Small Space Gardening for Apartment Living

Growing concerns over food shortages have convinced many people to grow a garden in their back yard so they can have lots of fresh vegetables and herbs for their families during summer and fall. Learning to preserve these fresh foods for winter is on the “to do” list for lots of new gardeners.

Apartment dwellers rarely have the opportunity to plant directly in the ground, but there are solutions that allow them to grow fresh food.

Many types of containers are readily available that can be used for planting. You may even have some in your home already, such as five-gallon buckets, deep plastic bowls, or window boxes. If you need to buy pots, purchase the largest you can afford and have space for.

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Larger pots equal more plants. Small containers are adequate for herbs, but larger pots are needed for vegetables. The following list will give you some ideas to work from.

Growing Containers – Just a quick google or amazon search will show you every kind of possible apartment plant growing container out there and most of them work very well, but as for apartment living and small spaces to work with my personal favorite is the 4Ft Vertical Raised Garden Bed (Above) it’s a great small space planter that won’t use up your entire area and also allows for lots of different plants in one simple setup.

It really allows all your growing plants to get plenty of needed sun and not only does it look great on a patio or balcony but it’s a big back pain saver with easy access to the plants when they are up off the ground level.

Tomatoes – There are several varieties of tomatoes that do well in 5-gallon buckets or larger tub containers. Punch drainage holes if not present, put a layer of loose gravel on the bottom and fill with a potting mixture. Cherry tomato varieties include Tiny Tim, Sweet 100s, and Baby Red Pear.

If you prefer yellow tomatoes, try low-acid Golden Nuggets. For slicing, tomatoes try Little Sicily Globe, Glacier, Plum Regal, or Galahad varieties. All varieties flourish in full sun.

Cucumbers – Bush cucumber varieties do well in containers. You can also grow the vining variety in very large containers, as they will require trellising. If you have the space for hanging pots, vining cucumbers can be grown in them with no need for a trellis. Since the bush varieties only form vines of two to three feet in length, they are popular for container gardening.

If you are planting more than one container, plant them two weeks apart for a continual harvest. Containers should be a minimum of 5 gallons with drainage holes and filled with good quality potting soil.

Sweet and Hot Peppers – Peppers can often a bit challenging to grow in the garden, but they love growing in containers, where it’s easier to regulate the temperature and the water they receive. All pepper varieties like a little space. A five-gallon container will easily accommodate two healthy plants.

Stake your pepper plants as the weight of the fruit can pull the small stalk down. Choose pepper varieties that will complement the foods you cook. Bell peppers (red, orange, yellow, and green) are perfect for salads, dipping, stir fry, omelets, sauces, and more.

If you want a little heat in your peppers for delicious ethnic foods, plant Jalapeño, Cayenne, or Extra Hot Habanero.

Summer or Yellow Squash – These little squash are mild and delicious, add beauty and flavor to your salad, and are great in stir fry. They are easy to grow in containers. Bushy-style plants are perfect for container planting and may require staking as they can grow to 30 inches tall.

These squash are prolific and mature early (40 to 50 days). Popular varieties for container planting include Early Prolific Straightneck, Papaya Pear, and Pic-N-Pic. 5-gallon or larger containers accommodate these plants nicely.

Lettuce and Spinach – Window boxes are a great way to grow a row of beautiful plants. Plant half the box, and about ten days later plant the second half. Lettuce and spinach can be planted early and are safe to grow into the cooler fall temperatures.

If you have two or three window boxes, you can replant a section after it’s been harvested to keep your salad bowl full all summer and fall.

Herbs – Herbs can grow indoors and outdoors. Many herb gardeners use containers small enough to be easily moved indoors when the weather gets colder in order to have plenty of fresh herbs year-round. Although some folks like to grow herbs in canning jars because it looks pretty, it’s important to remember they need drainage just like other plants do.

Grow the herbs you like to use in cooking and pick what you need for your recipe. If you like pesto, grow two basil plants to be sure you have plenty on hand for soups and sauces too. Other popular spices to grow include oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary, cilantro, dill, mint, and coriander.

Almost any vegetable can be grown in containers, including carrots, broccoli, zucchini, radishes, green beans, beets, potatoes, green onions, and eggplant. Your garden or farm supply store will have both seeds and seedlings available. Ask about the growing season for your area and plant accordingly.

Some plants grow well in 5-gallon buckets while others, such as potatoes, need large containers.

You can grow fresh food for your family even when you live in an apartment. Use every space available to place your containers. You may have a small patio, balcony, or porch that will host your container garden. You can also place containers on outside steps.

Make this the year you grow some of your own food and take your meal preparation to a new level!!

Get Growing!! 😉

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Mark Boettcher

Co-Founder of Apartment School and a previous renter turned owner of many multi-family properties across the United States, with many years of experience in all aspects of the apartment, real estate, and education world.

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