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The Apartment Garden - For Beginners

Getting Your Green Thumb When You Have No Space

If you’re reading this, you’re probably where I was a few years ago. Living in an apartment with a small balcony and just wanting to plant a couple seeds and watch them grow.

I had never done it before and lived in a small one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles...I had no idea where to start. Gardening websites assumed I knew more than I did, or that I wanted to invest in more equipment, or simply that I had space. Come on, I am a millennial with a fine arts degree living in a expensive city. I fell in love with national parks and just wanted to add a little green to the world.

Ultimately, the whole process gets easier with a little experience, but this should help you get off to a successful start.


1) Where do you get the most sunlight? Do you have a window or balcony that faces south? Great! Plant your first seeds there. There, that was simple. Of course, not all of us are that lucky. Chances are, however, if you’re east or west facing, you’ll still be able to make it work. If you only have windows that face north, and have no direct sunlight, there are plenty of shade-loving plants to choose from. Got your spot? Great, time to head to Home Depot.


2) Get This Planter and At Least Middle-Priced Potting Soil There are very few instances on this site that we’ll suggest you buy something plastic, but the pictured planter is great for a variety of reasons. It looks good for indoor and outdoor decor, small enough to not be invasive but big enough to let plants mature, and it’s $5. Perfect for getting started. Buy an all-purpose potting soil, but don’t get the absolute cheapest you can find. We did that once and it was nothing but problems.


3) Buy Easy Seeds: Basil, Zinnia Flowers, or Dwarf Sunflowers. Depending on what you want to grow, these are three really easy plants to get started with. Their germination rates are high, they don’t take long to sprout, and are hard to over water once growing. The above planter supports four mature basil plants, four zinnia, and three sunflowers. That’s all you need! What’d you spend? $15? Nice. Time to head home.


4) Drill, Poke, or Slice a Small Hole Where It’s Marked On The Bottom This is done to prevent your plants’ roots from getting “soggy feet.” Excess water will drip out the bottom, so you’ll know when the soil is saturated. Drilling is easiest, but a hammer and nail or stabbing with a sharp kitchen knife to make a small hole will do the trick.


5) Fill To The Line With Soil

Just leave enough space that water won't run off the top.


6) Sow an Extra 50% Seed-to-Plant Ratio

Using tip of your finger, rough out ¼” for 150% of the final plants you want. More simply, if you want 4 plants, plant 6 seeds. If you want 2, plant 3.


7) Just Add Water. Every Day.

It'll feel silly for the first week (or two!) as you water what seems like nothing, but eventually seedlings will start popping up. They'll be your babies. You will love them. Just keep watering them and you will be rewarded.


8) The “True Leaves” Test

Believe it or not, the first two leaves you see are not a guarantee that your plant will keep’s the second set of leaves. When you see those puppies pop up, all signs are go. Keep up on the watering and they should be off to the races.


9) Thinning Seedlings

The first time you do this, it'll feel like plant murder. You’ve worked so hard to bring these babies to life that the idea of pulling one or two out of the ground will ring of blasphemy, but it has to be done. The remaining plants will benefit from the extra room and flourish because of it.


10) Watch Em Grow!

A time will come for learning about pinching and harvesting, but it is not this day. This day, you hopefully have a clear idea on starting a small garden for your apartment.

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