As more and more of us let go of the notion that only a house is a real home, we’re getting pretty crafty at making the most of our smaller spaces. An apartment garden is a wonderful way to bring the outdoors in and add something special to your home-cooked meals. If you get the knack of it you can even save a fair bit of money on groceries, particularly in the summertime. As someone with a small space green thumb myself, I am convinced that if you’re willing to get creative you can yield some pretty surprising (and tasty) results.
Where For Art Thou Sun?
Us Vancouverites are pretty used to the lack of sunlight during the winter months, but if you’re planning on planting, where you have access to the most sunlight in your apartment is an imperative consideration.
If you wish to plant a variety of different herbs or plants, you should also consider which species have similar light needs. A few of my favourite indoor varietals include chives, many varieties of mint, basil, rosemary and thyme; all of which seem to thrive in the lower light indoors. Typically, herbs need 4-5 hours of natural sunlight a day to do well, though there are exceptions if you’re up for a bit of experimenting.
Surprisingly, vegetables can be a bit less demanding when it comes to sunlight. While many varieties need hours of full sunlight daily (and none will grow in full shade), there are quite a few that require as little as 3 hours of sunlight a day. Arugula, endive, leaf lettuce, spinach, collards, radishes, brussel sprouts and beets are among some of the least high-maintenance variety.
If the sun isn’t cooperating, don’t lose hope. Grow lights can be easily purchased from your local home hardware or garden centre store and can be a good choice for certain types of plants. Planetnatural has a few great articles on choosing lights for indoor gardening if you’re serious about your chives. A short but effective article from organicgardening goes down a top ten list of the best indoor vegetables. Lastly, Loyal Gardner has put together an impressive list of 37 edibles you can grow indoors.
TO CONTAIN OR NOT TO CONTAIN, THAT IS THE QUESTION
Once you’ve decided to plant your garden, you will be faced with the decision of what to plant this wonderful bounty in. The good news is that today there are more types of planters than ever before. The bad news? Today there are more planters than ever before! Focus on choosing a type of container that suits your taste, living arrangement, as well as your desired veggies or herbs.
As a general rule, terra cotta is more favourable than plastic because it allows moisture and air to pass through the soil. Anyone who has ever over watered a plant that became waterlogged knows how important it is for the roots to have access to air. If not, drainage is compromised. There are also a number of “modern” apartment containers (some DIY, some storebought) that include potato bags, vertical planters, wall trellis, and all sorts of other necessity-is-the-mother-of-all-invention designs, each with its own set of advantages.
- Vertical planters: Excellent option for little sunlight. Dresses up bare walls. Maximizes space. Can house many varieties with those that need the most light on top.
- Potato bags: Reusable, cheap and cheerful. Easy design for outdoor use. Drains well. Great for apartment landings.
- Multi-tiered pots: Maximizes space. Only water once for all plants. Gives individual plants room to grow.
- Can planters: Maximizes small space. Great DIY project. Reusable. Perfect for individual varieties of herbs.
- Salad greens windowbox garden: Lightweight. Aesthetically beautiful. Enough room for multiple varieties of greens.
- Soda bottle hanging planters: Reusable and environmentally friendly. Great for very tiny outdoor spaces.
AS MERRY AS THE DAY IS LONG
Along with being good for the environment and your pocketbook, growing your own food–even just a few fresh herbs here and there–makes a cheery addition to both your space and your home cooked meals. Once you’ve tasted your own chives diced over a plate of freshly cooked salmon or chomped on your own salad greens, I can promise you that you will never look at a grocery store the same way again.
Growing your own food may seem a small endeavour, but I assure you it is unexpectedly empowering to pull your own garlic bulbs out of the soil–even if they are in your living room.