Apartment patio garden ideas

Look at these 8 apartment balcony garden decorating ideas to find out how you can make your balcony the most comfortable space.

Do you own a balcony? Want to make a limited space garden there or you already have one? Let’s make it better. Follow these 8 balcony decorating ideas and tips to turn your balcony into a place of relaxation.

Apartment Balcony Garden Decorating Ideas

Tip 1

Instead, of tiles, a simple floor and rug on it, use artificial green carpet or turf rug imitating the lawn. You can also use wooden tiles for a better look, this will give a beautiful look to your balcony.

Also Read: Balcony Flooring Ideas

Tip 2

Along the railings install a shelf or hanging flower boxes outside to generate more space.

Also Read: Balcony Railing Ideas

Tip 3

On the balcony floor, use decorative pots. On a balcony garden, hanging baskets are compulsory too. You can grow flowers, herbs and even tomatoes in hanging baskets.

Also Read: How to Make Hanging Tire (Tyre) Planter

Tip 4

Place a small table with two chairs, so that in warm and favorable days, you can enjoy fresh air with your morning coffee or tea.

Also Read: Balcony Furniture Ideas

Tip 5

Create a small structure for support or buy a trellis for climbing plants. You can do it with wooden slats, or bent steel rods.

Also Read: Balcony Vertical Garden Ideas

Tip 6

If possible arrange an old shelf or something so that you can keep your pots on it, this will also create a lot of space.

Also Read: How to Make Shelf from Old Ladder

Tip 7

Set design details such as a statue, lanterns or candlesticks or wall hanging colorful pictures. You can also add other garden accessories that will suit your small space.

Also Read: How to Make a Japanese Balcony Garden

Tip 8

Ensure adequate lighting for the night. In whatever color you like. Grow some night scented flowering plants like nicotiana, stock, four o’ clock or night blooming jasmine too for fragrance.

Also Read: How to Make a Small Fragrant Garden

Floor cushions from Walker Zabriskie Furniture and a lounge chair by Dedon furnish the terrace at Josie Natori’s Palm Beach, Florida, home; the pendant lights are by Property.Björn Wallander

7. Light It Up

Give yourself plenty of light for late-night hangouts by installing an outdoor pendant or sconces. If you’re renting, go for string lights or outdoor lanterns.

8. Hang a Chair or Hammock

You may be in the city, but there’s no reason your balcony can’t feel like you’re on vacation. A hanging chair or hammock create a laid-back vibe.

9. Opt for Folding Furniture

If you’re short on space, try installing furniture that can be tucked or folded away when not in use. This folding table disappears to free up floor space.

10. Design a Spot For Cocktails

What’s better than happy hour outside? A coffee table and two low chairs are all you need to create a space to kick back and catch up while the world passes by below. Or go for a pouf topped with a tray so you’ll always have extra seating.

The balcony of a New Orleans home affords views of the surrounding French Quarter.Eric Piasecki

11. Surround Yourself with Flowers

You may not have room for a dining area (or even a chair), but there’s always space for flowers. Install planters along the balcony railing to sweeten your view and add to your home’s curb appeal.

At a guesthouse in Austin, Texas, a private balcony off the second-floor master suite offers views of the lake. Juan Miró and his partner Miguel Rivera covered the glass walls throughout the residence with custom shutters from Barcelona, Spain.Robert Reck

12. Add a Spot to Recline

Whether you want to soak up the sun or curl up with a book, an outdoor daybed or lounge chair is all you need for a restful retreat. Add some outdoor pillows to make things extra comfy.

13. Give Yourself Some Privacy

If your balcony is right up against your neighbor’s, add tall plants like bamboo to create a natural wall. You can also hang bamboo shades that can be raised and lowered as needed.

The terrace of Jay McInerney and Anne Hearst’s New York penthouse, shaded by an awning made of a Sunbrella fabric, was landscaped by Stuart Schechter of Interior Design Foliage; the tables are by Richard Schultz, and the sofa is by Carlos Motta for Espasso, as is the armchair, whose seat cushions are clad in a Perennials fabric.Joshua McHugh

14. Add Some Shade

Enjoy your balcony in any weather with a retractable awning that will protect you, rain or shine. Go for a classic stripe, or opt for a bold color to make your balcony stand out.

  • Sunlight: Most fruiting and flowering plants need a full day of sunshine. That means 6 to 8 hours of direct sun. This can be hard to come by in a city, where tall buildings on every side tend to block the sun for at least a part of the day. Balconies and rooftops stand the best chance of offering full sun. If you are gardening on a windowsill, you can either choose plants that can get by with less sunlight, like salad greens and some herbs, or you can add a grow light and not worry about what the weather might bring.
  • Soil: Plants depend on the soil they are planted in for water, air, and nutrients. Since your apartment garden will probably mean growing in containers, you cannot use ordinary garden soil. It will compact in pots, preventing water from flowing through and there will be no space for air. A good well-draining potting mix is necessary. A potting mix has several advantages.
    • First, it is lighter and weight is an issue when you are gardening above the ground.
    • It will be somewhat sterile, so you will not have to worry about diseases getting a free ride.
    • And it remains fluffy so that there will be air pockets for the roots to access and water can flow freely.
  • Water: Plants in containers need a lot of water, often several times a day. You want to be sure you choose a spot for your garden that has access to a water supply. Carrying watering cans up and down stairs can get tedious quickly. Consider purchasing a hose that can be attached to a sink faucet. It’s handy when you need it and it coils away when you don’t.
  • Humidity: If you are growing your plants on an indoor windowsill, you will need to provide some extra humidity when the heat is on. Spritzing with a fine mist will help, or you can try placing a tray of water on a nearby radiator.
  • Wind: If you are gardening several stories above ground or if you are by heavy traffic, you will need to consider the wind. Wind can tear through leaves and overturn top-heavy pots. Either provide a wind block or make sure your containers are wide enough to anchor your plants.
  • Weight: Finally, keep in mind that containers full of soil are heavy, to begin with, and once they are saturated with water, their weight can triple. Make sure your garden spot can handle the weight. Window boxes will need to be secured to the window sill. If you are gardening on a balcony or rooftop, check with your landlord or building board about weight restrictions.

Apartment Gardening for Beginners – Tips and Tricks


A new generation of urban gardeners has emerged. From low-maintenance succulents to full-on vegetable harvests, apartment gardening has never been more popular. And for a good reason.

Renters and beginner gardeners alike, Apartment List is here to help. Below is a list of tips and tricks for starting your apartment gardening journey.

1. Start Small with Succulents

Start small and choose your first plants carefully based on ease of care. Succulents make terrific first plants for beginners as they are virtually maintenance-free and come in a myriad of varieties such as jade, aloe vera, zebra plant, panda plant, and echeveria.

2. Consider Your Schedule

Pick plants to grow based on the amount of time you have to devote to your fledgling garden. Low maintenance types for those with a busy work schedule and fast-paced social life are best. For those homebodies and work at home freelancers, growing high maintenance species will be challenging but highly rewarding.

3. Think About Your Apartment Layout

Choose your first plants based on the positioning of windows and amount of light available in your space. Apartment garden varieties that thrive in the interior recesses require minimal light while some demand direct sunlight for hours a day.

4. No Windows, No Problem

For apartments with minimal windows, choose plants that are happiest in low light areas such as weeping figs, peace lilies, ivy, money plants, and fittonias.

5. Make Use of Your Light

Lucky apartment owners who have multiple windows with ample hours of full direct sunlight will be able to grow a wide variety of house plants such as cacti, succulents, and tropical flowers.

6. Step Up Your Cooking Game

Home chefs and health-centric apartment dwellers will love tending to and harvesting from an indoor kitchen garden. From artisanal lettuce to mini tomatoes, there are practically endless tasty plants to grow.

Don’t forget to spruce up those meals with some herbs! A kitchen window provides ample space for creating a small herbs garden with favorite flavors to jazz up your dishes.

7. Brighten Things Up with Flowers

For those who love flowers, annuals such as pansies, geraniums, petunias, and begonias will provide beautiful blooms.

8. Think Vertical

For small apartments and studios, vertical planters that attach to the walls will allow you space to grow. Choosing slim and tall potted plant varieties will free up space as well.

9. Utilize Your Window Ledges

Window ledges can be used to hold long rectangular planters and tiny pots for a window garden effect. Be sure to choose plants that will thrive in full sunlight and make sure to turn plants, so they don’t grow against the glass in the direction of the sunlight.

10. Freshen the Air

Plants can purify the air, so placing them in the most oft-used rooms of the apartment can provide the most health benefits.

11. Play with Macramé

Hanging plants in fun macramé planters allow you to garden in even the tiniest spaces. Ivy and other vines will provide an eye-catching aesthetic when cascading down the sides of the planter.

12. Add Splashes of Color

Add pops of playful color with vibrant-hued planters in a variety of shapes and textures. Mix and match for an energetic display you and your plants will love.

13. Be Creative With Planters

There is no end to the creative and unique planters available, a throw-back favorite has always been the Chia Pet and there are loads of other playful planters available instore and online.

14. Stick to a Watering Regimen

No matter the plants you choose to get started gardening indoors, it’s imperative you follow a watering schedule based on each plant’s needs. Many people water their plants on the same schedule, which can lead to overwatering. Each plant has unique needs and water requirements.

15. Use your Resources

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.

16. Don’t Disregard the Soil

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.

17. Invest in Modern Tools

Today’s expansive and exciting range of modern gardening tools, accessories, and accouterments has never made gardening for beginners easier. You can discover everything available to get started with your apartment garden just by searching google or amazon.

18. Consider the Humidity

Mini greenhouses and portable greenhouse covers are helpful for an apartment with a low humidity environment. Some varieties of plants grow better in high to medium humidity conditions such as dracaena, begonias, and ferns.

Bonus Tips!

  • Rolling shelves with multiple tiers are terrific for moving your kitchen garden about from harvesting by the kitchen sink to repotting and watering on the patio. As well, rolling units with adjustable shelves can be reconfigured as your plants grow.
  • Seed sheets offer beginner gardeners the chance to grow their garden from seed to full-grown plant. They often come in kits for specific purposes such as salad, herbs, container garden, and organic plants. The seed sheets, or pouches, safely dissolve in the water letting the underlying plants grow easily. This can be highly rewarding and exciting to watch the seedlings sprout then eat the bounty.
  • Smart gardens, such as the popular Click & Grow line, have made apartment gardening easier than ever before. By pairing nature with technology, these intelligent plug-and-grow devices allow plants to grow and flourish from seed pod to adult plant with near-zero effort. You simply order the seed pods you would like from herbs to tomatoes add water and plugin and the smart technology does the rest. These gardens come in a wide selection of sizes and shapes to fit your space.
  • Subscription box lovers… great news. There are so many plant subscriptions to look into. From super greens that grow and can be harvested for salads within 5 to 10 days to succulent subscriptions, there is a plan for the perpetually hooked plant person.


Joanna Dorman

Joanna is a freelance writer at Apartment List. She has over 16 years of experience creating interior design, furnishings, home decor, and home improvement content. Additionally, she has 15 years of field experience in the interior design industry and trained in interior design at the Art Institute of Houston.

Apartment living has it’s perks; no lawn to mow, no garden beds to weed. It is nice to have the satisfaction of growing your own vegetables though. Whether you’ve just got an indoor area, a small balcony, or if you’re lucky enough to have a rooftop, you’ll find there are a number of vegetable gardening ideas that will suit your apartment.

Source: Pinterest

Here’s how to grow vegetables in your apartment

Container planting is a great option for growing vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower, bush tomatoes, climbing beans, root vegetables, lettuce and salad leaves. Containers come in all different shapes, sizes and materials. Do some homework on the required growing conditions of whatever it is you’d like to plant to and check the size required. The best thing about container planting is if you do move out, you can take your crop with you.

Wooden planters – construct your own using old pallets (often free from industrial sites if you ask politely) or find some gorgeous planter ideas online

Source: Pinterest

Need some help putting your wooden planter together? Get some help from an Airtasker handyman in your neighbourhood.

Plastics planters – plastic pots are cheap and readily available from gardening and hardware stores, or you can recycle old plastic bottles to make your own apartment planters

Source: Just Imagine

Terracotta and ceramic pots – they look great, especially for things like citrus and olives – but beware they can get a bit heavy

Source: Balcony Garden Web

Smart pots – made from porous, lightweight material, they encourage drainage and root growth, and can be washed and folded up when not needed

Tip: A small hessian bag will work just as well for planting potatoes.

Source: Nutriculture

3. Herbs and micro-herbs in tins

Use old tin cans and biscuits tins to house herbs and micro herbs. Although they’re not technically vegetables, they are perfect for growing indoors and outdoors in apartments.

Source: Pinterest

4. ‘No dig’ wheelbarrow veggie patch

A wheelbarrow is a fantastic way to create a mini, movable vegetable patch that you can chase the sun with. The ‘no dig’ or ‘lasagna’ (layered) method of preparing a garden bed will work great for this style of gardening as it provides maximum nutrients with little effort to maintain. Follow the steps below to get started:

Step 1
Scout out a pre-loved wheelbarrow at a second hand store or pick up a cheap one from a gardening and hardware retailer. Make sure you bring your wheelbarrow to your balcony or rooftop before filling, otherwise it will be too heavy to move.

Step 2
Create some drainage by either drilling holes in the base (you’ll need to keep a container underneath the wheelbarrow to catch any excess water that leaks through), or by filling the bottom few inches with light stones.

Source: Lushome

Step 3
Prepare the ‘no dig’ garden bed:

  1. Start with a layer of newspaper – wet it
  2. Add a layer of mulch – lucerne hay or sugar cane mulch works well
  3. Add a layer of manure – chicken, cow or horse manure work well for vegetable growing
  4. Add a layer of straw
  5. Add another layer of manure (clearly this type of gardening is best kept to outdoor areas)
  6. Add a layer of good compost
  7. Depending on how deep your wheelbarrow is, repeat

Check out the ABC’s step by step guide to No Dig gardening. If you’d rather leave the garden bed construction (read: manure layering) to someone else, get an Airtasker gardening professional to help you out.

Step 4
Plant your vegetables. It’s up to you to decide if you want to start with seeds or seedlings (for beginner gardeners, seedlings are a great head start). You can even use vegetable scraps from your crisper; they’ll do remarkably well! Try celery, shallots, carrots, lettuce and chili.

5. Root vegetables in glass

Make a masterpiece out of your indoor vegetable garden by planting brightly coloured root vegetables or herbs in a glass jar or container. Start collecting mason jars, vases or vintage jugs and try planting a spring mix of carrots, spring onions and raddish. Most root systems prefer to be kept in the dark while the leaves enjoy a little light, so tinted glass containers are ideal for planting vegetables and herbs that require a decent amount of sunlight.

Source: Wonderful DIY


Not technically a vegetable, but so great to grow in an apartment that we couldn’t leave them out! Strawberries do well in containers or hanging baskets. There are even varieties that require no sun and can be completely grown indoors, such as the Alpine variety.


Don’t have much sunlight available? No worries! Mushrooms love cool, dark places. Get a complete starter kit online for as little as $20 (Enfield Produce Pet and Garden Supplies).

Source: Mushroom Kit

Have you got any more fantastic vegetable gardening ideas suitable for apartment living? Leave us a comment below.

How To Start A Simple Garden – Even In An Apartment

There are few things more enjoyable for a frugal person than to eat food you’ve grown yourself, picked, and brought almost straight to the table. Unfortunately, with today’s busy lifestyle, most of us don’t have time for a large garden, as they require a lot of maintenance work, so we replace this by visiting farmer’s markets or, even worse, buying vegetables and herbs at the grocery store that have been sitting there for days.

The truth is that one can have a small garden anywhere. All you need is a bit of time and the desire to grow some vegetables and herbs in your domicile. It’s quite easy, too. Here’s what you can do if you’ve never tried it before.

Start small – very small. This is especially true if you live in an apartment and don’t have much space anyway. Get one or two small pots and just grow everything in those. The first year I grew my own, I had a cherry tomato plant in one pot and some cilantro in another one; the pots sat near the window in a guest bedroom that also had a single natural light in there, too.

Focus on a very small number of different plants. What vegetable do you most enjoy? For me, it is usually cherry tomatoes, so I like growing two or three cherry tomato plants each year; during their harvest, I’m in heaven. I also grow a couple very hot pepper plants (habaneros) and some cilantro almost every year, giving me nearly enough material to make my own salsa. The advantage here is that things aren’t too complicated and it’s easy to tend to them.

Choose a place with adequate sunlight – or get some natural light bulbs. If you have a window with room for potted plants nearby, this is the place to use. Even if you have a window, I also recommend a lamp with a few natural light bulbs that do a good job of replacing sunlight.

Research your plant and buy an appropriate pot. For example, I had one small cherry tomato plant in a single flower pot, and then a flat bottomed, larger pot full of cilantro (and in future years other herbs). These two took up the top shelf of a small bookcase and provided a good harvest of cherry tomatoes and a ton of cilantro.

Use good soil. I reuse it for years, but the first batch you should get should be good stuff. Stop by a gardening store, tell them what you’re doing, and ask for their recommendation.

Get a handful of worms. These can usually be had at a bait and tackle shop. The worms get down in the soil and do a good job of breaking down some of the organics in the soil for easier absorption by the plants.

Set a clear watering schedule. Find out how much water the plants need (again, a simple internet search will tell you what you need to know), and plan a clear watering schedule. This makes it easier to keep up with what you need to do. I often water the plants using water I used to boil vegetables, as that would otherwise be waste water.

Weeding. Surprisingly, weeding is almost nonexistent with such a situation, especially for the first year (you can reuse the soil for years, esp. if you have worms). This is a big advantage of a “potted” garden.

Enjoy it. For the effort you put in (which isn’t that much), the enjoyment of an abundance of truly fresh vegetables at harvest time is well worth it.

Ever wanted to grow your own veggies, but thought your space was too tiny? This pro is changing everything we think about gardening in an apartment – get her tips and get inspired!

This post is part of an ongoing collaboration with The Chalkboard Mag.

Don’t wait ’til you move into that sprawling country estate you’ve dreamed up on Pinterest – apartment gardening is a thing! We’re learning all about gardening in an apartment from Jill Volat, the inspiring founder of LA-based The Edible Apartment. This non-profit teaches folks across the urban landscape how to grow their own food in their apartment balconies, tiny yards and front stoops! It might seem impossible to grow your own garden greens with so little space, but we asked Jill to share a few of her secrets and some basic tips for those of us who are more likely to kill a small potted succulent than grow a thriving farm, and we were inspired by her response. Suspend all the black thumb self-doubt and give Jill’s ideas a chance. You could start gardening today and be harvesting your own veggies by the end of summer!

When you affirm that you want to grow your own food – even if it’s ‘just’ a few potted herbs – you’re committing to slowing down and taking the time to nurture something and watch it grow. Gardening is such a lovely form of meditation and self-reflection. The great thing about starting a garden is that you are always able to modify things as you go. That’s the great part about growing food – it’s adaptable as long as you are!

There’s a solution to every garden challenge – even living in a small space like so many city dwellers do. The key to gardening in an apartment is to take things step by step, think creatively and ask questions. Be open to solutions you might not have originally considered. Remember to have fun, and be open to experimentation.

Follow your instincts and be realistic about what feels authentic for you and your home. Gardening is about pleasure, experimentation, authenticity and enjoyment. If you “mess up,” the worst thing that can happen is that you’ve killed a $3 plant, which is less that your morning coffee. Here are a few basics to get you started thinking about gardening in an apartment, or wherever else you might live…

Start with your location – Size Doesn’t Matter | Think quality, not quantity. The size of your garden is not something to worry about. I have been gardening since I was a small child, and have had success in every possible configuration. I’ve grown food in spaces as tiny as a small windowsill planter box while studying in Tuscany, and as massive as an acre of land while working on a residential farm in Malibu. What do these two seemingly opposing worlds have in common? It’s that growing food is about a philosophy and life perspective more than actual square footage. Your attitude should be that there’s always room for an edible garden! It doesn’t matter if you’re growing a thousand square feet of parsley, or just one pot of it – you are still nurturing life, and in turn, your own well being.

Consider the conditions – Work With What You’ve Got | What you should pay attention to are the conditions of the site, and getting clear on how much time you can realistically devote to your new garden. In a way, I think it’s an advantage to ‘only’ have room for a small garden, because it means you can start out slow, and reap the harvest and the food with less commitment. This builds both confidence and enjoyment.

If you live in a big city and have concerns or doubts about soil quality, you should have the soil tested.There are kits you can buy at larger hardware stores or online. If the soil is not fit for directly planting, you can always place containers or build a wooden box (with a bottom so that the potting soil doesn’t touch the in-ground soil) to put directly on top of the area.

The dirt on dirt – Pick the Proper Soil | Since you are growing food, you should absolutely choose organic soil. And I’d also recommend adding a little organic plant food (especially formulated for veggies) and some compost if you can swing it. It’s like cooking in the kitchen — the better the ingredients, the better the outcome. Healthier soil means healthier plants – they taste better, have more nutrition and are more likely to repel pests. Just like us, if we are healthy, we don’t get a ‘bug.’ The same for our photosynthesis friends – the healthier the plant, the less likely it is to attract bugs.

Keep things contained – Find the Best Planter | For the new gardener, it can be overwhelming to decide where to begin and what kind of containers to choose. But remember, if something can contain soil and water, it can be used as a container. An old metal garbage can, coffee containers, an old sink can look playful, artistic and eclectic when done right. You just need to consider if the container is lined with anything toxic (like lead paint, for example. In that case – don’t use it!). Here are a few solid options:

Terracotta are clay pots made from that iconic “warm earth” colored material. They’re relatively inexpensive, but dry out quickly (because terracotta is a porous material) so they will need more water than the other two options here.

Glazed ceramic containers are sealed with glaze and come in in every color, shape and design imaginable. Modern, Traditional or Zen-styled, the container itself becomes a design element and reinforces your personal style. They also require less water then terracotta (because the glaze retains the moisture), but can be expensive, heavy when filled with soil.

Plastic is the frenemy of garden containers; they are a great way to get started gardening on a budget, but they are still…well…plastic. It’s lightweight (easier to move around), inexpensive and pretty indestructible. But looks less substantial than any other material.

Leave room for growth – Pot Size + Drainage | Once you’ve decided on your container material (as in terracotta, glazed ceramic or plastic), be sure to choose a size that is at least 3-4 times the volume of the veggie you’re transplanting. That will give you plant some room to grow into. This may mean spending a bit more on a bigger pot, but you’ll be glad you did because your plants will thrive.

Also consider drainage for whatever container you decide to use. The soil needs to dry out between waterings or else you can end up with yellow leaves, root rot or a dead plant from overwatering. If you have a nice tile patio, you may want to consider using a saucer or little footed ‘risers’ so that there’s not a puddle under you pot, which could stain your flooring. Just keep an eye on things and you’ll be fine.

Pick your plants – Get Growing | I have two completely opposing philosophies when it comes to selecting plants to grow, especially for newbies. On one hand, if you’ve never grown food, I would recommend crops that are hardier and easier to grow (I list those below). That said, ignorance is bliss – why not go for something more ‘challenging’ and just give it a try? As adults, we put so much pressure on ourselves to be perfect and we forget to just relax and have fun. When working with kids in the garden, I notice that they don’t worry so much about the outcome, they just go for the fun of the experience, regardless of if it ‘works out’ or not. Remember, it’s the journey not the destination! I once heard someone say that the best gardeners have killed the most plants. Strangely true!

Resilient + Hardy + Easy To Grow Plants:
Herbs – Parsley, Basil, Thyme, Oregano, Cilantro, Rosemary
Greens – Kale, Chard, Collard Greens, Arugula
Chilies – Jalapeno, Serrano, Anaheim
Edible Flowers – Marigolds, Nasturtiums, Pansies, Calendula

More Challenging Plants To Grow:
Bush or Vining crops – Tomatoes, Eggplant, Bell Peppers
Salad Mix – Mixed Baby Greens, Butter Lettuce, Romaine, Spinach (these require more attention and water, which is why they are in this category)
Root Veggies – Carrots, Radish, Daikon, Beets (these are not so difficult, but do require patience and a bit of trial and error)

+ Are you growing a garden at home? Tell us how you got started, your favorite resources and what your tips would be for newbies!

Does anyone else have serious garden envy? Every time I walk by a home littered with bright snapdragons and ivy, I think to myself: one day. Now that spring has sprung, I’m spending spare time in the Botanical Gardens near me and wistfully dreaming of the commune I’ll one day start, complete with a beehive, chicken coup, and an overwhelming need to act like a stand-offish hermit. Hey, a girl can dream.

But just because our generation isn’t known to have access to sprawling backyards doesn’t mean we can’t grow our own gardens! I’ve mentioned before that part of my efforts towards minimizing my carbon footprint included container gardening, and here’s how I manage to keep my plants alive and well.

Why Start a Garden?

I’ve been balcony-gardening since 2014, and have found some benefits throughout the years. It’s a fairly low commitment — watering plants takes all of two minutes, once or twice a week — but makes a difference in my day-to-day. I’m slowly but surely building an arsenal of edible goodies, and even without the tease of a zombie apocalypse, it means I’m wasting less food and money when I need just a bit of one thing or another. I mentioned my carbon footprint is just a bit smaller, since I’m able to compost food scraps and add them to the garden, or reuse produce scraps and replant them.

Plus, honestly, it just makes a small space feel more like home. Having flowers growing in spring, or big green leaves in front of an otherwise treeless view, makes a difference in my personal happiness. It’s also a bit of a confidence boost: I can keep this thing alive. I’m amazing.

Decide Where You Can Grow

My garden has moved with me several times in the last few years, but each new home has led to the same question: where’s the light? Some plants can thrive without direct sunlight — hell, some demand indirect sunlight only — but you need to know what you’re working with. I walk around my new home and look for bright spots by the windows, and hopefully a balcony or some outdoor space.

Check each spot throughout the day. Your outdoor space may get a healthy 6+ hours of sun, or your neighbor’s house may block all but 2-4 hours of sun. This will dictate what type of plants will thrive in your space. And unless you have a sunroom with skylights and windows on each side, you probably won’t get 6+ hours of direct sunlight indoors. That’s ok! Work with what you have.

Decide What You Can Grow

Sunlight isn’t the only thing that dictates what will thrive in your soon-to-be garden. If you’re going to start growing herbs and goodies indoors, you’ll have a bit more control over the environment. If you’re growing outside, consider your climate. You don’t have to get super scientific with it, but if you match your plants to your environment, you’re going to have an easier time. Location matters! Check out which Grow Zone you’re in if you’ll plant outdoors.

Get Your Containers

This will come as a shock, but I don’t believe in spending a lot of money for something you’re literally going to put dirt into. If you really want an artsy planter, go for it, but if you just want to get started, there are a million ways to do it. Rummage through your stuff — you may already have something that can house roots and soil. There are a lot of DIY hacks online if you want to repurpose your jars and cans, but a word to the wise: using clear containers will look nice for a minute, but exposing soil to the sun like that will damage roots and lead to rot. If you have a bunch of glass jars, just make sure to paint them or make them opaque in some way before you get started.

If you want something that looks like it was meant to be part of a garden, check out your local thrift shops, ask friends and family, or look on the free section of Craigslist. You’d be surprised what people want to get rid of — sometimes with perfectly healthy plants already growing! And if you want to get really crazy (and have the space for it), you can always build your own garden bed. This will be much more difficult to move around and will require more planning, but hey — party on, Garth.

Get Your Soil

While you’re already on Craigslist, do yourself a favor and just type the word “soil” into the search box. Every day someone is getting rid of “free soil,” whether they’re digging up their own garden or they just magically have a surplus from past projects.

Pro-tip: If you’re doing this, keep the new soil-filled containers separate from any other plants and keep an eye on them. Sometimes soil from unknown sources can mean you’re bringing in bugs, or perhaps the soil’s pH is a bit off. Test first with just one or two of your new plants before you commit. And hey, if you don’t like the idea of bringing home soil from a stranger’s house, that’s fine too — just grab a bag of potter’s soil from your local hardware store.

Get Your Plants

I mentioned before that my favorite method is food scrap gardening. If you want to get started quickly and cheaply, raid your fridge. When you cook, save the base of produce (think celery stalks, green onions, bok choy, tops of strawberries…), or the seeds (peppers, tomatoes, avocados, lemons…) for replanting. Most seeds can go directly into new soil, and those bases can be propped up in a shallow glass of water. For those bases, keep them in sunlight and look for new growth over the next two to three days. Once you see new roots starting, you can move those directly into soil.

If you want to bring in plants that aren’t coming from your grocery scraps, I suggest starting from seeds. You won’t get the instant gratification of a fully blooming garden, but you will get the pride and excitement of seeing something grow from seemingly nothing, and it’s a lot cheaper. With seeds, just follow the instructions on each packet to plant your new goodies.

Maintenance & Care

This will be a bit specific to the species you’re growing, so check online for specific tips on how often to water, how deeply to water, etc. I’m a fan of the gardening subreddit because whenever I have specific questions about why my plants are slowly dying, I can take pictures and get useful advice from the community. Still, there are some universal truths:

  1. Plants need light.
  2. Plants need water.
  3. Plants need nutrients.

They’re basically little green people. The light should already be taken care of, but while your plants are growing, keep an eye out to make sure they’re not getting burnt alive or feeling neglected. Move them to new spots as needed if you notice the leaves wilting or feeling brittle.

Now onto the water. I’m willing to bet that you’re not going to install an automatic sprinkler system for your balcony, but those plants are going to need regular watering, so make things a bit easier on yourself. I’ve been a fan of self-watering and use slow-release watering bulbs, which only need to be refilled each week or so. Also, while you’re at it, your garden will take all of the reusable water you can give it. I keep a watering can by my kitchen sink and toss in the leftover water from boiling eggs, my cat’s dish, or chamomile tea. It’s not going to hurt the plants one little bit.

And that just leaves nutrients. I’m working on being a better composter, but if you can’t stomach letting food and organic matter rot away in your small space, that’s okay. Get yourself a liquid fertilizer and add a few drops to your watering can each time you use it. It’s not a perfect solution (pun intended), but it’ll get the job done.

You could also find a middle ground: start crushing down nutrient-rich things from your kitchen that won’t need to rot before use. I’ve been drying out used coffee grounds and tea leaves and grinding dry eggshells. That bit of calcium, nitrogen, or phosphorous can come in handy when your plants start looking a bit yellow. If your plants do start to look a bit off, look online or ask Reddit which thing they’re lacking, and mix them into the soil.

Or, Just Say Fuck It

All the planning in the world is just going to be a starting point. If you want to grow roses in the dead of winter in Michigan, go on with your bad self and get some grow lights. Experiment with soaking produce scraps in water and planting whatever sends out new roots. There’s no downside to trying new things!


Starting a garden shouldn’t take a lot of time or money, and we don’t need to stay in the same place for an eternity in order to take care of plants. We’re all here on this Earth, and even those of us without access to a backyard can have a bit of nature in our homes.

Tis is a 20-something recruiter, startup enthusiast, finance blogger, and proud feminist-slash-crazy cat lady. Find her on Twitter or check out the blog for lifehacks and musings on personal finance, professional growth, and enjoying the journey to early retirement.

Image via Unsplash

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