Growing a garden in an apartment might sound like an impossibility, but it’s not. Even if you have no sunlight or no place to put any soil, there are options for you. In most cases, you can get started very cheaply and maybe even for free. Some scenarios cost a little more, but when you consider what you will end up saving on grocery bills over time, it pays for itself.
Producing your own food is a great way to get vegetables that are tastier than what grocery stores offer, that are cheaper (because you’re doing all the labor) and that come from soil you know and having nothing in them but what you fed them. It’s also a very relaxing hobby that can bring some life into an otherwise dull apartment experience.
Apartment gardening tips
- Square foot gardening is one of the first concepts you’ll want to become familiar with if you’re dealing with very limited space and have high ambitions for what you’re going to grow. It’s an organic gardening concept that relies on compost and makes a point of utilizing every inch of soil you have available. The methods involved allow you to grow a surprising amount of vegetables in a small space.
- Gardener’s Supply Company offers a great online resource: design your own garden online by dragging and dropping the plants you want into their grid. This will tell you how many of each plant fit in that space. Then it gives you instructions for growing each plant down below the grid. This is a super-helpful tool!
- Container gardening is a great way to keep a balcony garden neat and tidy. You can utilize some of the concepts from square foot gardening in this scenario to make the best use of your containers and your overall space. Container gardening is just what it sounds like: growing plants in pots (you can recycle old tea pots and crockery for containers to save money and make it look more interesting). The concept is pretty simple: just find out what will grow in certain size container, buy the right soil, get the planting and tending instructions, and do the work.
- So, you don’t get any sunlight in your apartment. Like, ever. At all. Think you can’t grow anything? An indoor greenhouse allows you to do just that. You can scavenge most of the supplies, or buy them cheap from garage sales. The fluorescent bulbs are the biggest expense, especially if you invest in special “grow lights” designed to favor the light spectrum that most benefits growing plants. But simple fluorescents will do, and they’ll pay for themselves quickly in the reduction on your grocery store bills.
- However you go about it, mark your containers. It’s surprisingly easy to forget what you planted where. Marking containers somehow makes it simpler to ensure you’re giving the right care to each type of plant (for example, some like wetter soil than others can tolerate).
- You can make your own plant food and compost in an apartment. The composting is slightly tricky and takes some work to set up, but it’s an awesome way to use peels, leftovers, etc.
Things to know
If you’ve never gardened at all, the first thing you need to know is: it’s not rocket science. There’s a little research to be done, so you’ll know what each plant needs. Getting started takes some planning and may require a few experiments. The maintenance is pretty straightforward – mostly just watering. And then you’ll need to know when to pick your produce and how to go about that. It can be a lot of work at first, especially if you’ve always known veggies as things that magically appeared in grocery stores. But it gets easier the longer you do it.
Also remember not to get frustrated if you lose a plant or a crop, or the birds or bugs get to it before you can. These things happen. Some experienced gardeners make it look easy to avoid these mishaps, but that’s because they’ve been doing it long enough to develop an instinct about it. You’ll get there, too.
If you’re uncertain of your gardening skills, tomatoes are a great plant to start with. They need a fair amount of sunlight, but if you have that, they’re hearty growers that defy almost every mistake you throw at them.
Be aware that pets, especially cats may make things difficult. For example, cats like to knock plants over, dogs like to dig dirt and pet birds may chomp on food items that are poisonous to them. You can still grow food around pets. You just need to be aware and take precautions. If you can grow your food on the balcony, for example, and just never let the pet roam around out there, you’re all set.