Living in an apartment doesn’t have to mean living without plants. Experts will enjoy focusing their attention on a few of the more exotic and exciting species, while apartment gardening for beginners may mean getting to know some spectacular, easy-to-grow plants that can help you find your green thumb. Let’s take a look at some ideas for urban gardening in apartments.
Outdoor container gardens for apartment dwellers is much easier if you use self-watering containers with reservoirs that hold enough water to keep the soil moist without constant attention. Outdoor containers, particularly those in full sun, dry out quickly on hot days and may need watering more than once a day in the heat of summer. With a self-watering container, you don’t have to arrange your life around a watering schedule.
Patios and balconies are ideal places for plants. Before you buy your plants, watch to see how much sun your space receives. Eight hours of direct sunlight per day is considered full sun. Four to six hours is partial shade and less than four hours is shade. Evaluate the space in spring or summer after all the surrounding trees and shrubs are in full leaf and choose plants appropriate for the amount of light available.
Do you use your outdoor space more in the daytime or at night? White and pastel flowers show best at night, while deep blues and purples need sunlight to show off their colors. If you enjoy a relaxing evening outdoors, consider growing plants that release their fragrance at night, such as nicotiana and moonflower.
For small spaces, choose plants that grow up rather than out. Bushy shrubs can soften the appearance of the patio, but they take up a lot of space. Choose columnar or pyramidal plants for tight spaces.
Urban gardening in apartments should be a pleasure, not a chore. If you are short of time, you’ll have lots of lovely plants to choose from that need very little attention. If you want a challenge, you’ll find plenty of plants that fill that need, too. Above all, choose plants that thrive in your apartment garden conditions, look good, fit well in the space, and appeal to you.
Learn to make the most of your indoor gardening space by choosing plants that grow well in a variety of different locations. Reserve bright windowsills for flowering plants that need lots of sun. Plants with bright or variegated foliage, such as the polka dot plant and croton, develop the best color near a bright window but out of direct light. Peace lilies and cast iron plants are noted for their ability to thrive in dim corners and recesses of your apartment.
Small potted plants look more appealing in groups. Placing them in small clusters raises the humidity in the surrounding air and results in healthier plants. Hanging baskets are a great way to display trailing plants and it leaves tabletops for plants that are best seen at or below eye level.
Small trees add tranquility and tropical appeal to an indoor setting. Keep in mind that palms can’t be pruned back. Palms grow slowly and if you choose small specimens, you’ll save money and enjoy them for several years. Indoor fruit trees and flowering trees need long periods of bright sunlight every day.
Filling your indoor space with plants creates a relaxing environment and helps purify the air. Peace lilies, pothos, and English ivy are among the easiest plants to grow and NASA studies have shown that they filter toxins such as ammonia, formaldehyde, and benzene from the air. Other good plants that improve air quality include date palms, rubber plants, and weeping figs.
It's a typically bone-chilling winter day in southern New York State, with the mercury huddled at 20°F and six feet of crusty snow on the ground. Yet I've just picked some fresh Swiss chard for tonight's dinner! In another day or so, I'll gather some kale. I harvested tender, green broccoli a week ago, and a few days before that picked brussels sprouts.
No, I don't have a greenhouse, or even a cold frame. My crops are all grown in containers. I start them in late summer, let them reach maturity outdoors, then bring them inside when frost threatens.
The "green thumb bug" bit me a few years ago, when I first experimented with indoor plantings of tomatoes and cucumbers. Then in 1981 I rented a warehouse for my wholesale and mail-order spice business and decided to set up a rather ambitious container garden on the piece of asphalt pavement that came with the lease. During that summer my wife and I savored tomatoes, zucchini, peas, beans, kale, okra, chard, lettuce, and broccoli, all from my 200-square-foot plot of pots.
After the first hard frosts, I moved the remaining few containers of kale to the attic. A winter container garden wasn’t what I had in mind I didn't really expect the plants to survive, because the single, east-facing window there receives only three to four hours of sunlight (when there is any) during the short days of fall and winter. Moreover, since I only use the warehouse for a few hours each week, I keep the temperature there below 50°F.
I was flabbergasted, therefore, at seeing how the kale flourished. My family ate one plant in January and another in February, and later that month I put the remaining two back outside. They seemed to almost spread their leaves to the cool late-winter sunshine and, in early April, yielded a bumper crop of greens.
With that experience behind me, I decided in the spring of 1983 to plant enough containers to provide my family with fresh vegetables at least once a week through the cold months and early spring. Although I concentrated on crops that would grow back after harvesting (chard, kale, and broccoli), I also planted brussels sprouts and cabbage (which store well) and two varieties of lettuce. All in all, I put in about 60 plants, staggering the sowings so that each vegetable would be fully grown by October 1.
We had an unusually mild fall. Jack Frost didn't move in until mid-December, but when he came around he seemed determined to make up for lost time! Like much of the rest of the country, we had the coldest Christmas on record. By then, of course, my plants were safely upstairs. I put shelves across the window and placed the best specimens on them, to make the most of whatever sun we were blessed with. I arranged the rest of the plants on the floor, where they had to settle for a thin ray of light that made a slow arc from 8:00 AM until noon. (During the late afternoon, I actually had to turn on a light to find anything in the 60-square-foot attic.)
Even so, our nine chard plants were very productive we ate their greens once a week. By February, the leaves were small, but new growth continued. If anything, the baby shoots were more tender and tasty than the early pickings. The 30 regular kale plants and the five of the flowering types (which are as tasty and more colorful than the standard kind) also produced weekly harvests right up until I was able to pick outdoor crops in the early spring.
The broccoli, too, was a delightful surprise. Each of the ten plants produced scores of small but delectable sprouts. However, there weren't quite enough for a full meal at each picking, so this winter I'll plant more. The three cabbage plants weren't expected to grow inside, and they didn't. But one small head made some delicious cole slaw, and the other two, which were put outside in early spring, were ready to pick in just a few weeks. My five brussels sprout plants were harvested by late January.
Everything that you are going to read here is from my own personal experiences from creating my fire escape and balcony gardens…
…No need to worry. It’s not going to be bogged down with any garden lingo that you’ll need a dictionary to decipher.
The articles use simple to understand language, instructions and explanations. You will be able to read them and actually be able to start creating your own apartment garden.
Here are some articles to get you started:
If you want your container to stand out, don't get what everybody else has," says Trickett. "I'm a huge galvanized metal fan."
"Add an edible, add a perennial, add a houseplant," says Trickett. "The options are unlimited and by mixing it up, you'll create something that everybody says, 'wow — I never would have thought of that.' For instance, people are always surprised when I put lettuce in my spring containers. It's unexpected. What I love is that at the end of the season you have less waste. The perennials go in the garden, the houseplant goes back inside, and you can eat the parsley."
Consult with the care instructions provided if you buy full-grown or starter plants. Additionally, the internet provides a plethora of valuable information for the care of plants based on species.
Soil type is important for plant health and growth. Many plants prefer a higher acidic to neutral soil with 7.0 pH level or above. Fertilizer can be used in potted plants but should be mixed with regular potting soil to avoid over-fertilization. Make sure all planters have enough drainage provided by holes in the bottom. A single layer of rocks can be added to the bottom of the planter to avoid blockage of drainage due to compacted soil.
What is container gardening, anyway? Simple – indoor gardening in small containers. These may be window boxes, planters or just simple flowerpots that you place on windowsills, terraces and even kitchen counters. Container gardens fit into the busiest lifestyle because they reduce the hassles of gardening onto a micro scale – all while bringing the great outdoors inside.
The conditions and light in your apartment should dictate what plants you try to grow. If you have an out-of-control radiator, skip annuals in favor of succulents such as small cacti or aloe plants. If you have at least five hours of direct sunlight a day and a cool, dry place to store your container garden, try annuals such as periwinkle or marigolds. An especially effective container garden can consist of herbs such as chamomile, chives and dill, which you can dry or use directly in the kitchen while cooking.
Starting a container garden is easy. Pick a suitable container – the choice is limited only by the size of your plant (make sure it has room to take root) and your imagination. Make sure your container allows for drainage – if necessary, hide inexpensive plastic drainage pots within larger containers to keep a decorative touch. Buy a bag of prepackaged soil at your local hardware or garden store – it should contain more than enough to start a container garden. Be modest with fertilizers as containers may be much smaller than traditional plant holders. Make sure you plant seeds in moist, loose soil.
Pitfalls include overwatering – remember, your container is a microgarden and doesn’t need the water you’d feed an entire lawn or outdoor garden – and overcommitment. Start small – you’ll save money and your plants will have an unexpected impact. With a bit of patience and a splash of creativity, your apartment will soon be a true urban oasis.