What could be better than serving fresh, organic vegetables and sides at the dinner table, taken directly from your garden? – Saving a few extra bucks shopping at the grocery store, of course.
Challenges of growing vegetables in an apartment
As much as people want to attempt growing vegetables, the most common problem we face is space. Not all of us have the luxury of utilizing a backyard and transforming it into a vegetable garden.
Many of us live in small dark spaces, like apartments, that don’t always give us the opportunity to try out our green thumbs.
Plus, gardening has always been labelled as a senior past time too, but with the changing times it’s become more mainstream and cost effective, especially amongst millennials.
Correctly choosing plants that require little effort to grow in small spaces can be a challenge, but in just a few weeks you could grow food in your own home to feed a family. No more store bought lettuce for life!
Benefits of growing vegetables in your apartment
As part of the “Urban Food Movement” or “Urban Farming Movement”, more and more cities are encouraging people to “grow their own”. Cities are largely where most food is shipped to and consumed, so by developing more gardens in urban centers we actively reduce food production waste, shipping emissions, and greenhouse gases.
There are multiple reasons to grow vegetables in your apartment:
1. Saves you money
As the price of food increases more often than our salaries, our budget need to be tightened regularly which affects the quality of the food we consume.
By investing a small amount of money into starting our own gardens, we’re investing in ourselves which, in the long run, will save us money in a tightening economy every time we pop into the grocery store.
2. Healthier lifestyle
You are what you eat, as they say. When you start to grow vegetables in your apartment, you can also go full swing into food management too.
Apart from the fact that your vegetables will all be organic, they’ll be very fresh too. There’s no comparison to picking fresh vegetables from your “balcony garden”.
Most store bought vegetables tend to be unripe when picked in order to be ripe at purchase. This can degrade the taste significantly. Added to that, most of the vegetables we buy are loaded with pesticides and chemicals that we probably shouldn’t consume or feed to our kids.
But one of the key reasons to grow your own vegetables is the ability to control what you eat. You’re the one that will choose which seeds to plant and therefore you’ll be able to control your meals and thus plan ahead.
3. Pay it forward
There will be times when your garden blooms the same vegetables all at once and you’re sitting with 30 tomatoes and 100 hot peppers that you can’t use in time before they go bad.
This is a great opportunity to bless others around you with some home grown fruit or vegetable gifts and sharing the “fruits of your labor”.
4. Fun for the whole family
Apart from all the benefits mentioned above, growing your own vegetables can be emotionally rewarding too. You can’t put a price tag on the experience you get from working with your own hands, then seeing that project develop into something tangible. It can bring you a lot of joy harvesting the vegetables that cared for and pruned.
The fun is not only limited to you. It can develop into a family project where the kids can learn about gardening and they’ll love getting their hands dirty. Your kids will also enjoy watching their plants and projects grow as they nurture it.
5. Beautiful decor for your apartment
Growing food indoors or on your apartment balcony also gives your living space a welcomed touch of green that brightens up any room, and you only need one or two plants! Hence why vegetables are some of the best plant choices for home and apartments.
Getting started with your own apartment garden
Starting your own indoor garden isn’t as hard as it seems, albeit, you’ll need a few things before you get started and turn your concrete jungle living space into an actual jungle.
Let’s have a look at a few things you’ll need and some considerations to take when starting:
1. Planters and containers
Your first step should be finding planters that aren’t too large and take up too much space. Planters are filled with soil too, adding water into that can triple its weight and make them difficult to move around. Fiberglass planters are the perfect material because they are both strong and lightweight.
Fiberglass planters will also last for years so you can always repurpose your last project to start growing your own food. This is a penny saver, and helps the environment by “going green”, ensuring it’s not only a phrase.
2. Sunlight in apartments
Whether you’re planning on growing salad greens, your own vegetables or fresh herbs, they’ll all need a certain measure of sunlight to ensure healthy and happy growth.
Finding natural light can be hard to come by living in an apartment in a city because tall buildings can block direct sunlight for most part of the day. If you plan on growing flowering or fruiting plants, such as bell peppers and other vegetables, they’ll need a day of sunshine, which is about six to eight hours a day. The best places that offer sunlight are balconies, rooftops, and next to south facing windows for maximum sunlight potential.
Alternatively, if you plan on using your windowsill, you can plan on growing plants that require less sunlight like herbs and salad greens.
3. Importance of soil
When growing your own vegetables in your apartment, you’ll more than likely be using containers and planters. In doing this, you can’t use ordinary garden soil because it will limit the amount of air your plants get, prevent water from getting through, and be too compact in your container.
Instead, opt for a nutrient dense potting mix which is light, fluffy and helps water to drain through thoroughly and keeps your soil moist. This will also efficiently circulate air keeping your roots healthy.
4. Water and air
Like all living things, air and water is an essential requirement. When growing vegetables indoors in containers, your vegetable plants require a lot of water. Try and plan your garden near a water supply in order to avoid the tediousness of walking up and down multiple times.
Wind and air also play an important role. Our plants, like us, require a good air flow, but too much of something can be just as bad. Be careful not to put your plants and vegetables out in strong winds because this can tear through your leaves and possibly even overturn your planter. And don’t put them near an overly cold air-conditioner either!
Make sure your plants have a wind block like a screen or mesh and that they’re securely anchored down.
5. Apartment building management
Always check with your apartment building manager before doing any big installations. Here are some safety measures you can take:
- If you’re using your window boxes you need to ensure that it’s tightly secured to your windowsill to avoid dropping.
- If you’re planning on starting your garden on your balcony or rooftop, ensure that you check with your building management of any weight and safety restrictions.
- If you’re planning on using hanging baskets, you’ll need to ensure the hooks are tightly secured so that they don’t accidentally drop from the ceiling.
The best vegetables to grow in your apartment
We can grow just about any fruit or vegetables in a container, to a certain degree. Though, we may have to draw the line at growing a full size orange tree in our apartment.
How to choose your vegetables?
- Start by thinking of the fruits and vegetables you enjoy eating. From there, you can narrow down which plants you would like to start with.
- You can shop for seeds at your local nursery which will likely offer a wide variety.
- Alternative to buying seeds, you can purchase small nursery plants which will grow much faster.
Below is a list of a few vegetables you can easily start with and a few tips on how to take care of them:
Carrots are really simple to grow. They don’t need much space around them, albeit, they are a root vegetable, so you’ll need a deep container because they grow down. Try and keep your room temperature at 60 degrees F which will help them thrive.
Your carrots will also need about 6 to 8 hours a day of sunlight, so make sure they’re on your balcony, or at your window with the best light (if you don’t have a balcony). You can use grow lights to help them along.
2. Fresh herbs
Fresh herbs are possibly the best choice to grow indoors in a container, but bear in mind, they won’t grow as large and bushy as they would in an outdoor garden. There’s nothing quite like having fresh parsley, basil or thyme close by when preparing an impromptu meal.
One extra thing to remember when growing herbs, you might need to replace them if they’re harvested frequently. You can always replace them with more seeds of the same herbs, or grow something new.
Make sure your herbs get around 4 to 6 hours of sunshine a day. Your room temperature should also be around 70 degrees F to help them thrive.
This “lasagna essential” can get quite large and heavy, but it’s not impossible to grow them indoors. Make sure your container is at least 14 inches in diameter, but if you can accommodate a larger one in your apartment, then by all means do so.
Tomatoes love the warm weather and require a lot of sunlight, around 6 to 8 hours of sun a day. They’re also self-pollinating, but occasionally gently shaking them will help the pollen fall from flower to flower.
If you like heat, then you’ll love growing these. Peppers are tropical perennials which means they thrive in warm weather and a lot of sunlight, around 6- 8 hours a day of light and try to ensure your room temperature is around 70 degrees F.
Pepper, like tomatoes, are self-pollinating so they’ll do well indoors. Make sure your container is at least 8 inches tall and allow your soil to dry out between waterings. Your peppers should also fruit all year round.
Tips for vegetable garden care
With every project we attempt, we need to care for it regularly in order for it to succeed and bear fruits. It’s not different for your indoor plants. Take a look below for a couple of extra tips to ensure the best gardening results:
As obvious as this rule is, it can sometimes be neglected or over done. Even if your garden is on your balcony and receives a lot of rain, it might still need to be watered. As your plants grow, the soil in your containers could dry out quickly.
You should regularly test your soil and see if it requires any water. You can do this by poking your finger about an inch or two below the surface, and if it comes out dry you’ll need to water it.
Composting and feeding your plants
Once you’ve decided to get started on your own vegetable garden, you’ll need to buy fertilizer to feed your soil and vegetable plants. Check with your nursery if the potting mix already has fertilizer in it. This helps because it will delay the initial need to fertilize your soil.
Once your plants have started growing and it comes time to fertilize again, get a water-soluble fertilizer as this will simplify the fertilizing process. You should be able to mix it with your water when watering your plants.
Last notes for your indoor vegetable garden
Apartments don’t always offer a lot of space to grow a garden, and our schedules sometimes don’t give us the time either. Pruning your plants can keep your plants compact and also encourage more fruit and food to grow! Making your apartment farming a lot more efficient.
Buying a planter that won’t break, fade, rust, leak chemicals, rot, chip, or look less than perfect is the first step in maintaining a hassle free apartment vegetable garden. Our fiberglass planter will do just that. Start shopping for that perfect fiberglass planter!
Now that you know how easy it is to begin and maintain an indoor vegetable garden, with sustainable greens, you are better prepared to go ahead and start planning a healthy lifestyle! Have fun flexing your green thumb!