Starting a Small Vegetable Garden in Your Apartment

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Starting a small vegetable garden, even if you live in a small apartment, is easier than you think. With a little bit of planning and some imagination, you can enjoy fresh vegetables grown at home.

Step One: Plan Your Vegetable Garden

To begin planning your vegetable garden, you’ll have to locate a spot with good light. A sunny windowsill, porch or balcony will do. South and west facing windows are usually best. But, even without those exposures, you can move your plants from window to window to catch more light. If necessary, you can use a grow light to supplement natural sunlight.

Step Two: Decide What to Plant

Your tastes, climate and space considerations will determine what type of vegetables you choose. Certain vegetables grow large or have deep roots requiring large containers. Others will grow in smaller containers.

Tomatoes, lettuce and radishes grow well in an apartment. Always choose varieties suited to growing in containers. For instance, there are two types of tomatoes, indeterminate and determinate (often called “bush variety”). The bush variety is better suited for apartment gardens because the plants are smaller and grow in the shape of a bush. Indeterminate varieties grow as a vine and get much taller than you’d expect. If you’re not careful, you could end up with a seven-foot tall vine crushed against the ceiling.

Step Three: Gardening Supplies

For an apartment vegetable garden you will need, at minimum, containers, vegetable seeds, soil and fertilizer. If your budget allows, you may also want to purchase a soil scoop, watering can or self-watering products. Self-watering pots and products such as ceramic cones that automatically feed water to your plants, can prevent wilted plants if you forget to water them.

If you’re on a budget, almost any container that can hold soil will work. What’s important is that the container is large enough for your plant and its root system and that it has adequate drainage. For larger plants, you can purchase a five-gallon bucket at a home improvement store. Don’t forget to drill several holes in the bottom for drainage.

You will need potting soil (soil from outdoors is not recommended) because it is lightweight and sterile. Lightweight soil can be found at any garden supply store. Two popular brands are “Pro-Mix” and “Jiffy-Mix.”

Step Four: Starting from Seeds

The best way to find vegetable varieties that grow well in apartments is to start from seeds. Seed catalogs offer a wide range of vegetables and indicate whether a particular variety grows well in containers. The seeds can be planted in any small container or you can purchase seed flats designed for this purpose. Follow the planting instructions on each seed packet.

Step Five: Caring for Your Plants

Once your seeds have germinated (sprouted) and grown into seedlings, you should transplant them to the larger containers you planned to grow them in. At this point, your vegetable plants will need plenty of light, water and fertilizer to produce vegetables. By monitoring your plants on a daily basis, you will be able to adjust all three requirements to ensure optimal conditions for your vegetable plants to thrive.

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Lisa Bernstein: As a long-time apartment dweller and seasoned condominium trustee, I have dealt with numerous landlord-tenant, property management, and day-to-day apartment complex issues. My extensive, direct experience has led to invaluable insights into apartment life from both the tenant and management perspectives.

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