Growing a Garden in Your Apartment

A lack of backyard space — or a yard, in general — shouldn’t stop you from growing fresh flowers, vegetables, or herbs. Follow these tips and use your balcony, windowsill or community spaces as an urban garden to bring fresh produce into your life without the hassle of tending a full-scale garden.

Where Should I Put My Apartment Garden?

Your balcony. 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.

Your windowsill. Windowsill gardening is more limited in terms of the types of plants you can grow, 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.

Shared spaces. Ask around your apartment building and neighborhood to see if there are any local community gardens you could join. Community gardens often require memberships and/or a 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. Ask other members what they have had success growing, and if they have any tips for getting the most out of their membership.

What Can I Grow?

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 gardening.

Beyond any building restrictions, the type of plants you can grow will depend on where your alternative 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:

Tomatoes. Regardless of the type of tomato you’re going to plant, give them as much space as possible. Tomatoes need a lot of water to thrive, and a lot of soil to hold that water. Consider setting up a trellis or cage to help corral your developing tomatoes, as they can grow quickly and take over a planter.

Lettuce. Combine a variety of lettuce in a single pot or planter and watch your side salads bloom! Lettuce doesn’t need much space, and doesn’t require a lot of maintenance. Most varieties have shallow roots and can withstand less-than-optimal sunlight exposure.

Cucumbers. Much like tomato plants, cucumbers can take over a garden if you let them. But with the advice of a gardener or greenhouse employee, you can select types of cucumbers that grow in a small, compact bushes, eliminating your need for a trellis or constant maintenance.

In addition to those salad staples, you can grow all sorts of herbs, peppers, flowers and other greenery on a balcony with the right amount of care. Consult your local greenhouse or gardening shop for more expertise.

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.

No balcony or outdoor space to work with? Try growing these plants on your windowsills:

Herbs. 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 them 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.

Green onions. An incredibly tangy vegetable that doesn’t take up much space, green onions are a valuable addition to many dishes that need an influx of flavor. 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.

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!

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