Updated December 2, 2019 . AmFam Team
A lack of backyard space — or a yard, in general — shouldn’t stop you from growing fresh flowers, vegetables or herbs in your apartment. Follow these tips and use your balcony, windowsill or a sunny room as an indoor garden to bring fresh produce into your life without the hassle of tending a full-scale garden.
Having a plan for your indoor garden is a great first step towards bringing a little more life to your rental space. Starting a garden means buying pots, soil, fertilizer and watering implements — like a watering can or globe — these costs can add up quickly so be sure to budget before you buy.
You’ll also need to consider the space you have available for growing plants and the amount of sun your apartment gets. And if you have pets, you’ll need to make sure either your plants are kept out of reach or pet-safe — like basil or lettuce.
The final thing to consider is what you want to grow. Pick plants you actually want to eat, not just the ones that are easiest to grow. And if your yields end up above and beyond what you can consume yourself, giving away produce is a great way to make friends with your neighbors.
Depending on the size and layout of your apartment, you may have a few options for where to set up your new apartment garden. The biggest factor to consider is how much sunlight the location will get, so if you’re without a south-facing window or balcony, you may have to get creative. Here are a few locations to try for your apartment garden.
If you’ve got a balcony and you’re not using its space already, consider setting up planters or single pots and using your limited outdoor area to your advantage. While not as large and versatile as a legitimate garden plot in a yard, balconies can hold a variety of plants, vegetables and flowers in single or combined pots or planters.
Windowsill gardening is more limited in terms of the types of plants you can grow in your apartment, but it can still be a viable source of gorgeous and delicious greenery. The narrow space lends itself to herbs and small ornamental plants that don’t require constant maintenance.
Many neighborhoods now have community gardens that residents can join. Some are free, but many require a membership or small monthly fee. In areas like these, you’ll want to ask the owner or administrator what types of plants are typically grown in the space.
See if your community garden members have a social group online where you can touch base, ask other members what they’ve had success growing and if they have any tips for getting the most out of their membership.
We’ve got some key tips on gardening in a shared space that can really help turn your seedlings into something great.
First and foremost, you’ll want to check with your landlord or building management to make sure you’re aware of any limits on balcony or indoor gardening.
Besides any building restrictions, the type of plants you can grow in your apartment will depend on where your garden is planted, the depth of your containers, and the exposure to wind, sun and rain. Beyond your climate and the limits of your surroundings, you’ll also need to decide whether you want to dedicate yourself to caring for plants frequently, or would prefer to tend to them only occasionally.
If you’ve got lots of vertical and horizontal space on an area like a balcony, consider growing the following plants in deep pots or planters:
Both are members of the Solanaceae, or nightshade, family and make great options for the indoor gardener. Keep these maintenance tips in mind to keep your tomatoes and peppers growing manageably.
Leafy greens are great options for small spaces and starter indoor gardens — just be sure to get small or dwarf varieties. Lettuce and kale plants in particular can also generally withstand cooler temperatures and prefer shadier spaces as opposed to full sun. Microgreens are even better if you only have a windowsill to spare.
In addition to those salad greens, you can grow all sorts of herbs, peppers, and other greenery on a balcony with the right amount of care. Consult your local greenhouse or gardening shop for more expertise.
No balcony or outdoor space to work with? Try growing these plants on your windowsills, a room with direct sunlight or even a hanging basket:
Parsley, basil, mint — there’s almost no limit to the kinds of herbs you can grow on your windowsill. You can buy the actual seeds to plant in soil and grow herbs from the ground up yourself, or you can buy young plants to transplant into your own pot. Make sure your window herb garden gets a decent amount of sunlight and water its contents regularly.
As a vegetable that doesn’t take up much space, green onions are a great option for gardening in a small, indoor space and they are easy to grow. Drop the white ends of your used scallions in a small jar of water, being careful to keep the water level to right about where the color of the vegetable turns from white to green.
Once your garden’s all set up, you’ll need to maintain it to keep your plants happy and healthy. This includes daily-to-weekly watering, trimming and harvesting later in the season. Here are three big things to think about when maintaining your new apartment garden:
If your balcony garden receives constant daily sunlight, your plants will likely receive adequate watering from rainfall and won’t require much manual watering. If your area endures a drought or prolonged dry spell, make sure to give your plants the moisture they need.
Depending on the types of plants you grow, they may need more or less hours of sunlight. Check your seed packets for sunlight recommendations and adjust your plants’ locations accordingly. If you don’t have access to full sun from any angle of your apartment, try a grow light to help your plants along.
Good soil starts with good nutrients, and those can come from a variety of places. While you can buy gardening fertilizer in most hardware or garden stores, starting with a compost base to your soil is one of the best ways to achieve strong growth.
If you do use store-bought, chemical fertilizer, follow the instructions on the bottle exactly so you don’t accidentally burn your plants.
Use these tips to bring fresh food to your table, more natural aesthetics to your home and the stress-relieving benefits of gardening to your life!