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How To Grow Your Own Vegetables In a Small Space or Apartment

photo by veronica crawford | from: velinda’s under-$20,000 diy kitchen (& laundry room) gut reno

Have all our collective thumbs officially turned green?? Something must be changing in the universe if I, Ms. Has-killed-every-plant-she’s-ever-owned-including-succulents, is suddenly taking on the task of vegetable gardening. Maybe it’s my reluctance to go to the grocery store that has sparked my gardening confidence that has absolutely no ground to stand on. Nevertheless, it’s happening and I have heard it’s a popular hobby the general population is also starting to pick up. If that sounds like you, welcome! And if you are already an expert, please stick around and comment below on how I can be more like you.

You might be thinking, gardening is a nice idea but I live in an apartment with no outdoor space so thanks for rubbing it in. Well, the title may have clued you in that I would never leave you high and dry because there are absolutely ways you can become the vegetable parent you’ve always dreamed of being without an outdoor space. Let’s begin with the basics for those sans an outdoor space.

For The Indoor Only Gardeners

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: my kitchen design a year later: lots to love & some regrets

Growing vegetables is easier than you think, even if it must be done indoors. If you remember from this post, Julie informed us that you can actually regrow green onions by taking the leftover ends (at least 2-3″) and putting them in a cup of water to leave in the sunshine for about a week. Once they start to regrow you can even replant them. Guys, the vegetables are basically doing all the work for us we just need to provide them with the proper resources. Is this what parenting is like??

I have already admitted I am not a gardening expert, so the only assistance that I can really offer is limited to cheering you on and hopefully inspiring you to try. Then I remembered Emily mentioned Gardener’s Supply Co. in her gardening post, so I started my gardening research there to find some beginner gardening tips.

This site has such a well of information on all types of gardening and it is quickly becoming my most visited website. I am serious, and no this is not a sponsored post, they are just an extremely helpful resource for beginners like me.

Here’s what I learned for beginner indoor gardening:

  • If possible, your potting soil should be tailored to the particular type of plant you are growing. Cactus, succulents, and rosemary, for example, prefer a coarse, well-drained soil that is about one-third sand. Seedlings should be grown in a light, moisture-retentive, soilless mix.
  • It can help to add organic components to your indoor growing mix. This might include leaf mold, finished compost, composted peat, or rich garden soil. 
  • Plants need humidity, and most plants are happiest when the humidity as at about 50 percent. Misting your plants helps, but only for an hour or so. A better solution is to use a cool vapor humidifier (which you will benefit from as well).
  • Overwatering is the most common cause of death for plants. The best way to avoid overwatering is to not water your plants on a schedule. Instead, get into the habit of checking the soil to gauge whether it needs to be watered or not.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve already learned so much (including why I’ve killed so many plants in my life). Now, I know most renters don’t have ample space for even an indoor garden, but if you have a window that gets enough sunlight, you are going to be growing herbs and tomatoes before you know it. These small planters can get you started:

1. Self-Watering Pots | 2. Smart Garden | 3. XL Linea Windowsill Planter | 4. Wood Window Box | 5. Ikea Planter | 6. Self-Watering Rail Planter | 7. Metal Herb Kit | 8. Hanging Planter | 9. Ikea Flower Box

I love the idea of a self-watering planter, and #1 is a great option if you don’t have a lot of space. #2 is a “smart garden” that has capabilities such as automatic watering, grow lights, and nutrient and oxygen monitoring. Are you picturing all the fresh chopped salads that are in your future?? Same. Now, if you have very little direct sunlight in your home don’t give up yet…

For The “I Have No Natural Light” Gardeners

Plants need light, and sometimes our living quarters don’t provide enough natural sunlight which is very sad. The good news is technology exists and very smart people have invented solutions. LED grow light planters are the future of indoor gardening because they can control how much light your plant will get based on it’s growing needs.

Here is what Gardener’s Supply Co. says for using LED grow lights to grow you veggies:

  • Long-day plants require 14 to 18 hours of light each day. Most seedlings for vegetables and garden flowers are long-day plants. When they don’t receive enough light they get pale and leggy. 

You can also use fluorescent lights, which are more affordable, depending on what plants you are trying to grow. Here is a great chart to help you decide what you are lighting needs might be.

Hot Tip

Most vegetable plants, require a much higher light intensity to flower and produce fruit.

1. Aerogarden 360 | 2. 3-Tier Sunlite Garden | 3. Lettuce Grow Farmstand | 4. Bamboo LED Light Garden | 5. Smart Garden LED Grow Set | 6. Low Bamboo LED Light Garden

#3 does not have an LED grow light, but it is a self-watering, self-fertilizing hydroponic Farmstand that makes growing your own vegetables stupidly easy. If you have a small balcony that just doesn’t get enough light, I think #2 or #4 would be perfect solutions.

For The Small Outdoor Space Gardeners

photo by sara ligorria-tramp | from: how to style your outdoor space so you’ll actually use it

Now I do have an outdoor space and it’s high time I start treating my backyard like the luscious green garden it could potentially be. One of my goals this year was to eat more plants, and what better way than to have said plants steps away, ripe for the picking. My options for planters is limited to elevated ones or vertical stands because a bed like this would give my dog the idea that he was awarded a new place to relieve himself. No thank you.

Here are some that I am considering:

1. Vertical Herb Garden | 2. Hanging Tomato Kit | 3. Herb Planter Box | 4. Portable Wooden Greenhouse | 5. Trellis for Nest Raised Planter| 6. Patio Greenhouse | 7. Tomato Bag Set | 8. Wooden Box Planter| 9. Potato Grow Bag| 10. Raised Garden Bed | 11. Wallhugger Planter with Cover | 12. Vertical Planter

#1 is a really great option if you have a small patio or balcony that gets a lot of natural sunlight. It doesn’t take up a lot of space and it is slanted so all the plants get the right amount of sunlight. If you only have a balcony, #2 would be the perfect way to grow some tomatoes without taking up any potential lounging area space. I personally am leaning towards #11, because it is the right size for my space and it comes with a cover to keep pests away. Oh, and did you check out #9?? That is a potato grow bag, and it blew my mind. If you watch the video you can see how EASY it is to harvest potatoes. I am very into it as you can probably tell.

Before I go, I want to mention that if you have a front yard but no backyard consider starting your garden there. There are no rules! In fact, Gardener’s Supply Co. has entire plans mapped out for you you can create a front yard garden. And okay last thing, since I’ve started this new hobby, I’ve realized I desperately need gardening gloves so I bought these. I truly cannot wait for them to arrive, along with this hat to keep the sun off my face and neck.

Alright, that is all from me for now. I hope you are feeling confident in getting your hands dirty and potting some veggies. And please please give me all your advice in the comments. Happy harvesting! xx

Opener Image Credit: Photo by Veronica Crawford | From: Velinda’s Under-$20,000 DIY Kitchen (& Laundry Room) Gut Reno

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4 years ago

I really love galvanized stock tanks for small spaces. It’s a lot of bang for your buck, and if you live in a hot climate like I do, you can get the 2′ deep ones so you’re not constantly watering, and then use galvanized fencing to make a trellis (or arch between 2 tanks) so you can grow things like tomatoes & cucumbers vertically to save space (and then put basil and herbs in front & under them).

The other important thing is drainage– make sure your soil mix doesn’t get soggy and stay soggy, or your plants will rot in a hot second. Lots of perlite/vermiculite and drainage holes.

4 years ago
Reply to  Lori

Classic <3 What a pretty look, too.

4 years ago

I haven’t tried it yet but you might want to look into Square Foot Gardening. The basic idea is that you use a planter box filled with 1/3 blended compost, 1/3 peat moss or coir, and 1/3 course vermiculite, put a 12 inch by 12 inch grid down, plant a different crop in each of the square feet, and then as each square is harvested, you add some compost and replant with a different crop. There’s some books and websites with more details.

I’m going to finally give it a try this year (read the original book as a kid back in the 90s), as I’m moving to a place with a small rooftop and can’t use traditional plant-it-in-the-ground methods!

4 years ago

I finally started gardening after spending so much more time in the yard and realizing how much potential it has. I’m not gardening inside, but am learning how to “no till” make a be outside. Can’t wait to plant in it!

If you want to feel like part of a garden club during this pandemic, Joy Max Jardin is running a “Stay At Home Garden Club” with tips on super easy low maintenance but “Max Joy” return gardening. She’s a big fan of those cloth pots listed above.

Have fun everyone!

Roberta Davis
4 years ago

I think an indoor tomato plant would take over your house. I think plants produce the tastiest food in “real” dirt- especially tomatoes. It will be interesting to hear about everyone’s experiences in the fall. I have gardened in the past, but the last few years- just a few tomatoes and herbs, some in pots. You have to know what to plant when (cool vs warm season crops), and when lettuce and herbs are about to bolt. I am too lazy to keep ahead of it all if I don’t have to! I love home-grown tomatoes- but they don’t grow all that well in western Washington, most years. Usually mine all ripen in September, when I’m in Hawaii! Good luck to everyone starting their first garden this year!

4 years ago
Reply to  Roberta Davis

I’ve grown tomatoes indoors and they were delicious, but they do take up a lot of space. Determinate plants might make it easier but wouldn’t be producing as much fruit in the long run, and for me it was better to have the tomatoes spread out than all coming in one defined fruiting period.

Aimee Graham
4 years ago

I’m in the midst of planting now so this is great. Thank you! One thing though, some of the pricing seems weird. For instance in the outdoor planter section, some of the prices are for accessories not for the actual planters (e.g. 5 and 11). I got excited for a minute that items were so affordable!

4 years ago

FYI – just saw a political ad paid for by Trump for America on this page (in the first big embedded ad window that you see as you scroll down). Just wanted to let you know in case you weren’t aware that political ads are appearing on your page.

4 years ago
Reply to  haive

AH thanks for the heads up! That definitely should not be there — we block all political ads but sometimes there are some bad actors who misrepresent their ad content 🙂 reported to our ad network, THANKS!

4 years ago

Weird tip for growing sturdier tomato plants: shake the seedlings gently for a few seconds every day.

Wind causes plants to become a little stunted and not grow as leggy (thigmomorphogenesis – a plant’s response time touch), and shaking them can mimic that.

4 years ago
Reply to  Caroline

*to, not time

4 years ago

I think this post would have been interesting framed as a “let’s help Ryann design her hypothetical tiny garden” or “call for questions – send us all your small garden design problems,” something to make it feel more concrete and less “here’s some things we learned from the internet” <3

Susie Q.
4 years ago

My next door neighbor has a gorgeous, chemical-free lawn. The front lawn has a brick walkway leading up to the front porch. On each side of the walkway, he has used about 10″ to plant a border of herbs and lettuces. I thought that was quite clever!

4 years ago

Good luck figuring everything out for your climate and garden conditions. I’ve been on the garden path a few years now. Your climate makes a huge difference. Here in SE Alaska we have multiple zones and it depends on the year, the sun vs. rainfall (which can be over 100 inches). Also, because we have such long days, but typically cloudy, if the sun does dominate the veg need water like crazy. In our climate, it’s greens outside, rhubarb for miles, super drainage for root veg, and tomato inside greenhouse or small variety in house window. Forget anything that needs constant heat like melons, most squash, and corn. Mildew has to be kept constantly at bay including picking zucchini blossoms right after opening and removing pea petals from developing peas if it rains hard. Every area has its challenges- we have few pests, thank goodness. Find a master gardener resource in your area!!!! Check your local radio or extension service. Some advice that has helped me: Roots need as much attention as the greens. Document what you do so you can make new mistakes next year. Shamelessly beg borrow steal ideas! Gardeners love talking about their hobby. As a relative… Read more »