Urban dwellers rejoice! Just because you live in a small space without a grassy yard to mow, doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice your health and mental prosperity by shunning the idea of a garden. Don’t pass up what your perfect apartment can offer; garden beds can take so many more forms than just those that require you to dig up a plot of land.
If you have a balcony, patio, fire escape, or just a few simple sunny windows, you can take advantage of apartment gardening techniques that will have you both eating healthier, and enjoying the benefits of getting your hands dirty during the propagation of productive vegetation.
Rule of Thumb
Your thumb CAN be green by following a few simple steps to get yourself started, and the first is: start small. Gardening is easy, but some plants require more attention than others, and they all need the correct balance of care to thrive in any circumstances.
Once you have located where you want to place your plants, whether indoor or out, pick out the containers you will be using. This can be anything from store-bought patio planters, 5-gallon buckets, hanging baskets, or windowsill planters.
What Are You Waiting For?
Admit it, you’ve already glanced at your outdoor apartment spot, and checked the light provided by your windows, to calculate how many containers you want without making things seem overcrowded. If you still aren’t convinced that apartment gardening is for you, let’s explore a few of the plants that are waiting to make a home with you.
Be sure to research the plants you are choosing before you make your final decision based on their specific lighting needs, and the sizes they will reach. For example, of the hundreds of tomatoes you could choose from, be sure to pick those with a more compact growth, and not a heirloom variety that could reach 6 feet in height and 3 feet sideways, and essentially take over your entire garden.
Herbs and Mints
Greens and Lettuce
Cut-and-grow-again plants, such as chicory, arugula, spinach, kale, and lettuce varieties will not only provide you an endless supply of salad greens (or health shake additions!), but also brighten up your space with shades of vibrant green!
Tomatoes are crazy easy to grow, but they prefer bright, sunny areas. Make sure they get the sunlight they deserve to produce the produce you crave
Strawberries and Blueberries
Strawberries and the dwarf variety of blueberries prefer containers and will make a comeback year after year! Blueberries love acidic soils, so consider using soil specific to acid loving plants. And everlasting strawberry varieties put out multiple sets per season so you can enjoy fresh fruit regularly.
Bell peppers, banana peppers, cayenne peppers… The list is seemingly endless, but they all love sunlight, so be sure to place them where they will get what they need.
Zucchini and Cucumber
Yes, there really are small plant varieties of these that produce slightly smaller-size fruits and grow well within container confines.
Dwarf Citrus Trees
If you really want to go out on a limb (no pun intended) and have the indoor space during the winter months, consider putting in self-pollinating dwarf citrus trees.
Patio roses also do well since hybridized miniature and dwarf rose varieties now exist. These have the added benefit of coming back to life year after year, just be sure to protect your pots each winter if you live in a cold climate to ensure their survival.
If you have an empty wall, you may also want to consider a temporary trellis, and grow a flowering annual vine.
Gardening, by definition, doesn’t mean you need to have a product for your kitchen at the end of the day. If you are unsure of stepping into the unknown realm of food production, consider starting with houseplants. They help filter the air, produce oxygen, provide a relaxing atmosphere, and can aide in both sleeping and waking.
Like all living organisms, plants have basic needs for their survival, and you’ll want to consider these basics before making your choice on individual plants. The easiest way to determine your specific plants needs is to read the information that comes with your plant (or seed packet).
Some plants do fine with strong indirect light all day, and others need a minimum of 5 hours of direct sunlight to thrive. It just depends on which variety of plant you choose since many have been hybridized to withstand ‘unnatural’ conditions to make it easier for you to grow them. Incorrect sunlight doesn’t mean you will kill your plant, but you may not get the outcome you desire concerning flowering or vegetable production.
Most plants do well in a slightly acidic to neutral soil (pH up to 7.0). If you are taking on an acid-loving plant, simply provide an acidic fertilizer to that soil, making sure to follow the directions on the bag.
Everything needs water to survive, but overwatering is far more common in plant deaths than not providing enough, and a way to combat this is to not water your plant until the top 2 inches of soil is dry.
Compost is also an excellent way to provide nutrients organically and is no longer a backyard project! With technology come new products to try, such as kitchen composters for use in your apartment.
Some of your plants may need support as they grow so consider staking, or providing a cage to help keep them well-supported during production.
Most plants are easy to train to the shape you want as well through pruning and attaching new growth to the surface you want it to grow along.
Gardening Perks For Your Health
I’ve mentioned multiple times the health benefits of keeping plants. Apartment living can occasionally feel confining—opening those windows and doors improves air quality, and sunlight provides you with the much-needed vitamin D.
Caring for vegetation is mentally stimulating as well, and gets your brain as well as your body moving. When caring for and learning about plant care, you are exercising your critical thinking skills, which is proven to ward off memory loss.
Gardening relieves stress and anxiety and provides you with purposeful focus, and it also helps you eat healthier, and saves money in the process!
Ready to Get Started?
By this point I hope you have put aside your reservations about digging in dirt, and are looking forward to making apartment gardening your newest project. It is an incredibly beneficial task, aiding in both physical and mental health, as well as providing you with a more pleasing atmosphere and additional aesthetics.