For the five years I spent as a youth worker, I spent my days playing pool and handing out condoms, functioning as an advocate and running a gardening program called Grow. Grow was designed to reconnect kids with the process of planting, growing and harvesting organic fruits and vegetables.
While bribing teenage boys to care about organic gardening was challenging, it also had unique rewards. I witnessed a 17-year-old kid discover how broccoli grows and watched as he idly picked snap peas right off the vine and declared with shock that they actually tasted good. These discoveries underlined for me how disconnected many of us have become from our food.
Today, the farm-to-table movement has made many of us consider the origins of what we eat at restaurants. But at home it can be difficult to stay mindful. The simplest way to take on a proactive relationship with what you eat is to grow some of it yourself. It’s a trend that seems to be taking off.
In 2011, the UK reported that 5% of fruits and vegetables consumed were home-grown, up from 2.9% in 2008. As of 2014, the US, boasted 35% of households, or 42m, growing food at home or in a community garden, up 17% in five years.
The internet offers a wealth of resource guides distinct to your region’s soil makeup, climate and growing season, making planting and troubleshooting a snap. So there’s just not much standing in between you and your future garden.
- How to grow your own vegetables in a flat, condo or studio apartment
- 3 Expert Gardeners Offer Tips on Apartment Gardening for Beginners
- What to Grow in Your Apartment Garden?
- Where to Grow It?
- What to Grow Your Plants or Flowers In?
- What Type of Gardening Tools do You Need?
- How to Grow It?
- Basics of Starting an Apartment Vegetable Garden: How to Start Your Apartment Garden… …And Maximize Your Small Space
- Getting Started: How to Start Your Apartment Garden Today
- Why Start a Small Indoor Garden?
- Choosing Where to Grow Plants in Your Apartment
- Maximising the Number of Plants You Can Grow Indoors
- What Can You Grow Indoors?
- Selecting Containers for a Small Garden Indoors
- Creating Compost to Fill Your Containers
- Using Water to Grow Plants Indoors (Small-Scale Hydroponics)
- Harvesting Rainwater for an Apartment Garden
- Making Liquid Feeds for Container Plants
- Pollinating Indoor Plants by Hand
- Think beyond tomatoes
- There’s no shame in a start
- Microgreens are mighty
- Get the dirt
- Follow the pros
- Cultivate forgiveness
- What to know before you grow
- Ideas for getting started
- What you need to know about garden apartments in Queens (because they mean something else here)
- The question:
- The reality:
- What are the benefits?
- Do they feel like a house or an apartment?
- What sorts of amenities do you get?
- What’s pricing typically like?
- How does the maintenance compare?
- Where are these apartments typically found?
- What types of buildings are they?
- Are there any cons?
- 77-11 141st St., #7F, Kew Gardens Hills
- 21-30 79th St., #1, Ditmars-Steinway
- 35-41 76th St., #42, Jackson Heights
- 52-18 39th Ave., #1D, Sunnyside
- 34-35 79th St., #41, Jackson Heights
- The 10 best plants for apartment dwellers
- 1. Light is food for plants.
- 2. Repotting is necessary.
- 3. Being a plant owner is like being in a good relationship: both parties need to be happy.
- 4. Maybe don’t start a garden on your fire escape.
- 5. You really don’t need any fancy tools.
How to grow your own vegetables in a flat, condo or studio apartment
If you live in a flat or a condo and lack the space for a garden of your own, you may still be able to access a plot of land through a community garden. Ask around to see if one exists near you.
When you do get started, veggies such as kale, peas and zucchini are easy to grow and can offer a confidence boost to novice gardeners, but the best guide for what to plant should be what you love to eat. Browse through a seed catalogue and see what makes your mouth water – I’ve always loved West Coast Seeds for unique heritage seed varieties, but finding a seed supplier local to you will give you your best chance of success.
The start of something special. Photograph: David Sillitoe/The Guardian
Fill the garden plot with your favourite veggies or those that tend to be more expensive to buy in grocery stores, such as cauliflower. Staggering the planting of one-time harvest veggies such as broccoli or radishes by planting their seeds in several batches a few weeks apart means they won’t ripen all at once and overload your garden (or your capacity to eat them).
Planting a few varieties of squash or pumpkin means you’ll enjoy harvests all the way into late fall but make sure you have plenty of room for them, as their vines do like to wander.
If a ground-level garden is out of your reach, you can still tackle gardening on a much smaller scale. Growing herbs on your countertop or windowsill allows you to replace dried old pantry staples with the real thing, and growing salad greens instead of succulents means you can enjoy a fresh salad every day, without the plastic packaging or the cost.
This could be the fruits of your labor. Photograph: Igor Golovniov/Zuma Press/Corbis
Secondhand stores often have plant pots for just a few dollars; fill them with spinach, arugula, radicchio and romaine lettuce for a great salad mix you can harvest as needed. Old teacups are the perfect size to hold a handful of herb staples such as basil, cilantro, oregano, and parsley (but unless you’re experienced in drilling ceramics, the cups won’t have drainage, so be careful not to overwater).
Don’t get suckered into buying a whole bunch of specialized gardening gear – you can do this on a fairly barebones budget and with repurposed items too. As long as it’s not leaching anything toxic, your carrots aren’t going to care what they grow in, promise.
It’s incredible how much you can grow on a balcony: things such as chard, tomatoes and strawberries can thrive in container gardens, depending on your growing season and the amount of light you get. You can even regrow some veggies right from the cuttings, without starting over from seed.
Finding a way to grow your own food connects you with what you’re eating, and it also offers massive nutritional benefits too. Nutrient degradation occurs rapidly between when produce is picked and when it is eaten – green beans, for example, lose 77% of their vitamin C after seven days. The quicker you can eat your produce after it’s been harvested, the better. Having a backyard or balcony full of fruits and veggies is a great reminder to do so.
But what of those who haven’t the time, the space or, frankly, the inclination to grow their own food? It needn’t be all or nothing, a choice between a backyard garden or a sprawling supermarket.
Farmers’ markets offer a fantastic in-between option for those who want to close the gap between field and table without getting their hands dirty. Food in the US travels an average of 1,500 miles to get to your plate, but shopping at a farmers’ market allows you to buy the freshest and in-season produce, absent long-distance shipping or artificial ripening. In the UK, this site gives a great listing of local farmers’ markets; this site does the same via a zip code search for the US.
At the heart of it, this is about more than carrots or kale. When I speak about being disconnected, it’s more than kumbaya hippy nonsense. We are increasingly living at arm’s length from what we eat and wear, from our communities and those we love. This detachment is having a profound impact on our social, emotional and psychological health and although growing veggies in your backyard isn’t a cure, it’s a damn good start. It closes the gap between us and the food we eat, it reminds us that food doesn’t come from the supermarket shelves, cleaned, trimmed and packaged.
3 Expert Gardeners Offer Tips on Apartment Gardening for Beginners
Published on June 2nd, 2018
By Jennifer Oppriecht
Apartment gardening for beginners — and even seasoned gardeners — requires a different approach. With the help of three expert gardeners, we’ve created a how-to guide for renters.
Whether you’re looking to get in touch with nature or if you want to supplement your own pizza/burger food supply, there are various reasons why you choose to garden.
To create your own garden space, it all starts with goal setting and planning first. From budget to space considerations, the more time you put into upfront planning, the better your apartment garden will be.
What to Grow in Your Apartment Garden?
Let’s think functionally. Do you like to cook, and do you plan on your garden producing food for your own meals? If that’s the case, you’ll want to choose herbs or plants that produce a number of ingredients. This includes fresh greens for salads, or commonly used herbs like basil.
Consider your goals for the space. Do you want a hipster balcony with ornamental plants that blend in with your décor? Or are you going strictly utilitarian, in which herbs and vegetables will help offset your grocery budget?
The cost of plants or seeds will also weigh heavily in your choice. Larger flowering plants aren’t cheap, so it’s probably best to start out with a budget before you go shopping, allowing you to allocate resources accordingly.
If you’re going the vegetable route, Luke Marion offers some expert advice.
Apartment Vegetable Gardening from Luke Marion, MI Gardener
Photo Courtesy of Luke Marion, MI Gardener
Keep things small, compact, and intentional. Many apartment gardeners want to grow a garden like most large-scale gardens they see. This ends up being wasteful on space, and does not have the same money saving impact it could have.
Stick with containers less than 5 gallons each to save space, and focus on growing herbs and salad greens which are expensive and never fresh, and high yielding crops like tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, and green beans. All of these options grow compact, are fresher, tastier, and save loads of money when compared to buying them from the store.
Growing things you eat also is important because having something you don’t eat a lot of will lead you to have wasted space. This is space that could be dedicated to something you will eat more of, saving you more money.
Where to Grow It?
First consider how much sunlight your space will get, as that determines what you’ll grow and where you’ll be able to grow it.
This great article from urbanorganicgardener.com is worth a read, and breaks down the levels of sunlight into the following categories:
- Full sun: Over 6 hours of direct sunlight
- Partial sun: 4-5 hours of direct sunlight
- Partial shade: 2-4 hours of direct sunlight
- Shade: Less than 1 hour of direct sunlight
Take a look at your spaces, and then make an hourly sketch or capture a photo of the area throughout the day. Evaluate how much sun is truly available and then look for plants that match your location.
For example, a shade plant put in full sun will quickly burn up and wither, and a full sun plant put in part shade will grow leggy and pale looking for more sunlight.
Here are some ideal spaces to grow:
Balcony: Accenting your balcony with the right plants and vegetables can add beautiful color to your balcony or patio. Pinterest is loaded with ideas on how to decorate your balcony, which we highlighted in a recent blog post on Smarter Renter – 11 Spring Decorations for the Apartment.
Fire Escapes: You may want to check with the landlord on this, but a fire escape can be used provided you leave ample clearance for foot traffic.
Walls: Transform ho-hum outdoor wallspace with a vertical garden or even a ladder ornamented with planters.
Handrails: Hanging plants work perfectly with handrails, adding nice accents to an otherwise functional part of your apartment.
Windows: A huge collaborative movement has emerged among urban apartment dwellers looking to improve their ability to grown plants and gardens. It’s called R&D-I-Y, which is a worldwide community of indoor gardeners who have collaborated on what it takes to grow “window farms” in urban apartments using hydroponics. It’s a fascinating video.
Rooftops and Parking Lots: Depending on your situation, your landlord may allow you to have a small container garden on the rooftop, or in the parking lot of your building. It’s worth asking!
Residents at one of our communities in Oregon asked if we’d be willing to allow a community garden on the grounds of our property. It was a great idea and we quickly tilled up a plot and gave the coordinator a gift basket of gardening goodies.
Be conscious of your space consideration, too. Gardens take space, and you don’t want them to infringe on your living space. Maintain a nice balance, and make the most of vertical planters. Going up is better than out.
So what if your apartment only offers shady spots? Marie Viljoen, edible gardening / wild foods experts and author of Forage, Harvest Feast – A Wild Inspired Cuisine, has the answer.
Edibles for Shade from Marie Viljoen, 66 Squarefeet
Photo Courtesy of Marie Viljoen, 66 Squarefeet
While many well known vegetables and herbs need full sun to thrive, it is possible to grow interesting edibles in shade, as long as there is not root competition from an established tree.
Spring and fall: arugula, upland cress, and lettuces in general will produce healthy leaves for your salads in high shade or dappled sunlight. Plant before your last frost date and through late spring. Sow again in fall. Fiddleheads are the furled crosiers of ferns: Ostrich fern fiddleheads are seasonal delicacies at farmers markets. The plants thrive in moist shade, making more ferns every year.
Harvest one third of each plant’s fiddleheads in mid spring. Ramps grow in shade (and are over-harvested in the wild) – plant them in humus-rich soil from market-bought bunches with roots (they will fade soon but reappear the following season), or buy bulbs online – harvest their leaves, which are packed with flavor.
Summer: Train Malabar spinach on a bamboo teepee – it adds height to the garden and succulence to summer dishes. Grow ginger as an annual crop and harvest the fresh rhizomes in late summer and autumn.
Turmeric and cardamom also thrive in shade: use their aromatic leaves to perfume stews and braises. If planted in pots they can be overwintered indoors. Fragrant Thai and purple basils, as well as parsley grow well in semi to full shade. Nasturtiums will produce (but not many flowers), which are good peppery additions to salads.
What to Grow Your Plants or Flowers In?
If you’re on a tight budget and don’t have the cash to invest in more expensive clay pots, plastic pots are a great call. While they’re not all that pleasing to the eye, they hold their moisture longer than clay.
If you choose clay, know that they don’t hold moisture as well, but they allow roots to breathe. A saucer for underneath a clay pot will protect your deck and help retain moisture.
No matter what you choose, the container must align with the look and feel of your apartment. If you like a modern look, brightly colored flowerpots with smiley faces painted on them won’t work.
When in doubt, look to Pinterest for new and inspiring ideas! Here are some examples.
Old Shoe Organizers
Photo: Smarter You
Photo: Juneau Empire
Photo: Home and Garden
Photo: Home Interiors
For more inspiration, check out this post. It includes the bathtub below converted into a planter/coffee table!
Photo: the Garage Sale Gal
There is no shortage of container options, but what do you plant in those containers?
Apartment Container Gardening from Kathy Diemer, A Garden for All
Photo Courtesy of Kathy Diemer, A Garden for All
With the introduction of innovative and durable containers comes the opportunity to incorporate plants of all shapes and sizes to our outdoor living spaces. Anything from small trees and shrubs, to plants, herbs and edibles can be grown in a container, if provided the proper growing conditions.
Any plant that will thrive in your zone will do well in a properly sized container, while providing beauty to your patio through all four seasons:
- Textural evergreens or trees with colorful bark will give your outdoor space a year-round glow, and flowering perennials and bulbs will offer delight through the spring and summer.
- Herbs love container living, and are naturally attractive plants that can be used both medicinally and for seasoning foods.
- Many edibles, such as tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, broccoli (etc.) produce fabulous crops in containers, and look enticing with their vibrant fruits on display.
Container gardening is limited only to your site and ability to care for your plantings. Remember that your plants depend on you for water and nurturing, and to ensure their ongoing health you may need to look into a maintenance service or irrigation system if unable to provide the necessary care.
Most importantly, have fun choosing and designing plants specifically for your glorious outdoor oasis.
What Type of Gardening Tools do You Need?
Before you buy a seed or pot a plant, you need the right tools to get the job done. Here are the core essentials for any apartment gardener – most of which you’ll find for sale at gardening supply stores or online.
Garden Fork – Hand Cultivator – Ideal for loosening and aerating the soil.
Gloves – A pair of washable, synthetic gloves should be fine for the urban gardener. Good for deadheading, weeding and handling seeds. If you’re going to be doing bigger jobs, like picking up leaves or dealing with thorny plants, get latex-coated cotton gloves.
Hand Trowel – A hand trowel is useful for planting seeds, bulbs, etc. Opt for one with a rubber handle.
Hand Pruner/ Pruning Shears or Scissors – Used for trimming, edging and cutting back plants. Scissors work well for cutting twine and removing dead flowers, while hand pruners are best for small, woody plants or branches.
Hand Rake – Useful for removing debris around plants or picking up small piles of leaves.
Watering Can – Watering cans come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Opt for one with measure marks.
Gardening Seat or kneeler/kneepads – You probably won’t be using many long-handled tools, so kneeling and crouching will be the norm. These seats and kneelers go easy on the knees or bottom so you can garden in comfort.
Tub Trug – Good for keeping tools together or collecting waste. You can never have too many containers.
Herb Drying Rack – Smart move for an herb gardner – a great way to dry out your herbs.
How to Grow It?
No matter what you decide to grow and where you’ll grow it, you’ll need pots, soil and some type of fertilizer – organic being the best. As you’re an apartment dweller, you also have to figure out how to get easy access to water. Water bottles work best as long as you maintain a regular watering schedule.
Whatever container you choose for the plants or veggies, keep extra room for its root system. The plant will eventually grow to full maturity, so the container must provide ample room for growth.
Purchase organic potting soil, preferably one with no added fertilizers. If you’re using soil from last year’s potted plants, you’ll need to re-till the soil. Work in the new organic potting soil, and perhaps some mulch. The old soil will be filled with old dead roots that need to be removed.
Next, you’ll need to follow the growing directions on the seed package or whatever is specific to the potted plant. Use your computer calendar to set automatic reminders on watering schedules, and be sure to get friends and neighbors to fill in for you when you’re away from the apartment for an extended stay.
Does your thumb feel greener just from reading this post? Are you inspired by the incredibly pictures of plant container we harvested from Pinterest? Are you ready to cultivate your own crops, and eat the proceeds?
If the answer is yes, you’re ready to join the burgeoning urban gardening growing movement. And if you’re not, take advantage of the growing number of community gardens “springing up” all over Madison.
Basics of Starting an Apartment Vegetable Garden: How to Start Your Apartment Garden… …And Maximize Your Small Space
Live in an apartment and want to grow your own vegetable garden?
You think that you don’t have the land, space or money to…
…But you don’t have to have any land and don’t want to invest lots of money to be able to grow your own vegetables in your apartment.
How can you start your own apartment vegetable garden and maximize your small space?
Like this series? Share it with your network here:
How to Start Your Apartment Garden Today
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:
- 7 Location Ideas for Apartment and Urban Gardens
There are several options for spaces to start your apartment garden. Here’s seven of them.
- How to Determine the Amount of Sunlight Your Garden Gets
Figuring out how much sunlight your garden gets will help you to select what to grow.
- Questions to Ask Yourself When Deciding What to Grow
Since I get minimal sunlight, am growing in containers and use lots of greens that’s what I’m growing most of. Answer these questions to help you figure out what you should grow.
- How to Make a Self-Watering Container for Less Than $5
If you are apartment gardening, space is a big issue. These containers are simple to make, easy to maintain and won’t cost you lots of money.
And there’s more to come…
It may be your dream to live on a smallholding in the countryside, with an acre of land. But if, like so many people, you currently live in a small urban apartment, that dream might feel very far away. The truth is that most of the world’s population lives in cities, and the number of city dwellers continues to grow. We can’t all be farmers. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t grow any of our own food; anyone can start a small ‘garden’ in their apartment. In fact, it’s something that everyone should do.
If you want to live more sustainably, growing at least some of your own food is a wonderful place to start. It’s a great idea to look out for allotments and community garden schemes in your area, giving access to some food-producing land. And even without such opportunities, you could contact the council or local landowners and start your own scheme. Perhaps you and your neighbours could even club together and create a garden in a common area, or on the roof? In France, the law actually decrees that all new rooftops must be covered either with solar panels or with plants.
Even when these options are not possible, you can still start a small garden in your apartment, where you can begin to take back some control over what you eat.
Why Start a Small Indoor Garden?
Even a small indoor garden can be great for both people and planet; you might be amazed by how much difference even a very small garden can make. Benefits include:
- Reducing the amount of food you buy from damaging mono-crop agriculture.
- Lowering food miles and reducing your carbon footprint.
- Lessening the amount of plastic packaging brought into your home.
- Opportunities to reuse plastic, keeping it from the wider environment and prolonging its usefulness.
- Recycling food waste by composting at home, keeping it from landfill.
And, of course, producing some food in your own home can also save you money.
Choosing Where to Grow Plants in Your Apartment
There are several important considerations when choosing where to grow your plants.
👉 Think about:
- Where and for how long the location in your apartment gets full sun.
- The proximity to artificial heat-sources, and when these are on.
- The average temperatures in the space throughout the year (and how dramatically these fluctuate).
- Ventilation: is the spot very stuffy, or can you create a good breeze
- Accessibility: how easy it will be to reach and maintain your plants.
A light, bright location is best, though many plants prefer not to be in direct sunlight all day long. Try to choose a spot that isn’t too close to a heat source like a stove, radiator, or oven, or where temperatures will rise and fall suddenly and dramatically. A little natural ventilation is ideal (ie, where windows can be opened to create a through-breeze). Finally, consider practicality; you need to be able to get to your plants easily to tend and water them, and their containers shouldn’t impede other activities within your home.
Maximising the Number of Plants You Can Grow Indoors
👉 When considering how much to grow and where to grow it, it is also important to think about options for maximising growing-space, and which growing systems to use. Often, even in a very small apartment, you can grow a surprising amount of food by considering the following approaches:
This is the simplest, most traditional way to grow food indoors. Window boxes or other small containers can be placed on inside sills, and (depending on regulations where you live) window boxes can potentially be affixed on the outside of your windows, too.
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash
A south-facing windowsill will offer the best light levels and conditions, but you can grow some plants at a window facing any direction. North-facing windows will get less light, but there are a number of shade-tolerant plants that will still grow.
Placing containers on the existing sill is the easiest way to get started, but you could also dramatically increase your growing area by affixing shelves across a window, or with a narrow shelving unit placed on the windowsill to hold more plants.
Inside or out, this approach is all about thinking vertically to make the most of the space. You might not think you have any space for container plants, but have you considered the vertical space: up walls, and above other interior features?
Shelving is the simplest form of vertical gardening, and doesn’t even require DIY. Whether placed in a window or against a sunny wall in your room, you can use any old shelving to increase the amount of container plants in your space.
But shelving isn’t the only option; other vertical gardening solutions include:
Photo by Federica Galli on Unsplash
- Growing plants in pockets (for example, in a fabric shoe-organiser hung on a wall or even a door).
- Creating a tower or vertical structure into which plants can be placed. (For example, a planting tower made from old plastic drinks bottles.)
- A structure in which to grow your plants made from, for example, old plastic plumbing pipes or guttering.
- Climbing plants grown up trellis or supports against a sunny wall, from containers at the base.
These are only a few innovative ways to make use of the vertical space in a room when horizontal space is limited.
Another way to take advantage of the whole room is to utilise ceiling space. Hanging baskets may drip, but plenty of other leak-free containers could be hung inside to grow medium-sized plants securely. Some indoor gardeners simply hang one or two containers on wall or ceiling hooks, while others have even strung multiple containers like bunting along wire or string.
Larger Containers in a Sunny Spot
You may think that you are restricted to small containers inside your apartment. But with a well thought out layout, you may be able to place much larger containers in a sunny spot. By using something like an old 55 gallon barrel, you could create a larger planting area for crops like potatoes that typically need a large area. Holes cut in the container’s sides, lined with sacking or similar, can even be used to grow an additional crop like herbs or strawberries.
Photo by Denise Mwaniki on Unsplash
What Can You Grow Indoors?
You might be surprised by the sheer variety of plants that can be grown in suitable spots within your apartment; you’ll only be limited by:
- How much space is available. (Is it just a windowsill, a sunny wall, or an entire spare room, for example?)
- How much time you have to tend your garden. (An indoor garden will be a little more high maintenance than one outside, as crops will all require hand-watering. Certain crops may even need to be hand-pollinated.)
With a little effort and ingenuity, almost any outdoor plants can be grown inside – from certain dwarf fruit trees, to micro-greens and salad crops. However, if you are new to gardening, certain options will be easier than others – for example, the following can be grown in even the smallest of indoors gardens:
- Cut-and-come-again loose-leaf lettuces.
- Brassicas for micro greens
- Pea shoots 🌱
- Spinach and chard
- Asian greens like pak choi, mizuna, and mibuna
- Spring onions
- Herbs like basil, mint, rosemary, and thyme.
Once you get the hang of indoors gardening, you could progress to growing:
- Tomatoes 🍅
- Peppers (bell peppers and chillies) 🌶️
- Carrots, beetroots, and other root crops (in deeper window box containers) 🥕
- Peas, beans, and other plants that require supports 🌱
- Potatoes (in grow-sacks or larger indoor containers or barrels). 🥔
From there, you can branch out to grow a wide range of further produce.
Selecting Containers for a Small Garden Indoors
One of the great things about a small indoors garden is that you can get started cheaply. You do not need to buy containers for planting; instead, consider:
- Using toilet roll tubes or other waste materials (eggshells, newspaper, or other scrap paper folded into small pots) to start your seeds.
- Using clear plastic to create makeshift propagators. Clear plastic trays, tubs, or bags used for food packaging can be placed over seed trays or pots to give a little extra heat when germinating seeds.
- Using food packaging, like yoghurt pots and plastic trays, as plant pots and drip catchers.
- Using old plastic drinks bottles as containers.
- Re-using old kitchen equipment or other upcycled items as containers.
- Upcycling old items of furniture or wood pallets to make shelves or vertical garden structures.
- Sourcing old tools, containers, and growing items for free (or cheap) online.
Creating Compost to Fill Your Containers
While you may initially need to buy some compost (making sure to choose a peat-free option, so as not to deplete peat bog habitats), even in a small apartment, over time you can save money by making your own compost for free.
You can use a small receptacle to compost kitchen waste such as fruit and vegetable scraps, as well as cardboard, paper and other compostable waste. Such a receptacle can easily fit under your kitchen sink, or in another kitchen cabinet out of the way.
You could even speed up the composting process by creating a small compost tumbler, by employing worms in a small-scale vermiculture composter, or by using a bokashi bucket system. Even in a tiny studio apartment, these are all possibilities.
Using Water to Grow Plants Indoors (Small-Scale Hydroponics)
Whether or not you make your own compost, you could also consider growing plants without any soil or compost at all; growing plants in water is a potential small-scale solution for apartment-dwelling food producers. In a simple hydroponics system, plants are floated on rafts with their roots suspended in a container of water. Check out five gallon bucket hydroponics online to see how this can be achieved even in a small apartment. 💧
Harvesting Rainwater for an Apartment Garden
Even in an apartment, it is a good idea to consider whether you can harvest rainwater to water your small garden rather than using water from your tap. Tap water is not as good for plants as rainwater, having less nutriment, and of course it is more sustainable to make use of rainwater if you can.
If possible, discuss installing a rainwater harvesting system for your block, perhaps with your neighbours; you may be able to organise a rainwater harvesting tank on a roof or balcony. Even where this is not possible, a simple alternative is to hang a small bucket or other receptacle out of your window, or place one in a communal outdoor area and use the water collected for your plants.
These things may not be viable where you live, but if you can’t harvest rainwater, leave tap water out overnight before using it to water your plants.
Making Liquid Feeds for Container Plants
So, you’ve got your small apartment garden up and running. Your plants are growing nicely and your watering and compost-creating regimes are sorted. One other thing to consider is how to keep plants healthy in the long term.
Container-grown plants can quickly use up the nutrients in their soil, so will often do better if given a boost during the growing season. Sometimes, adding a little more compost around the top of their containers, or re-potting, will do the trick. But the easiest way to increase vitality is with liquid plant feeds.
The good news is that you can make these quickly and easily at home; options include:
- Making a compost liquid feed by simply diluting some of your home-made compost in water, or taking the run-off from a wormery.
- Make a liquid feed using green teas, or other ingredients (molasses, baking powder, Epsom salts, etc.)
- Harvesting local weeds (like nettles) to make a nitrogen rich liquid feed. The weeds are simply placed into a bucket, covered with water and left to stew for at least six weeks. The plant material rots down and can then be strained, watered down 1:3 (one part nettle brew to three parts water) and used to water your plants.
- Foraging for seaweed on a local beach, or organic matter from a local park (comfrey leaves, for example), to make a liquid feed rich in potassium and micro-nutrients.
Pollinating Indoor Plants by Hand
One final consideration is that an indoor garden will not be accessible by insects – leading to patchy pollination. While some plants are self-pollinating, those usually pollinated by bees and other insects, or by the wind, may require your agency. Where this is the case, simply use a small brush to transfer pollen from one flower to another. 🐝
Creating a small garden in your apartment has its challenges – but, over all, getting started is easier, cheaper, and less time consuming than many people imagine. So stop making excuses! Do your part for planet and people by growing at least some of your own food, no matter where you live.
Featured photo by Carolyn V on Unsplash
More on gardening: How and Why To Grow a Food Forest in Your Garden
More on micro-gardening: Sustainable Art Projects | Micro-Life Under One Sun
This story is part of our Guide to Modern Homesteading. Read the other stories in the series here.
The first time I had my own garden, it wasn’t really my own.
I was in college in Southern California, and my friend and I tended to a small plot on a communal farm as part of our environmental studies class. The sun was always shining, teachers were nearby to answer all our questions, and the soil was so fertile that it made even a novice like me look good: It’s no surprise that I fell in love with growing my own food.
Two years later, I moved to Brooklyn. Here, the sun didn’t shine quite so much. The soil wasn’t quite as rich. And there were no experts around to hold my hand.
Still, in an effort to bring a little bit of nature to the city, I decided to build a garden.
That first summer, my apartment-mates and I constructed an 8-by-4-foot raised bed to put on the one patch of soil in the front of our home. We then spent the next five months planting, watering, clipping, harvesting and otherwise managing our abundance of vegetables and herbs—kale, chard, green onions, green beans, cucumbers, parsley, tomatoes, and more.
An array of greens from the writer’s urban garden
Photo by Emma Wartzman
It was a lot of work, but it didn’t feel like work. It was not uncommon to find me outside on a weeknight at 8 p.m., the sky still light, glass of wine in one hand, hose in the other. I’d do more intense maintenance on the weekends—trimming the tops of leeks, pulling weeds, building a trellis so that the cucumber vines, with a mind of their own, could wrap their tendrils around something other than the nearby eggplant. Somehow, when I was gardening, the traffic on my street and the heat reflecting off of the concrete were muted by the green. The scent of basil, it turns out, is more powerful than car fumes.
That summer and the next, my garden was the base of all my meals, supplemented with staples like eggs, bread, meat, and fish. After I picked whatever was ripe, I went to my kitchen and took it from there.
Especially in cities, not everyone has the space to build a bed or the time to cultivate what’s in it. But there are other ways to grow your own food in an urban area. Though we’d never tell you to put pots on your fire escape (those are for firemen, you know), you can certainly use a balcony, patio, or communal roof. Or if you have no outdoor space at all, inside is a completely viable option if you choose the right plants.
I asked two urban gardening professionals, Mallory Sustick from City Growers and Annie Novak from Eagle Street Farm, for tips on growing your own food no matter the size of your space and the green-ness of your thumb.
Think beyond tomatoes
“Do you want to eat something that saves you money? Do you want something you only have access to if you grow it yourself? A lot of people go straight for tomatoes,” says Novak, “but truth is they’re difficult and you can buy them anyway. What about more obscure herbs, like shiso, anise, papalo, and fresh coriander seeds?”
There’s no shame in a start
There are certainly more seed varieties to choose from (have you ever looked at an online seed catalog?), but the ones you can’t sow directly into the ground (like carrots, or beets, or radishes) almost always require a grow light, plus a fairly involved process called “hardening off” in order to make the transition to the harsher elements of the great outdoors. There’s no shame in buying plants that have already been started on their way.
Starts are a great option if you’re not ready to handle seeds.
Microgreens are mighty
Not only do you have to figure out how much room you have to grow things, but also how much sun your garden gets. Certain plants require a lot of light, like tomatoes, pepper, and squash (basically most fruit-bearing plants). But you can still get something edible in partial shade. In that case you want to think about the leafy stuff, like lettuce, herbs, beets, radishes, and nasturtium. If you want to grow broccoli or kale but can’t manage, try baby broccoli or baby kale. “For indoors, microgreens are especially great,” says Susick. “You’re only growing the very beginning of a plant, so there’s a smaller window of time in which you can mess it up. They don’t take up a ton of space but produce high yields. They’re the easiest to sustain and so rewarding.”
Get the dirt
If you lay a strong foundation, your plants are much more likely to flourish. Novak says peat moss and compost mixed in will bring a wide variety of nutrients. If you’re planting in a closed container, no matter the size, you want potting soil mixed with those things, too. (McEnroe and Farfard are solid brands to look out for.) And skip the non-organic brands. “They’re not as healthy for the plants, or for you,” says Novak. Putting mulch on top is helpful, as well, because it retains moisture (read: less watering) and keeps weeds at bay. When in doubt, go to your local nursery (they’re everywhere) and talk to the people who work there. They’re super knowledgeable and eager to give advice for your particular situation.
Follow the pros
For the crowd-sourced stuff, we love Urban Gardeners Republic. For the crazy varieties, we look to Blue Hill farmer Jason Grauer. For staged photos of a dude with plants that are really nice-looking, but also good advice and discussion, try Kyle Hagerty aka @urbanfarmstead. And for inspiration to cook with what you grow, Andrea Bemis is our absolute favorite.
Above all, remember that gardening is seasonal. “There is this forgiveness built into the agricultural cycle,” Novak says. “If you mess up one year, you get to start again the next year.”
Over the last week I’ve been moving house and finding myself in a new home has prompted me to learn about how to move beyond buying produce zero waste and become more self reliant in my sustainable lifestyle. This starts with learning about growing food in my current home, an apartment with no garden. Below are the top tips I’ve found for getting started with growing some of your own lil guys.
What to know before you grow
While each plant has different needs, here are five things to think about when growing fruit and veg indoors.
Many plants require at least six hours of sunlight a day, so a room in your apartment that receives a fairly constant amount of light during the day is your best bet, however if your apartment is really dark you can get growing lamps. These bulbs are available in most homeware shops and fit nearly any light fixture, but it’s worth doing some research depending on what you want to grow. Vegetables that produce fruit, such as tomatoes, peppers or cucumbers require much more light than herbs, root vegetables or salad greens, which can happily get the light they need from fluorescent lights no more than four inches above them. So basically, find out what’s going to be best for your setup and what you want to grow.
Soil quality is super important for providing your plants with the nutrition they need, and can cause the same problems as outdoor growing (such as off pH levels). Do a thorough test of the soil you want to use before planting your seeds, so you avoid problems in the future. Remember, this is totally the kind of thing you can ask about in a garden shop, so don’t worry about not being a soil expert.
It’s good to keep an eye on humidity levels where you’re growing in order to avoid rot, fungal infections or your plants drying out. If you live in a crazy humid climate, a little dehumidifier can go a long way (although maybe you already have one!). If you live in a really cold place heating systems can completely dry out the home, so you may want to think about a cool mist humidifier. Don’t get too worried though, my flat in London doesn’t require either of these, so they’re probably only worth thinking about if you live in a more extreme climate.
Air circulation in the home is really important for your health (read more on that here), but a breezy environment can help to fight off potential moulds and fungus, as well as keeping the moisture in the air evenly distributed. There are lots of easy options, like opening a window now and again, but if it’s absolutely necessary to buy something a small fan that rotates slowly is all you need.
Temperature is something that you want to keep an eye on fairly regularly. If temperatures dip too low during the night, then your plants could succumb to freezing temperatures. If you’re growing in your apartment then this takes care of itself, as you also don’t want to succumb to freezing temperatures, but if you use these tips for a different indoor space like a shed then keep an eye out.
Ideas for getting started
Like any lifestyle change, which you’re probably familiar with being here on this blog, trying to go huge straight away is very rarely the best way to do something. Consider starting with some plants that have high success rates for new growers such as lettuce, spinach or kale, with a couple of fluorescent bulbs. You don’t need to go crazy with buying special garden tools! Keep it simple and small.
While you can definitely grow healthy plants in pots and you don’t always need huge beds of soil, it’s important to plan for pot growing. You probably need more space than you think, especially if you’re wanting to grow fruit, so opt for larger pots. And if you want to be at your most efficient, opt for high yielding plants in pots: leafy greens like chard, peppers, or sweet potatoes (where the entire plant is edible, unlike potatoes whose leaves are toxic.) You can often find plant pots at larger charity shops for super cheap which you can fill with easily grown salad plants like spinach, romaine lettuce or rocket.
Growing herbs on your counter or windowsill takes away the need to buy dried spices for your pantry, as well as avoiding plastic packaging. You can use smaller containers that you find in charity shops (for example old teacups) to hold herbs such as oregano, basil or parsley, but make sure not to overwater as they won’t come with drainage. If you’re growing on a balcony, produce like chard, tomatoes and strawberries can all thrive if they can get a good amount of light, and depending on the season.
Growing from seeds
If you plan try growing from seeds plants such as lettuce, kale beans, peas, courgette and Swiss chard, all have a fairly high success rate. You can check out this article for more ideas on what grows well from seeds or young plants.
Growing from leftovers
If you don’t want to grow from seeds, there are plenty of things you can grow from leftovers of the food you’re already eating by using cuttings. This article tells you the best 19 foods you can grow at home with your food scraps (My life goal is to grow my own avocados)
If you have the space, and you love peas, it is possible to create a trellis indoors to grow peas year-round. If you have space limits you can also grow potatoes vertically with potato towers and bags. You can grow several pounds of potatoes in less than a few square feet of space, but you can make harvesting them a lot easier than digging through several hundred feet of outdoor space.
Don’t be disheartened
Ultimately, it may take a little time to find your growing rhythm and what works for you. Don’t be disheartened if your first growing attempt doesn’t work out! It’s totally normal. So start small, take it step by step and in time you’ll see results.
Sources: 1, 2, 3
Of the many things apartment dwellers lust for, a backyard is at the top of the list. If you are lucky enough to live in an apartment with a yard or patio, you may be able to grow a garden in part of the space. Garden growing in the city is not as hard as it sounds. With some basic supplies and a little hard work, you can grow an assortment of vegetables in your own urban backyard. We know it’s winter, but it’s not too soon to plan for spring. Before making any purchases, you’ll need to consider some of the following things.
The choices you make for your garden should depend in part on who shares it with you. The garden and backyard may be shared among all tenants, available only to those on the first floor or available to a particular tenant. Check your lease before you assume that you are the only one with access to the backyard. Your landlord may also have restrictions on what you can do with the space. If you have any doubts, check first before you spend time or money on your garden. If you share the space with your neighbors, consult them before planting anything as they may have a different vision for the garden. Working with your neighbors to create a backyard garden can help you get to know other people in the building and share costs and labor.
Get to know your backyard:
Different plants grow well at different conditions. Before you decide what you’ll grow in your garden, determine exactly how much space you will have to allocate to it. Some vegetables, like corn, require ample space and will not grow well in small lots. Others, like potatoes, require deep plots. You’ll want to assess the garden’s depth and make sure that there isn’t a layer of cement right below the soil.
Take some time to observe how much light the garden gets on average. The presence of tall buildings around your yard may leave the garden in shadows for much of the day. The yard may look sunny when you leave for work at 8:30 am, but make sure the sun doesn’t disappear behind tall buildings by late morning. If your garden gets limited sun, seek out vegetables that grow well in lower light. When you are ready to purchase seeds and small plants, consult your local nursery or the planting guides that come with your seeds. They will inform you how much light, space and depth the plants require.
When you don’t have a backyard
If your building doesn’t have a backyard, or if you are just one of the unlucky tenants without access to it, you can still have a garden. Many vegetables can be grown out of containers in your apartment. You can purchase containers or pots at gardening stores or use plastic bottles and basins that you already have at home. To allow for drainage, cut small holes in the bottom of the pots and line the bottom of each container with small rocks. Remember that potted plants need to be fertilized more often than outdoor plants. Make sure to keep your containers in an area that gets at least 4-5 hours of sunlight a day.
If you have a balcony or extra space to dedicate to your plants, you can grow vegetables that require larger containers, such as cauliflower and brussel sprouts. If your space is more limited, eggplant, peppers (both bell and hot), salad greens and herbs all grow well in smaller containers. Carrots will also grow in small containers that are sufficiently deep. If you are lucky enough to have a balcony, you can use it to grow plants that require structural support. Tomatoes, cucumbers, beans and other vine plants require trellises, cages or poles to grow properly. You can use the beams and fixtures of your balcony as supports for these plants.
If your space is really just too limited for plants but you still would like a garden, do some research into community gardens in your neighborhood. Some non-profits and community groups transform vacant lots into gardens where local people can rent plots. These lush urban oases provide a wonderful escape from city life and can give you an opportunity to meet other people in the neighborhood. So if it’s a garden you’re after, don’t let apartment life stop you. With a little creativity you can bring a little piece of the farm to the city.
You may hear people use the term “garden apartment” or “garden-style apartment”, but what does it mean?
Once you break it down, it’s not as confusing as it may first seem. In fact, you’ve likely seen many examples of these before.
A garden style apartment is an outdoor-style (garden) complex that can be one, two, or three stories high, though they usually have two or three stories. The complex has garden-like settings – low-rise buildings surrounded by lawns, trees, shrubbery, and gardens. Because of their ‘outdoor’ nature, they are usually found in suburban, suburban-urban hybrid, and rural areas. Buildings may or may not have an elevator.
On the contrary, in a downtown or more-dense urban environment, you usually have more “mid-rise” or “high-rise” buildings. Most people know what a high-rise is. A mid-rise is usually characterized as an internal building that looks like a high-rise but is not as ‘tall’ in height. Mid and high-rise apartment buildings have at least one elevator.
While the definition of garden-style is not too important, and some people may have slightly different definitions, the possible benefits are worth noting:
- Easy access. When you wake up in the morning, you usually don’t have to travel very far to get to your car (assuming the building has good on-site parking). That is, you walk outside your unit into the parking lot, and similarly, when you get home, it’s easy.
- More spread out from your neighbors. Most of the garden-style buildings are generally more spread out as opposed to a mid or high rise. This is helpful as it can translate into a quieter living environment, although there are many more factors at play with sound control.
- Lots of greenery. By definition, because they are outside, many garden-style communities are characterized by green space. A good management company keeps this greenery, flowers, and landscaping looking beautiful.
- Amenities on-site. Because of their space, many garden-style complexes have amenities like a clubhouse and pool.
There are advantages and disadvantages to different building types, but it’s also a personal decision and one that’s going to vary depending on your options. When you’re ready to begin your search, and in addition to building type, you might also want to consider these other factors – things like location, price, reviews and the rental agreement. Our 9-step approach to picking an apartment will help you check off the most important considerations.
What you need to know about garden apartments in Queens (because they mean something else here)
In four of the five New York City boroughs, the term “garden apartment” typically refers to a first-floor unit in a townhouse. In Queens, however, the phrase means something entirely different, so if you are hunting for an apartment here, don’t be surprised if a listing leads you to a low-rise apartment building.
Yes, there’s typically green space, but it’s usually shared, unlike an apartment in a townhouse that would have a private backyard.
In this week’s Buy Curious, Michael Chadwick of Citi Habitats and Diane Kantzoglou of BOND New York dig into Queens garden apartments, and tell you why you might want to buy one and what amenities you can expect to find.
I’ve heard that the term garden apartment means something different in Queens than it does anywhere else. So what does it mean? And should I get one?
In Queens, a garden apartment is found in a low-rise, detached building, Chadwick says.
Sometimes the units are duplexes with private entrances to a parking lot or common—like a townhouse. Other times, they are accessible via a shared hallway with four or more apartment entrances.
“There are never long hallways or attended lobbies like more urban-style living,” he adds.
What are the benefits?
“Tranquility and overall affordability,” Chadwick says. “If the sounds of sirens and drunk people do not lull you to sleep,” you should definitely consider buying in one of these complexes, he says.
But he notes that you have to want a more suburban type of lifestyle since these apartments “can feel more like Long Island than Manhattan—a pro or con depending on your perspective.”
These buildings are also ideal for pet owners or those who love to host barbecues, he says. And car-owners will be pleased since they often come with assigned spaces.
Do they feel like a house or an apartment?
Kantzoglou says these apartments tend to be larger than Manhattan apartments. They are great starter homes for couples who aren’t quite ready for a house, or mature buyers who don’t want to or can’t maintain a large house, she says.
“These places feel like real homes—without the added worry about the out-of-pocket expenses for the exterior and mechanical upkeep,” she says.
They have a lot of house-like attributes, Kantzoglou says, explaining that many of them offer private storage areas in the basement, as well as access to outdoor garden spaces.
“For New York City, garden apartments are among the most suburban-like housing options available and they can be the next best thing for those who dream of one day owning a single-family home,” Chadwick says.
What sorts of amenities do you get?
You won’t find high-end gyms, pet spas, or on-site dry cleaners like you would in high-end towers, but you will find park-like landscaping, tree-lined walkways, gardens, barbecue areas, and the occasional playground.
What’s pricing typically like?
One-bedroom co-ops in some of the more far-flung reaches of Queens can start in the low $200,000s and start around $300,000 for one bedrooms in western sections of the borough. Two-bedroom units can range from $300,000 to $500,000, depending on size and location.
How does the maintenance compare?
“As a percentage of the purchase price, maintenance fees can be high,” Chadwick says. “For example, this one bedroom that costs $218,000—an amazing price for New York City—has a monthly maintenance of $841.”
The extensive landscaping found in some of these complexes can be costly to maintain. Some of the large enclaves also have roving security patrols—another expense that is shared by owners.
Where are these apartments typically found?
The majority are located in the more suburban areas of Queens closest to the Nassau County border.
There are several large co-op complexes like Bayside’s Windsor Oaks and The Estates at Bayside, as well as Glen Oaks Village and Parkwood Estates. Jackson Heights had some of the first garden apartments in the U.S.
There are a number of garden apartment buildings in Fresh Meadows, too.
Garden apartments can also be found in areas closer to Manhattan, as well. “Sunnyside Gardens is probably the most famous garden apartment complex in New York City,” Chadwick says. It was built in the 1920s and is known for its unique design of private internal courtyards surrounded by apartment buildings and one- and two-family homes.
What types of buildings are they?
There are garden apartment complexes that are condos or rentals, but most are co-ops.
“Many of the larger complexes were built for returning GIs after World War II—when there was a strong demand for new housing,” Chadwick says.
Are there any cons?
Because garden apartments are typically found in master-planned communities, the architecture can be “cookie-cutter,” Chadwick says.
Even though there is outdoor space, it’s typically shared. It’s definitely not the same as having your own fenced-in backyard that you can use as you see fit.
Plus, many of these communities are located a substantial distance from Manhattan, so you may have a lengthy commute.
Finally, like most suburban developments, many of these neighborhoods were designed for car-owners, so keep that in mind if your only mode of transportation is the MTA.
If that all appeals to you, check out these garden apartments in Queens:
77-11 141st St., #7F, Kew Gardens Hills
Features of this 850-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bath apartment include hardwood floors, a large living room and dining room, and an eat-in kitchen. The $298,000 unit is located in Kew Village Estates (also pictured top), which has a backyard area for residents, garage parking (with a waitlist), and laundry facilities. Maintenance is $905 a month.
21-30 79th St., #1, Ditmars-Steinway
Listed for $549,000, this 900-square-foot, two-bedroom, one-bath apartment has high ceilings, hardwood floors, windows in the kitchen and bathroom, a large living room, and a dining area. It’s in the Garden Bay Manor Condominiums, a prewar development with landscaped grounds. Common charges are $535 a month.
35-41 76th St., #42, Jackson Heights
The elevator opens directly into this $779,000 two-bedroom, two-bath garden apartment. There’s a large living room with a wood-burning fireplace, a dining room, and an updated kitchen. It has tons of prewar details, including nine-foot ceilings, plaster walls, oak strip floors, and original moldings. It’s in Hawthorne Court, a co-op building with on-site laundry facilities and free storage bins in the basement. Cats and dogs are permitted, but subletting isn’t allowed. Maintenance is $750 a month.
52-18 39th Ave., #1D, Sunnyside
Priced at $349,000, this 700-square-foot, one-bedroom, one-bath co-op has hardwood flooring, a dining foyer that can fit a table for four, and tons of closets. It’s located on the first floor of a pet-friendly, three-story walk-up building with a live-in super and an on-site laundry room. Subletting is allowed after three years of residence. Maintenance is $685 a month.
34-35 79th St., #41, Jackson Heights
This $849,000 three-bedroom, two-bath garden apartment has a Colonial-style wood mantel with a tiled hearth, solid oak parquet hardwood flooring with mahogany inlay, an elevator that opens into the apartment, a formal dining room, a windowed kitchen with full-size appliances and granite countertops, and a sun room with casement roll-out windows. Maintenance is $1,000 a month. It’s in the Elm Court, a pet-friendly co-op building with laundry on the premises. Storage is included. Subletting is not permitted.
The 10 best plants for apartment dwellers
Image by irisphotos on Flickr CC
Our ongoing series Apartment Living 101 is aimed at helping New Yorkers navigate the challenges of creating a happy home in the big city. This week we tackle the issue of growing plants indoors when both space and light are limited.
From purifying the air to making your apartment feel more welcoming and alive, there is a multitude of reasons to incorporate plants into your home decor. However, for many of us, keeping these precious specimens alive can be a small but legitimate challenge—especially when space and natural sunlight is limited (like many apartments in New York City). To make the commitment to caring for and sustaining the life of greenery a bit easier, we’ve put together this list of special and very sturdy plants perfect for apartment dwellers like yourself.
Image by Luisella Planeta Leoni on
1. Pothos – Epipremnum Aureum
This leafy green is ideal for adding lively accents higher up in your apartment. They are perfect for hanging baskets or as a climbing plant. Plus their purifying qualities allow them to absorb and strip toxins like formaldehyde often found in common household items like carpet and area rugs. They can survive in a variety of lighting conditions, but please note that low light may reduce the leaves’ variegation.
Image via Wiki Commons
2. Snake Plant – Sansevieria Trifasciata
Snake plants are some of the most tolerant plants out there. They can withstand weeks of neglect without losing their shape and fresh look. Snake plants are great for the novice green thumb as they can thrive in environments with very low light and water. Added benefits include their ability to help purify the air by removing toxins like formaldehyde and benzene.
Image via Wiki Commons
3. ZZ Plant – Zamioculcas Zamiifolia
ZZ Plants are native to Zanzibar, a country located in East Africa, and are considered by some as the “Houseplant of the Future.” This is one of the lowest light plants available, only needs to be watered three times per month, and rarely attracts pests.
Image via Wiki Commons
4. Iron Plant – Aspidistra Elatior
Iron Plants boast dark leafy greens and can add a visually striking aesthetic to any dark corner. They also have an affinity for low lighting and can survive with very little water and poor soil.
Image by Denise Husted on
5. Cacti – Cactaceae
If variety is what you’re looking for then you might want to invest some of your apartment funds into purchasing cacti. Cacti are available in all sorts of weird and wonderful shapes and sizes. These easy to care for plants can survive in the desert, so if you have a window available, it’s likely your apartment will be an equally equip environment to provide these plants with everything they need to thrive.
Who doesn’t love a succulent? Over the past few years, we’ve seen a boom in this plant’s popularity which can probably be attributed to their good looks and their no fuss MO (they are nearly indestructible). All you need to keep these guys going is a little bit of sunlight and water once every other month.
7. Spider Plant – Chlorophytum Comosum
Spider plants again fall into the low light category, but they also self propagate by sending out off-shoots. So if abundance is what you’re after, look no further. Spider plants do well when their roots are crowded, making them the perfect companion for any New York apartment whether planted in a bundle or on their own.
Bamboo only needs water and shade to survive, and in addition to its good looks, bamboo is also meant to create a positive living environment. It is considered a living example of the feng shui elements of water, wood and earth, and in accordance with feng shui practices, if you place your bamboo in the correct pot, it can introduce fire and metal to complete a balance of the five elements.
Image by Andrew Fogg on Flickr
9. Ficus Tree – Ficus benjamina
If you’re lucky enough to have room for a full tree, then the ficus is what you should be after. Also known as the weeping fig or Braided Ficus, this low-maintenance, attractive plant is perfect for your indoor oasis. The braided trunk, however, does not occur naturally. When the plant is young, its multiple trunks can be weaved together to grow into a permanent braid. While the ficus is a very common indoor plant, they are also grown outdoors. In nature it can reach up to 50 feet tall.
Image via Wiki Commons
10. Peace Lily – Spathiphyllum Wallisii
This beautiful plant boasts long dark green leaves and elegant white flowers. The Peace Lily is great for small spaces and requires little sun for survival. In fact, direct sunlight can actually damage the plant’s foliage—it has the nickname “Closet Plant.” The plant doesn’t require a lot of watering, but when it does, it’s easy to tell as the leaves begin to drop.
WHERE TO BUY THESE PLANTS:
The Flower District: 28th Street between 6th and 7th Avenue.
Urban Garden Center NYC: 1640 Park Avenue
Gea’s Garden Jewels: 247 East 10th Street
Union Square Greenmarket: Union Square
Dig: 479 Atlantic Avenue
Natty Garden: 636 Washington Avenue
Gowanus Nursery: 9 Carroll Street
Kings County Nurseries: 625 New York Avenue
- My 1200sqft: Inside Model Summer Rayne Oakes’ Williamsburg Oasis Filled With 500+ Plants
- 15 Air-Purifying Plants to Add to Your Apartment or Home
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Tags : air-purifying plants, indoor plants, low-light plants, plants
In an era where nearly everyone has a smartphone and the latest metal gadgets top each shopping list, it’s easy to see why plants—as a motif, as objects, as living things—are trending hard for Millennials; even The Times is on it. But when you live in a tiny apartment with no backyard (as many of us do), growing plants isn’t such an easy feat.
Luckily, The Sill is here to help. A sleek NYC-based store and national plant delivery startup offering gorgeous indoor foliage, handmade planters, workshops, and classes, the company is naturally full of highly passionate plant people. And Chris Satch, the Director of Plant Science at The Sill, might be the most passionate plant person in New York City.
Being a plant person in a city literally nicknamed the “concrete jungle” might sound difficult, but Chris has it down to a science and is eager to share his apartment garden tips with the world. “I’m originally from New Jersey where there’s a lot more space to grow things, but I’ve managed to condense everything into my little New York apartment,” he says.
Since not all of us have the inimitable green thumb those at The Sill were clearly born with, we reached out to ask for Chris’ advice on growing gorgeous greenery in our own tiny apartments.
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Goals 🌿🌿🌿 via @oliveinwanderland #ficus
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1. Light is food for plants.
No matter how fabulous that sprawling basket of greenery looks hanging from the ceiling of your windowless bathroom, it really needs to be closer to the sun. “Plants literally eat the sunlight,” Chris says. “They can’t live in a dark corner.” And no matter how bright your apartment is, plants need to stay within four to five feet from the window (or even closer, if your apartment faces north or another building).
Plus, Chris notes that just because your apartment seems bright to you, doesn’t mean it’s offering actual bright light to plants. “A lot of people mistake outdoor ambiance light for sunlight,” he says. If the sun isn’t shining its light directly into your windows for a large amount of the day, look for plants that like less sun, like a pothos or peace lily. You know those tags on store-bought houseplants that say “low light” and “bright light”? That might be the most important information to check during your initial plant purchase.
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It’s okay if all you did today was survive. #plantsforbeginners (@sarinahenrietta 📷)
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2. Repotting is necessary.
“Most plants sold in those greenhouse containers are not meant to live in those greenhouse containers,” says Chris. “They’re often sold overgrown because people want a really big, fluffy, floofy plant.” That means, without a quick repotting, the plant will start to die back to fit into its tiny first home.
And selecting that first new pot is an important choice. Those fancy ceramic planters that are so popular right now are gorgeous, but might not be the best choice for a new plant owner; finding something with a hole in the bottom should be your first priority. Not only will it let your soil drain properly during regular waterings, but it will allow you to water dry plants efficiently: when your plant’s soil hardens and pulls away from the edges of your pot, you can put the potted plant in a bowl of water and let it soak it up naturally.
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No such thing as too many plants 🌿 #weloveplants Photo by @habitpattern.sf 💕
A post shared by The Sill (@thesill) on Mar 5, 2018 at 11:20am PST
3. Being a plant owner is like being in a good relationship: both parties need to be happy.
So make sure you’re buying plants that are suitable for your lifestyle, not just ones that are beautiful. “If you’re a busy bee, or you travel a lot, or maybe you’re just forgetful and you’re not on top of caring for your plant, then you’re gonna want to select a plant with lower care,” says Chris. If you have bright light, cacti or succulents are great for this. For lower light, snake plants and ZZ plants are perfect.
“If you’re a doting kind of person—I’m very doting, just because that’s what I do—other plants do like to be fussed with.” Air plants need to be spritzed at least once a day and are perfect for people who want a literal hands-on plant. Ferns, calatheas, and orchids are other high-care plants, all perfect for needy plant owners who want to smother their precious greenery with attention. Pick the right plant for you, and everyone will be happy.
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💘this green wall in Paris #placeswelove 📸: @haarkon_
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4. Maybe don’t start a garden on your fire escape.
As romantic as it seems to grow a nice little container garden on that picturesque metal rail, it’s technically illegal in most cities. A ticket from the city wouldn’t make your landlord very happy, and we all want happy landlords during lease renewal season, right?
If the allure of outdoor spring greenery is just too much, and you have an actual balcony or ledge off the side of your apartment, carry on! However, consider that you’ll need to check on and water your plants every single day in the summer.
You know how city streets get unbearable mid-summer, with all that heat radiating out from the layers and layers of brick and stone around you? Any balcony plant will feel like you in the city, all summer. “If you’re uncomfortable, your plant is uncomfortable,” says Chris, who suggests making a canopy out of tarp or canvas to keep your outdoor container plants from frying between those brick building walls.
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Scratching post 🌵 photo by @batmanandcoco
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5. You really don’t need any fancy tools.
Sure, you can get yourself some fancy gloves, shiny spades, neat pots, and lights for growing, but Chris says you truly don’t need anything other than a trusty watering can and a spray bottle. Do you need to move your favorite indoor tree to a bigger pot? Just lay down some newspaper on your kitchen floor to catch the dirt and use your bare hands to do the repotting.
“That’s part of what I love about horticulture and plants in general: it’s very basic, it’s very down-to-earth,” says Chris. “It’s not something where you need a lot of equipment. It’s as complicated as you want to make it.”
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