor garden for your indoor plants, as you could be bringing soil pests into your indoor garden.
To Keep in Mind While Gardening Indoors
Children and pets
- Check which plants could be toxic if you have children or pets at home, and keep them out of areas where they could easily be knocked over. Otherwise, gardening with kids can be a fun activity.
- It is not recommended for people with a pollen allergy to have flowering plants.
- Pay attention to see if anybody in the house is developing symptoms of asthma.
- If you have symptoms that are triggered by mold and dampness, you may need to check moisture levels in your plant’s soil.
Apartment Gardening Conclusion
The journey of apartment gardening is a simple and rewarding experience.
Living in a small apartment shouldn’t discourage you. If you have a windowsill, hanging basket, not to mention a balcony or rooftop, you can have your very own small garden.
If nothing else, apartment gardening could be an inexpensive way to find out whether or not you have a green thumb!