When my oldest was little we lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment. We’ve since upgraded to a house with a backyard, but I’ve always grown plants at our home. These apartment gardening tips can help you grow all sorts of things in any small space.
Why do Apartment Gardening?
So why bother to deal with the hassle and space constraints to grow your own indoor plants? Well for one reason, science shows that gardeners live longer (up to 14 years!). And if that isn’t enough to convince you, have you seen the organic produce prices at the grocery store lately?
You can easily grow a lot of herbs, vegetables, and air-cleaning houseplants in your own indoor garden. It really is easy (and satisfying) to see fresh herbs on your kitchen windowsill or window boxes on a balcony garden. There are plenty of different ways to do apartment gardening, it just depends on what space you have to work with. Even if you’re not in an apartment, these ideas work for small houses or those with little outdoor space too.
Many renters are used to dealing with small living spaces, but you don’t have to give up on gardening! Here are several ideas for your small space.
Tips for Getting Started
The first step is to assess your space. Where do you have natural sunlight? Do you have a balcony? Is there a small patch of backyard space? Do you have a sunny windowsill? Try to find which spaces will work for growing plants.
Next, think about the types of plants you want to grow. There’s no use in growing veggies that no one in your family likes, no matter how nicely they fit into a pot. What will you like and actually use? Maybe you want to do an herb garden or a vegetable garden. Or maybe you’re more of a houseplant person. Even beginners can have a green thumb when it comes to low-maintenance plants like cacti.
The soil you choose is also important. Plants can’t thrive in unhealthy soil. If using containers, opt for potting mix instead of regular garden soil. It’s designed to help plants have just the right amount of drainage and air. Don’t use potting soil which is more for landscape uses or non-container gardens. You can find organic potting mix at most lawn and garden stores, or you can make your own.
I could write a whole article on this one (in fact I have), but the idea is to grow up, not out. When you have space constraints, start growing things on the walls. Use planters and containers with vertical trellises in them. This makes the most use of the vertical space in small homes and apartments. You can use things like wooden or metal stakes, wire panels, or sturdy lattices to brace the plants.
Choose plants that vine, not grow in a bush. Here are some of the best plants that grow well on a trellis:
- Tomato plants (smaller ones like cherry tomatoes are lighter for smaller containers)
- Pole beans (not the bush variety)
- Climbing flowers like morning glories
- Malabar spinach
Similar to vertical gardening, we’re starting with a container or pot of some kind. You can fit a potted plant in a surprising number of spaces. Smaller pots can fit on windowsills, while larger ones can go on plant stands or on the floor.
Be sure to check the growing requirements for the plants you want to grow. It’s important that they have the right amount of water and sunlight. Many vegetables and herbs prefer partial sun or full sun. Some plants need direct sunlight while others can thrive in indirect.
Don’t be afraid to think outside the box (or planter) either. A wooden pallet leaned up against an outdoor wall makes a great container garden. You can even use hanging baskets attached to hooks on the ceiling. Hanging plants can include flowering plants, herbs, or even salad greens.
Larger plants, like citrus trees, can also grow well in containers. Just keep in mind that their pots can get really heavy and be hard to move. This can become a problem when growing year-round and the indoor sunlight is in different places. Optimally citrus plants need to be in a south-facing window for 10+ hours of daily sunlight.
If you do have some yard space at your apartment, you may be able to have your own garden. Even if you’re not allowed to dig up the dirt in the yard, you can still grow in containers. I have a large yard now, but I still love growing outdoor plants in metal containers. They’re a convenient and stylish way to have an outdoor raised bed. You can choose containers as big or small as the space you have available.
If you’re growing multiple plants in smaller containers, opt for plants that have similar light, soil, and water requirements. This is a great way to grow herbs and other edible plants.
Balcony space also counts as outdoor gardening. You can have containers along the balcony rail with vining plants. Or hang some windowsill boxes along the railing. If you live in a busy city and are worried about outdoor air pollution, then opt for non-edible plants.
My plant wall is one of my favorite (ever growing) things in my bedroom. Not only does it make me happy and put a smile on my face in the morning, but it’s helping clean the air in my bedroom. I have several macrame plant holders hanging from the wall, but you could also use shelves. There are even premade systems of fabric pockets you can put on the wall.
For a DIY version, some people hang a piece of a wire cattle panel on the wall and attach hanging containers to that. I also have a DIY succulent garden on my wall. They’re all nestled into a minimalistic but cute wooden box that is attached to the wall.
Check with your building’s rules before you start drilling holes in all the walls though!
If you don’t have much light in your small apartment, then you can create your own. Good quality grow lights are perfect for herbs, microgreens, and even veggies. You may have to play with how far away the light needs to be from your plants. If it’s too high up it can cause them to grow thin and leggy trying to reach the light. This makes the stems less stable and the plant less healthy.
One easy way is to install a grow light underneath some kitchen cabinets and simply place the plants underneath. Here are some plants that grow well in a countertop garden:
- Lettuce and greens, like arugula
If you don’t want to find the right containers and grow light, then there are some really good premade options too. We have the Family Harvest indoor garden from Aerogarden and love it! The kids love watching the herbs and veggies grow right in the kitchen. Plus it costs a lot less than other indoor garden systems I’ve researched.
Apartment Gardening Troubleshooting
There are some extra things to consider when we’re growing plants indoors or on a balcony.
Weight – Be mindful of how much weight your container and soil are putting on areas. See what the weight restrictions are for balcony areas. Heavy planters on flimsy shelves or hanging from removable hooks aren’t the best idea either.
Water – Unless it’s a succulent, most plants need a good amount of water. Invest in a big enough watering can, or attach a small hose to the kitchen sink faucet. You’ll also want to make sure that the surfaces or floor underneath the plant pots are protected from any dripping water.
Wind – If you’re growing plants in containers outdoors, they need to be able to withstand windy weather. The pots or raised beds should be sturdy enough that they won’t tip over in a strong gust. You may also need to provide a wind screen for certain plants.
Fertilizer – Healthy plants need healthy soil. If you’re growing in a container, it’s especially important to fertilize your plants. Some plants prefer growing in “poor” soil, so check your plant’s requirements first.
Bugs – Outdoor plants naturally get pests, but they’re also around beneficial insects that can control those pests. An indoor apartment doesn’t have that same holistic environment. If you notice bad bugs on your plant (like chewed leaves), or diseased leaves, then quarantine that plant. It should stay away from other healthy plants while it’s being treated.
Final Thoughts on Apartment Gardening
Almost anyone can grow a garden in a small space. Whether you’re growing radishes, snake plants, or basil. Start small and work your way up to avoid overwhelm. Hopefully, these gardening ideas will give you plenty of inspiration for your own small space!
What kinds of plants are your favorite to grow? Which ones have you had the most luck with growing in containers? Leave a comment and let me know!