City gardens have become quite popular over the years. My wife and I left the city for the suburbs many years ago, before I was gardening. However, as we prepare to move again I’m brought back to thinking about city living and what I might be able to grow if I somehow ended up living in the city again. So, I caught up with my friend Gladys to get her input:
If you have a windowsill, hallway, fire escape, or low ceilings for hanging you can have a city garden. An urban oasis in your own city home. It’s possible. It’s relatively easy. And it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg. Where to start? Let’s begin with a garden of healthy vegetables. Growing your own food inside your apartment is possible. The benefits, aside from having healthy pesticide-free food, include fresh vegetables on demand, cleaner air, and being the envy of all your friends.
So, what vegetables are good for city gardens? City dwellers can enjoy many of the same vegetables as everyone else, just on a little smaller scale. If you live in the city you can plant tomatoes, radishes, spinach, kale, mushrooms, climbing beans, carrots, and herbs to name a few. Herbs are the best for city living. However, you are not limited to just having an herb garden.
I wanted to focus heavier on vegetables and not just herbs because I think it’s a little more difficult to know which vegetables can do well in the city…even us non-city folk grow plenty of our herbs indoors so thinking about growing those in the city wasn’t/isn’t/wouldn’t be too much of a concern for me. Whether you are into a plant-based diet, want healthier surroundings, or want to see vegetables from your own hands, it is possible and cheap to do, yes, even in your apartment. With a little thought and a lot of love, you can make your space a green space. You will need a few supplies, and you will become acquainted with your local garden supply store. If you want to make it even easier, you can get most of the supplies when you do your grocery shopping, or online. It’s time to start.
The supplies you need include pots with drainage holes in the bottom, preferably all different sizes — plastic trays to put under pots to scope up the water draining from the containers. Sunlight from a south/southwest window or artificial light either from plant grow lights, fluorescent lights, or LED lights. And of course, indoor potting soil and seeds, both of which can be easily obtained.
Vegetables for your indoor garden
The first step is to think about what you want to eat. Think about the plants that you use in your cooking, something like spinach or scallions. What about the mixings you will need for a salad? You can grow all the fixings you need.
You will need pots or window boxes for planting, make sure the pots and window boxes have drainage holes. Plastic trays to put under the pots are necessary to keep water from your windowsill, shelves, or the drainage from the hanging plants. The soil should be specifically for indoor gardening, an organic all-purpose one is preferred. And of course, sunlight or artificial light to keep your vegetables looking green and healthy.
Easiest vegetables to grow for indoor gardening
Everyone uses them, and they are so easy to grow. Cherry peppers are the easiest so they will be perfect for your city gardens. You will need a warm, sunny place, like a windowsill. (If you have a draft in the windowsill invest in plastic window cover. Stops the draft and lets the sun in, a benefit for you and your plants).
- Peppers require a container at least eight inches tall.
- Let the container dry out between watering. Don’t overwater and make sure you have proper drainage.
- Ten hours of light each day is required.
- While peppers are self-pollinating, you might need to help the plant along. Gentle shake pollen from one flower to another or use a cotton swab to dust each flower with pollen.
If you want to see quick results in your city garden, radishes are your ticket. They yield a dietary abundance in about three weeks. But it is essential to pick the right radishes. Don’t try the Daikon radishes; they are too big. Go for Cherry Belle, or Perfecto radishes for your first go around.
- They will need the sun but on hot days give them a break.
- For aesthetic appeal consider growing radishes in window boxes, the long rectangular pot.
- For planting, put radishes in the soil about ½ deep and two inches apart.
- Sprinkle some potting mix on top of the new seeds and dampen the soil.
- Place in a sunny spot for a plastic wrap covering the plant. (this creates a “greenhouse effect”)
- Once you see the seeds take off the plastic and mist the seedlings.
- Water regularly to prevent radishes from becoming too spicy.
With tomatoes, the only secret is not to get too fancy. Heirloom tomatoes are not where you want to start. But the good news is that Roma, Cherry, and Small Fry tomatoes are suitable for indoor gardening.
- It is crucial that you use unglazed pots with excellent drainage.
- Make sure your plant is in a south-facing window that sees a lot of suns, at least six hours a day.
- Plant them ¼ inch deep in pots that are at least six inches deep.
- For germination keep the soil slightly moist in a warm location.
- You will need to transplant your tomatoes to bigger pots when they get about three inches tall.
- You will have to rotate the plant so that the entire plant gets some of that sun.
- You will also need to help them pollinate…so taps the stems lightly or use a cotton swab and touch from flower to flower.
- Tomatoes like it warm—for the night have the temperature around 62F and during the day 79F.
- For your salad abundance all year round, try planting some arugula or Astro. Avoid head lettuce, it looks easy, but it isn’t.
- Pick a spot that will give the lettuce 12 hours of bright light each day.
- The spot must be away from active heat sources and cold drafts.
- Have a container no smaller than a ½ gallon.
- Moisten the soil to prepare for planting.
- Fill the containers with about four inches of soil.
- Put the seeds in rows about an inch apart.
- Cover the seeds with plastic wrap (creating the greenhouse effect).
- Once it starts to sprout remove plastic wrap.
- Keep seedlings moist, but don’t overwater
- To have the best results with spinach good drainage is the key.
- Pick a spot that will give you eight hours of sunlight.
- Sprinkle the seeds about one-inch apart and lightly cover them with soil.
- If the plants are in the windowsill, rotate the pots every two days, so the spinach gets full exposure
- Perhaps the most straightforward vegetable to grow is the scallion. And the best part you can eat the entire plant.
- You can start scallions from scraps or seeds, but I prefer just using the scraps.
- Have a narrow pot that is six inches deep
- Fill the pot with potting soil
- Using leftover store-bought green onions, leave three to four inches of the white bulb intact and plant it a ½ inch deep.
- Put the pot and scallions in direct sunlight.
- Keep the soil slightly moist…do not over water.
- Harvest should come in two or three weeks.
Is it that easy?
Having a vegetable garden in your apartment is that easy when you make the right choices. Choose where you are going to grow your garden. Remember south or southwest facing window light is ideal. If you aren’t facing the south, invest in artificial light.
The right vegetables are essential. What do you want to eat? What is easy? And of course, what will make it aesthetically appealing. All these are personal choices you must make. Can have plants in your windowsill, or on shelves; you can have tomato plants that sprout upward on trellis sitting next to lettuce plants in full vibrant green.
The soil and the seeds can be purchased online, your local grocery store, or your local nursery. The containers should always have drainage holes at the bottom and don’t forget the plastic trays to catch the water draining. (Always remember to drain the plastic trays so your plants aren’t sitting in water).
How do you grow plants in a small apartment?
If you are hesitant because of the side of your apartment, no worry, you don’t need a lot of space. And no south-facing window, again no problem.
First, determine what type of plant(s) you want to grow. Remember the plant can be placed in a windowsill, or on a rack or even hanging. Next, if you can’t supply the sunlight get a plant to grow light. They range from $29 to $175.
Plants in small apartments give you the health benefits of reducing the carbon dioxide levels, cleaning the air your breathe, and reducing stress.
Are the plants safe for my dog or cat?
Most vegetable plants are safe for your pets, especially since we aren’t using pesticides. Though not harmful be careful of your pet’s need to nibble on the leaf lettuce as it grows. They will also be curious about the vine plants that grow.
For additional peace of mind, look up the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals website. It will list all plants that are toxic to animals.