Ultimate Guide to Apartment Gardening

houseplants on a windowsill
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Ultimate Guide to Apartment Gardening

Indoor and Apartment Gardening is Rewarding

Indoor gardens are important to our sense of well-being and will increase the quality of our lives. Studies have even shown that plants in the home or workplace decrease stress and increase productivity. Beyond that, plants are a useful tool for improving the air quality of your apartment by absorbing carbon dioxide and releasing oxygen 

Adding an apartment garden is a great way to bring a little of the outdoors into your home. If you can provide what your plants need to thrive, you can successfully grow houseplants and even fruits and vegetables. So how do you do it? We have a few things to consider. 

Step 1: Provide What Your Plant Needs

Plants, like people, need certain things to survive. Take a look around your apartment and consider these four factors:

Sunlight: The most important factor in gardening is light. Is the sun blocked by surrounding buildings? Does your apartment have a balcony or an accessible rooftop? Are you planning a windowsill garden? There are lots of plants that will tolerate low amounts of light; however, if you want to grow fruiting and flowering plants, you need full sun. That means six to eight hours of sunlight a day.

Water: Your plants will be growing in containers which can dry out quickly. They may need to be watered daily or even twice a day. Depending on the number of plants you grow and their location in relation to the water source, you may want to consider containers with built in water reservoirs.

Soil: The soil you plant in will provide the plant root with three essentials: water, air and nutrients. Regular soil will compact with watering and that will stress your plants. A good potting mix is a better choice as it is light and loose, allowing the plant roots to penetrate easily. This allows the plant to absorb the air, nutrients and water more readily.

Humidity: Plants can dry out through their leaves. Low humidity can be a function of wind and weather, but don’t forget the heating system in the winter months. Often, apartment heat does not include humidifying. Use a mister on your plants or place a tray of decorative stones filled with water around your planting area.

After evaluating your space and preparing for these four factors, you might want to consider your level of expertise, too.

Step 2: Consider Your Experience

If you are a beginning gardener, you may want to start small. Try growing a few houseplants that are easy to care for and pretty indestructible. Plants like Pothos and succulents are good choices for a beginner.

If you are an experienced gardener or a fearless beginner, you might want to jump in with both feet. As long as you can provide what your plants need, you will be successful. Since you will be restricted by space, think about what plants you consider must-haves. Are you going to limit your plants to houseplants, or do you want to include flowers? Do you want to grow some edible plants? What are your favorite veggies to eat fresh?

These are all great questions to ask when starting your first apartment garden. From there, it’s time to get started. 

Step 3: Gather Your Indoor Garden Supplies

You’re ready to start planting, but what should you get? We’ve got the perfect list to get you started.

Containers Create Beautiful Mini-Gardens

Decide what types of containers you want to use. Using pots made from the same type of material or the same color will give a more cohesive or even formal look to your indoor garden. Different colors or materials will give a more eclectic look to your garden. The size of the container will depend on what you are growing. If you want to grow a fruit tree, the container will need to be large enough for the mature tree.

The type of container you choose matters. Plastic containers have several advantages. They are lightweight and durable. They also hold in moisture. Clay pots are porous and will dry out quickly. If you like the look of clay pots, drop your plant with its plastic pot into the clay pot for the best of both worlds. You will have the functionality of the plastic with the look of the clay pot.

Watering Cans Make Things Easy

To start, find indoor gardening watering supplies including watering cans that are made for houseplants. Rather than a sprinkler head, these have a spout that will fit under the foliage and direct the water onto the soil.  This prevents spilling and keeps the foliage dry.

Seed Starting Kits Help You Grow From Seed

If you’re looking for the perfect garden supplies, you have to pick up a seed starter kit. Seed starter kits like the Bio Dome create the perfect conditions for seedlings to get the best start possible. The kit includes a waterproof tray, the growing medium in a block form and a clear cover to hold in moisture and heat while the seeds germinate.

Hand Tools Help You Do the Work

Whether it’s a good garden trowel to help plant your seedling in its final home or a pruner to deadhead flowers or snip herb leaves, having a good set of hand tools can make gardening indoors a breeze.

Grow Lights Create the Perfect Light

If you want to grow plants that require more light than is naturally available in your apartment, don’t give up hope. You can provide the additional light needed by using grow lights. Grow lights are able to provide the wide spectrum light your plants need to grow lush and strong.

Potting Soil and Fertilizer Give Your Plants the Right Start

Once your seedlings are large enough to be moved to their permanent home, you will need a good potting mix. Some mixes come with fertilizer already added to the mix. If not, you will need to add fertilizer. You can use a long-acting, slow-release type fertilizer or a water-soluble fertilizer that is applied more frequently when you water your plants. Follow the directions on the fertilizer carefully. This is a case where too much of a good thing can be harmful to your plants.

Note: If you want to have an organic garden, choose your fertilizers and any other additives carefully.

Step 4: Choose Your Plants and Seeds

Houseplants can be grown from seed, but it will take a significant amount of time. If you want your houseplants now, purchasing plants will give you an immediate reward.  If you have a gardening friend with a collection of houseplants, you may be able to get cuttings from your friend’s plants to root. Here are some easy-to-grow plants to start with.

House Plants That Deserve Your Consideration

Succulents. This is a group of plants that come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colors. The good news about succulents is they can tolerate a little neglect. If you forget to water, they will usually do fine and easily recover.

Pothos. This vining plant will tolerate low light and even likes to dry out a little between watering. This is a low-maintenance plant that looks great as a hanging plant or as a climber.

Peperomia. This is a vining plant with heart-shaped leaves. The thick leaves are green with creamy edges.

Dracaena. The Dracaena plant has long pointed narrow leaves. It thrives on neglect. It doesn’t like direct sun and it wants to be very dry before you water. The top 50 percent of the soil should be dry before you water. Warning: This plant may be poisonous to your pets.

Vegetables Can Grow Perfectly Indoors, Too

Salad Greens. There is a lot of variety in salad greens and most lettuce will tolerate lower levels of light. Have fresh greens throughout the year by planting every couple of weeks.

Patio Tomatoes. If you want fresh tomatoes, a patio tomato is the answer for apartment dwellers. Patio tomatoes are made to be grown in a container garden and will do well on your balcony or under grow lights.

Patio Cucumbers. These compact vines are well adapted for container gardens and produce cucumbers that are six inches or longer. Keep picking and this plant will produce all season long.

Peppers. Whether you like them sweet or hot, pepper plants are perfect for container gardening. If you have a balcony or rooftop, these plants will produce a lot of peppers and they look attractive and colorful at the same time.

Radishes. If you want a quick reward for your efforts, plant radish seeds. Radishes are one of the fastest-growing vegetables and they can tolerate some shade.

Kale. Kale is another plant you can grow even if you don’t have full sun. Kale is a great producer as it will grow replacement leaves when you pick some off.

Flowers Brighten Your Whole House

Impatiens. These are shade-loving plants in the garden and will do well in the lower light of an apartment.

Violets. This was a favorite houseplant that your grandma used to grow. Not surprising as this flowering plant is happy to live indoors. Violets are making a comeback and there are lots to choose from in both flower color and size.

Spring Bulbs. Bulbs just need time in the cold so when they are planted in a pot, they know it’s time to grow. If you place your bulbs in the refrigerator for a couple of months, you could have spring flowers before they are growing outside.

Herbs Add Flavor to Your Cooking

Mint. This is an easy-to-grow plant that does well on the windowsill. There are lots of different mints to choose from, too. Mint is pretty invasive, so give it its own pot to keep it under control.

Basil. If you love basil, you know how great fresh basil is. This is another easy-to-grow herb, perfect for the windowsill.

Parsley. Just adding a sprig of fresh parsley as a garnish in the middle of winter can make the meal somehow taste better.

Trees Can Thrive Inside

Citrus Trees. These small trees will produce an abundance of fresh lemon or limes and will grow well in a container. Place them on your balcony or rooftop during the summer, but bring them indoors before the first frost.

Columnar Fruit Trees. There has been a lot of work done to develop fruit trees that can be grown in a minimum of space. There are now apple trees that stay about one foot in diameter, perfect for a small space.

Step 5: Consider These Last Tips

As you can see, there are a lot of options for indoor gardening — even in a small apartment. There are a few precautions to make your garden successful and safe. If you want to use a window box type container on your balcony rail, make sure it is well fastened to the rail with no possibility of falling. It is easy to underestimate the force of the wind. Even a soil-filled container can be caught by the wind and pulled from the rail. Wire it securely to the rail.

Another tip is to always place a new plant purchase in quarantine for at least a week — preferably two weeks. Even if you examine the plant carefully before you bring it home, there is always a chance that it harbors an insect, pest or disease that isn’t yet noticeable. Be safe and keep it away from your other plants until you know it is healthy. Once the two weeks of isolation is over, it should be safe to let it join the rest of your plants.