Get a Hobby Gardening In Your Apartment
By Jessica Leigh, The Daily Muse
Have you ever dreamed about harvesting tomato plants or tending waist-high rose bushes in your sprawling front yard? Most of us won’t get that kind of land any time soon—but contrary to what you might think, you don’t need it to become a gardener.
Even the most cramped-quartered urban dwellers among us can spruce up our homes and work spaces with home-grown greens. And you don’t have to have a certified green thumb to keep a few houseplants alive. Here are some easy tips to grow a little green in your home—no wide-open spaces needed.
Choose Hearty Plants
If you’re new to gardening, steer clear of finicky, higher-maintenance plants like African violets and orchids. Instead, opt for no-fail, nearly-indestructible leafy greens. Spider plants fit the bill perfectly: their arching leaves grow quickly and do well in most temperatures and light, and they’ll easily sprout “baby” spider plants that you can root in water and replant. (Simply pluck the plantlet cluster up and place it in a cup of water until it sprouts roots.)
Pothos plants are another great option—they’re also fast-growing and flourish in most conditions. These plants have teardrop-shaped leaves and cascading vines, and some varieties are variegated—or marbled—with yellow or white. For more advice on picking plants, check out Gardening with The Helpful Gardener.
If you’re a foodie, you can also cultivate herbs such as chives and basil to spice up your culinary concoctions. Check out the Brooklyn Botanic Garden for useful online resources on gardening for the kitchen.
Pot Like a Pro
Besides picking the plants themselves, swing by the hardware store or a local nursery to get the rest of your basics. Your shopping list should look something like this:
- Ready-made potting mix. Potting mix is designed for gardening in containers (like pots and saucers) and often contains peat moss, bark, perlite, and other houseplant-friendly materials not usually found in outdoor soil.
- Fertilizer, if it’s not pre-mixed into your potting mix.
- Terra cotta pots and saucers with drainage holes on the bottom. You’ll want to start your plant off in a pot just bigger than the container in which you bought it.
Once you’re ready to pot, line the bottom of your container with a thin layer of pebbles or shards of a broken flowerpot, which will help it drain water more efficiently. Fill the pot about a third of the way with dampened soil, place your plant on top, and fill in the sides with soil until you’re within one inch of the pot’s rim. Then, gently press down on the soil to secure the plant—and voilà, your plant is potted. Water thoroughly, and find it a good space to grow.
A word of advice: you may need to repot your plant as it grows. If the plant begins to wilt soon after a watering, or if you see roots emerging from the drainage hole—it’s probably time for a bigger pot.
Find the Light
There’s a plant to thrive in any kind of light, from a sun-drenched porch to a fluorescent-lit office space. The key is to match the plants you buy to the type of light you can offer them. For example, speckled crotons, whose leaves turn brilliant reds, yellows, and oranges when exposed to sun, should perch on a window that receives lots of direct light. Plants bred in desert conditions, like cacti or succulents, are able to withstand dramatic temperature fluctuations—but they’ll shrivel in a dark corner: They prefer constant, high-intensity light.
Other types of plants, such as the peace lily, need more shade and will become scorched if exposed to direct sunlight. When you buy your plants, the florist can help you determine the right kind of light you’ll need to put them in keep your plants healthy.
Water, Water Everywhere
Different types of plants require different amounts of water, and this varies a little depending on the temperature and light you’ve put them in. You may get instructions when you buy the plants for how often to water, but a good rule of thumb is to water when the first inch of soil feels dry to the touch.
Just looking at your plant can help you figure out how well you’re watering it: Leaves should be waxy and pliable (not shriveled), and the soil should be damp. But be warned—it’s also possible to drown your plants by over-watering them. If water is collecting on top of the soil or pooling in the saucer, it’s time to cut back.
You don’t need a lot of acreage or a degree in horticulture to grow into a gardener. Container gardening is a great way to get started, especially if you’re low on space. Follow these simple tips and let a new hobby take root.