If you live in an apartment or condominium complex, you may not have a lot of space for plants. But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy their company.
In this article we take a close look at apartment gardening for beginners. And, offer a step by step guide on how to start your own garden in your apartment, be in indoors or outdoors.
This gives you the freedom to choose where, how and what to plant in your home. After all, it’s your choice because you live there.
So let’s get started.
Apartment Gardening for Beginners: How to Start Step by Step
To help you get your garden started on the right note, we break down the different things you should do step by step. This helps you understand each of the important aspects involved in preparing and growing your own apartment garden.
Step 1: Where to Grow Your Apartment Garden – Finding the Right Location
Whether you live in an apartment, townhouse or traditional house, finding the right location is the first things to consider. Where you decide to start your apartment garden will dictate everything else.
The reason that location is very important is because plants need a lot of sunlight. With the exception of a few plants that require very little sun exposure, most will need at least 3 to 6 hours of light daily.
In an apartment, it becomes even more important because space is a luxury.
Depending on how much light your apartment gets, you’ll want to select the appropriate types of plants for the light exposure that’s available.
In general, plants all under one of four categories when it comes to light requirements.
- Full sun: these plants need a minimum of 6 hours of direct sunlight every day.
- Partial sun: plants under this category do well with direct sun exposure of 3 to 6 hours daily.
- Partial shade: partial shade plants don’t like intense sunlight. But, they do need 3 to 6 hours of light also.
- Full shade: plants that require less than 3 hours of sun each day.
So, if your sun doesn’t receive direct sunlight for more than 6 hours daily, you’ll want to skip the full sun plants. Instead go for partial sun or partial shade plants.
Each packet you buy from the nursery comes labeled in the back. This makes it easy to tell which plants are ideal for your home. If they’re not labeled, you can ask the expert in the shop for help.
Apartment Garden Option 1: Growing Plants Indoors
For most apartment owners, indoor gardening is the best option. This is especially true if you don’t have a balcony or fire escape.
In most cases, you’ll need containers or pots to house the plants. This means you’ll have to figure out how to position these containers so they’re not in the way, look appealing and still get the right amount of sunlight every day.
Some great options for indoor garden locations are:
- Near windows: Plants near windows gives them access to direct sunlight. This makes conditions optimal for growth.
- Walls: Hanging plants or containers are another great way to decorate your apartment. They not only make it livelier and welcoming they can also serve as a decorative piece.
One of the biggest advantages of indoor gardens is that they’re in a more controlled environment. This prevents them from experiencing too hot or too cold weather. They’re also protected from strong winds, snow and other things mother nature can throw at them.
Apartment Garden Option 2: Growing Plants Outdoors
Outdoor gardens are another option. They’re perfect if your apartment has extra space outside.
Some good outdoor apartment gardening ideas include:
- The balcony: This is the most obvious if you have one. It’s a safe space that is easily accessible. And, the plants will be able to receive a lot of sunlight.
- Fire escapes: If you live in New York City of other places where you have a fire escape by the side of your building, that’s another good option. This is a large, free space you can use. But, do you need to be more careful because your pots can fall and hurt someone below.
- Handrails: These are ideal for small plants. There isn’t going to be a lot of space here. And, you’ll want to secure the plants properly because they can easily tip over when strong winds come.
- Rooftops: Some apartment buildings have communal spaces on their rooftops. Many also have gardens that apartment owners can go tend to.
The biggest advantage of outdoor gardens is sun exposure. They’ll get a lot more sun than indoor gardens. But, they’re also more susceptible to mother nature.
During the dry seasons or summertime, you will want to check on them more often to make sure they’re properly watered. Outdoor gardens are also susceptible to pests, insects and other problems including harsh weather like snow or strong winds.
Step 2: What to Grow Your Garden In and Tools You’ll Need
Now that’ you’ve decided where to put your apartment garden, it’s time to figure out what kind of containers and organizers you can use.
The type of plant container you choose will depend a lot on where you put your garden. Wall gardens aren’t well suited for pots. Similarly, you’ll need at least a balcony, fire escape or rooftop space to set up crates of soil.
That said, here are some great options to choose from.
- Pots. Pots can vary from small to large. If you don’t have a lot of space, you’ll be better off with plants that don’t grow too big. If you want fruits, dwarf trees are a great option.
- Shoe organizers. These are great space savers because you can hang them up and fill the pockets with plants. They don’t take up any floor space which reduces congestion as well.
- Gutters: Gutters are another nice touch. They’re unique and let you stack rows of plants over one another. You will need to do a little DIY work with them though.
- Crates and boxes. Crates and boxes let your organize and separate different plants. They also make it easier to move them when needed. Because of how they look, crates and boxes are better for outdoor use.
In each of these containers, you’ll want to make sure that there’s a way to drain the water from the plants. This prevents the soil from getting too soggy which can prevent optimum growth.
Apartment Gardening Tools
In addition to the plant containers, you’ll also need gardening tools. Many of the tools you’ll need are similar to those of traditional gardens. But, you won’t need the bigger tools.
Here’s a quick list of tools and equipment every urban apartment gardener should have.
- Potting soil. Along with sunlight and water, you’ll need soil for your plant to grow. With the exception of a few plants like orchids which grow on barks, the rest need to be planted on soil to grow.
- Hand Cultivator (Garden fork). This is a small hand tool that looks like a large eating fork. It’s very useful for aerating the soil and loosening it up.
- Trowel. This is a mini shovel which lets you dig up soil to plant seeds.
- Gardening Gloves. Gloves are option but very useful especially if you’re dealing with plants that have thorns. They also make sure that your hands are protected at all times.
- Pruner. Hand pruners are perfect for trimming stems and edging. Depending on the types of plants you have you can use pruning shears or scissors.
- Watering can. Watering cans let you distribute water evenly on plants. But, they are optional since you can use a water pitcher or containers to get the job done as well.
- Fertilizer. You’ll need the right type of fertilizer to help your plants grow. This ensures they get the right nutrients.
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Step 3: What to Grow in Your Apartment Garden?
With steps 1 and 2, you didn’t get a lot of freedom to choose. That’s because in step 1, you had to go with what your apartment gave you. Step 2 was likewise dependent on the location you selected in step 1.
Now, it’s your turn. You get to choose which plants to grow in your apartment.
In this step, it’s a good idea to decide based on a few factors. One of them is what do you want the plants to do for your apartment.
- Is gardening a hobby?
- Do you want to grow an edible garden so you can use the fruits, veggies and herbs for cooking and eating?
- Are the plants for decorative purposes?
- Or, are they for something else?
Which one or ones you decide will determine the types of plants you go for.
While you do have a good amount of freedom, you don’t have complete freedom here. You still have to consider how much sunlight is available in your garden. And, if the plant you choose can survive with that.
Also, will your plant fit? For most apartments big plants or those that require wide, deep pots aren’t ideal due to space limitations.
That said, here are some great options based on purpose.
Edible Plants Perfect for Apartment Gardening
- Greens. Greens like lettuce, spinach, kale and arugula are perfect for apartment gardening. Whenever you want to make salad you can just choose the one in season.
- Tomatoes. Tomatoes are a perfect compliment to greens on your salad. Plus, they’re easy to add with other foods like pasta and pizza.
- Peppers. Bell peppers and other types like cayenne not only add another layer of flavor to your dishes, they also give it nice, vibrant colors.
- Herbs. Herbs are among the healthiest things you can enjoy. They have a lot of medicinal purposes. And, you can use them to flavor your dishes. Rosemary, thyme and mint are some herbs you can easily grow in containers all year round.
- Dwarf trees. If you like citrus fruits or avocados, then growing yourself works. You do need to buy dwarf trees because the regular trees won’t fit in your apartment.
Flowers and Houseplants for Apartment Gardening
In addition to edibles, flowers are a great way to brighten up your home. Flowers are beautiful and come in a rainbow of colors. This lets you decorate your home to make it unique and your very own.
- Flowers like roses, geraniums and begonias are some wonderful choices because they’re able to thrive even without a lot of sunlight. They’re beautiful colors also make them excellent decorative pieces.
- Houseplants are another amazing option. While most of them are green, they bring character and texture to your home. Like flowers, houseplants serve as decorative pieces. But, they also help reduce stress and help improve indoor air quality. This makes your home a healthier place to live in.
Step 4: Growing Your Apartment Garden
The final step is to start planting. This is the fun part as you get to get down and dirty and start your garden.
Do keep in mind the essential elements plants need to grow.
So, it’s important to set them up in containers where they’ll be able to receive all these things.
Don’t forget to read the packets for growing directions. Each of the seed packets contain instructions that will help you get started.