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Indoor Gardening

Best How-to Guide to Gardening in an Apartment

If you’re considering gardening in an apartment, there are many ways to master apartment gardening for beginners. From online resources to friends’ recommendations, anyone can learn how to grow plants in their apartment or balcony.

In general, what makes apartment gardening different from other forms of gardening is the available area in which to grow plants. Apartments usually provide little space, but it’s still possible to grow a variety of herbs, vegetables and even fruit on a balcony, patio, or windowsill.

With rising food prices, food shortages and the high price of organic food, sustainable living and gardening in an apartment have become a growing trend.  

With space saving solutions like smart gardens and vertical gardens, small space gardening has become easier than ever before! I will be touching on some of these great gardening solutions later on in my article. 

I covered the fundamentals of indoor gardening in my post a couple of years ago called Growing Vegetables Indoors for Beginners, and today we “dig a little deeper” on the topic (pun intended).

When considering apartment gardening for beginners, the principles of gardening are the same. The three necessary conditions for growing plants are sunlight, water, and food. If you manage to have these conditions, you’ll soon see your garden flourish!

Gardening in an apartment is a fun activity with kids

Why Consider Apartment Gardening?

Some of the essential benefits of apartment gardening are providing fresh produce that is both cost-saving and organic. 

You can be sure of what treatment and sprays have been used on the produce in your garden. It’s a simple way to live sustainably and clearly understand where your food comes from and how it’s produced.

With this in mind, trial and error is your friend when considering apartment gardening for beginners. Try planting different plants and see what works best and what you can do better. 

Some plants are easier to grow, while others demand more dedication. For example, some plants need all day sun (such as basil and mint) while other plants (like leafy greens) prefer the shade.

When you’re new to apartment gardening, see everything as a learning opportunity and celebrate your wins! Over time, you will learn how to grow the plants you like to eat and what conditions work best for each of them.

How Composting Can Compliment Apartment Gardening

Composting and apartment gardening can work hand in hand; together they provide fertilizer for an apartment garden while minimizing waste. 

If you’re wondering where to start when it comes to composting, below are a couple of great options for composting in an apartment.

First, you should think about the different compost bins and compost systems:

bokashi method of composting
Click and Grow Smart Garden growing herbs while gardening in an apartment

Bokashi Composting 

You may have heard of the bokashi method of composting. Bokashi is a method of composting originating in Japan. It uses inoculated bokashi bran to ferment food and create a pre-compost that can be added to the garden.

The best thing about bokashi composting is that almost ANY food scraps can be added to the bin including meat, bread, even chicken bones! It’s a great sustainable method of composting. You can see the full list of what can and can’t be added to bokashi here.

Bokashi also produces a by-product called bokashi tea, which can be diluted and used as a nutrient rich fertilizer for plants.  

In an apartment situation where it’s not possible to add bokashi to the soil in a large outdoor vegetable garden, a great idea is to purchase a large outdoor trash bin with a lid. Add a bag of soil to the base, then when your full bokashi bin is ready to be emptied, tip it into the bin and cover with another layer of soil.

Leave the lid on and allow the soil and bokashi and soil to sit and the microbes to do their job breaking down the fermented food waste. 

After a few weeks you should have wonderfully rich compost that you can easily add to your balcony or indoor apartment garden! 

If you’re interested in Bokashi composting, you can learn all about it in my article Bokashi vs Compost, as well as my recommendations for the best bokashi bin to buy.

Worm Composting (Vermicomposting)

Another excellent method of composting is worm farming. In this case, composting worms process food leftovers and produce worm castings which are a nutrient-rich compost for the garden. 

It’s enough to put the kitchen scraps in a bin, and you will see how worms eat them and turn them into rich compost. You will be amazed by this process of getting valuable nutrients for your garden. You can check some worm farming for beginners options and learn how worm farming can benefit you. 

Both bokashi and worm farming options are sustainable methods of composting because they reduce food waste and produce a valuable resource for gardening. 

By composting with bokashi or worms, you can reduce your environmental impact. Additionally, using compost in your garden can help reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers and improve soil health, leading to more sustainable and eco-friendly gardening practices.

A man and his indoor plants
Click and Grow smart gardens are excellent for gardening in an apartment

How to Plan Your Apartment Garden? 

You need to consider some necessary steps when planning your apartment garden. Following these steps will ensure that your plants have good conditions to grow and develop. 

1. Check the Light

For indoor gardening of fruits and vegetables, sunlight is crucial. Plants require 6-8 hours of direct sunlight per day. 

If gardening in an apartment without adequate sunlight hours, a grow light that mimics the sun’s rays can be used, but the duration of light required from artificial light is 12-16 hours per day.

2. Measure the Available Space

One of the most crucial steps in gardening in an apartment is correctly measuring the space. See if you have enough room for the garden and plants you want to grow. 

Measure the width, height, and length of an area to check if your garden pots or garden system will fit, as well as the types of plants you want to grow. At the same time, you should see if you’ll have enough space to move around the plants and adjust your cultivation methods according to your space.

Don’t have a balcony? Not to worry, there are still a number of ways you can do gardening in an apartment without a balcony by utilizing your windowsill or smart gardens.

3. Choose Proper Containers

Suitable containers play an essential role in apartment gardening for beginners. You’ll need to choose containers that are well suited to your plant’s size and growth requirements. Consider the containers that will suit your home interior and decor. 

Ensure that the containers have the proper drainage holes because these holes will allow the proper growth of the plants. Also, the holes will prevent possible waterlogging. 

You’ll find there are plenty of recycled pot options around your home; check out these great options for recycled seedling pots

4. Consider Your Lifestyle

Before starting any gardening project, you should consider your lifestyle. Choosing the right plants will be the most crucial thing if you like to travel a lot and be away from home for long periods of time. 

If you are away for extended periods, choose plants requiring less maintenance and dedication. The plants that require minimal watering and minimal work will be the most suitable if you are a regular traveler. 

If you want to be more dedicated, you can choose plants that require more work. In any case, you can always go for a Click and Grow smart garden solution that is fully automated and self watering. So you can grow herbs and vegetables with little to no effort at all!

harvesting fresh, homegrown produce and herbs

What Are Indoor Smart Garden Systems?

Indoor smart garden systems are an innovative and convenient way to grow plants indoors. These systems typically use advanced technology to provide the ideal growing conditions. If you use these systems, you can experience the following benefits:

1. User-Friendly

Smart gardens are easy to use. These automated systems take care of many tasks that can be challenging for novice gardeners, such as watering and fertilizing. This option makes them an excellent choice for beginners with little gardening experience.

2. Space-Saving

Smart gardens offer a design that is compact and space-saving. This characteristic makes them ideal for apartments or tiny homes. You can place them on a countertop or tabletop, so you do not need a large outdoor space to grow plants.

3. Almost Fail-Proof

Smart gardens are designed to be almost fail-proof, thanks to their automated systems. 

The sensors and software can detect when plants need water, light, or nutrients. The sensor provides the plants with the required elements immediately. 

This solution means that even if you forget to water your plants for a few days, the smart garden will take care of themselves.

4. Efficient

Indoor smart garden systems use minimal water and energy to grow plants. Experts designed these products to provide the ideal growing conditions for plants, meaning they can grow faster and healthier than they would in traditional gardening methods.

5. Year-Round Growing

With a smart garden, you can grow plants year-round, regardless of the weather outside. This characteristic means you can enjoy fresh herbs, vegetables, and fruits even in the middle of winter. This option makes your diet nutrition-rich and healthy through the entire year.

There are three popular indoor smart garden systems that you might consider next time you want to grow food indoors. The most popular options are:

1. Click and Grow  

The Click and Grow system is simple and easy to maintain. The garden takes care of itself after you set it up. 

Pre-seeded, biodegradable plant pods are placed into the cups, and then you literally plug and play! It’s as easy as making a Nespresso coffee! 

The automated growing system takes care of everything else. There is no mess and you can harvest fresh herbs and vegetables in a matter of weeks.

2. Aerogarden  

This automated indoor gardening system is ideal for herbs, flowers, and small vegetables. It uses hydroponic technology to grow plants. The system is equipped with automatic watering tanks and LED lights. See this Aerogarden comparison and review to find out more about this product.

You’ll be amazed at some of the best things to grow in an Aerogarden!

Click and Grow and AeroGarden are the most popular brands of smart gardens on the market. Read my thoughts on the two in my comprehensive Aerogarden vs Click and Grow review.

A man gardener in a city, gardening in an apartment
Click and Grow Indoor Smart Garden

3. Garden Tower 2 

This ultimate vertical tower garden system is ideal for apartment gardening for beginners. 

The design of this system is a worm composter down the centre tube which feeds the plants growing around the outside – genius! allows it to create its own compost, whilst growing food! 

The Tower Garden 2 is an excellent solution for people who want to reuse food scraps and leftovers for soil enrichment. Take a look at my Garden Tower review and Garden Tower 2 Planting Guide for more insights.

What to Plant in an Apartment Garden?

Whether you’re growing a few pots on a windowsill or having a go at a full blown indoor garden system, the easiest plants to grow in an apartment garden are always herbs. 

In my guide to growing herbs I explain just how easy it is to grow herbs given the right environment. But here are a few easy growing favorites of mine: 

  • Parsley 
  • Mint 
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Basil
growing fruits and vegetables indoor, planting herbs in pots

Aside from herbs, other plants will also thrive in an apartment. Some small fruits will grow well, and these fruits are: 

  • Strawberries 
  • Blueberries 

They require more sunlight, so be sure to place them near the window that gets more sunlight in your apartment. 

When it comes to vegetables, there are some vegetables that are perfect for small areas. These are:

  • Tomatoes – Many people decide to grow tomatoes in their homes. Learn here how to grow tomatoes indoors with lights.
  • Carrots – They require depth so make sure they are in a deep pot
  • Leafy Greens
  • Hot peppers
  • Microgreens
  • Green Onions/Scallions 

If you want to learn more about how to grow vegetables, check out this guide to growing vegetables indoors for beginners.

How to Set Up an Apartment Garden

Another essential piece of advice is to choose suitable containers, soil, and fertilizers for your plants.

What Are the Best Containers

Containers should have drainage holes to prevent water from accumulating in the soil. This solution also prevents damage to the root when inadequate water is inside the plant. 

The size of the containers should be appropriate for the plant, with enough space for the root to grow. You can use plastic, ceramic, or terracotta pots or buy suitable containers online. You can also use recycled seedling pots when you want to save some money.

A Vertplanter is a trendy idea for growing indoor plants. The self-watering terracotta vessel slowly releases water as the seeds need it!

vertplanter is a great indoor planter
A Vertplanter growing chia seeds

How to Choose the Right Soil 

When it comes to the soil, choose high-quality potting soil formulated explicitly for container gardening. This kind of soil is lightweight and rich in organic matter. 

You should avoid using garden soil because this option can be too heavy and can contain pests or diseases. You can see my solution for the best compost to buy for vegetable garden here.

What Are the Most Suitable Fertilizers 

Fertilizers are essential in apartment gardening because they offer excellent plant protection and boost growth. 

In general, indoor plants require less fertilizer than outdoor plants. You do not expose indoor plants to as much sunlight and nutrients in the soil as outdoor plants, so you need to adjust the amount of fertilizer. 

Look for a balanced, water-soluble fertilizer specifically formulated for indoor plants. Follow the instructions on the package, and be careful not to over-fertilize because this can damage the plant. 

If you want to save money and apply natural fertilizers, then worm tea and bokashi tea from your worm farm and bokashi bin won’t cost you a thing. Consider these fertilizers as a great natural alternative for your plants.

The 3 Essentials for Growth: Water, Sunlight, Food

If you want to set up a successful apartment garden, it’s essential to consider what plants need to thrive. These include water, good soil, and adequate sunlight.

Water

Plants require a consistent supply of water to grow and thrive. However, over-watering can be just as bad as under-watering. It’s important to find a balance. 

You can ensure that your plants are getting enough water by regularly checking the soil. Depending on the type of plant and its size, you may need to water as often as every few days or only once a week. 

Poke your finger into the soil to measure how wet the soil is. It should be damp, not sodden or dry. Alternatively you can use a moisture meter to check the soil moisture level before watering to avoid over-watering.

Soil

If you have read my beginners guide to vegetable gardening then you’ll know how strongly I feel about the role soil plays in a successful garden. Without good soil, your plants will simply fail to thrive.

Look for high-quality potting soil that is well-draining, lightweight, and ideally, organic. My top picks are covered in my article on the best compost for growing vegetables. 

Sunlight

Getting enough hours of sunlight is vital for photosynthesis and thereby plant growth. Most plants need at least six hours of sunlight per day to thrive. 

However, if you live in an apartment with limited sunlight, consider using grow lights to supplement the natural light. 

Place your plants near a window or invest in grow lights to provide the necessary light. This investment can make a massive difference in the future harvest period.

Depending on the space available to you, there are many ways to set up an apartment garden. Some popular options include:

Window Boxes

 Window boxes are a great option when space is limited. They can be mounted outside your window or placed indoors, depending on the type of plants you want to grow and the amount of sunlight available.

Vertical Gardens

Vertical gardens are a popular option for apartment dwellers who want to maximize their space. 

You can create them using hanging planters, trellises, or wall-mounted containers. One of the most effective solutions when in comes to vertical gardens is the Tower Garden 2.

Hanging Baskets

Hanging baskets are another space-saving option that can add a decorative touch to your apartment. You can hang them on the ceiling or use hooks mounted on the wall.

No matter where you plan to set up your apartment garden, it helps to consider the amount of space needed to grow each plant. If you limit the area for certain plants (e.g. tomatoes), you may not get the results you are hoping for. 

For these reasons, you should consider spacious containers with enough room for the plant’s growth. 

Mount them in your apartment where you think is the best place for the plants. Always consider the plants that require more sunlight than others. Give these plants enough sunlight and you’ll see the results. 

How to Maintain Your Apartment Garden?

Maintaining your apartment garden is crucial to ensure your plants continue to grow and thrive. Once you set up your apartment garden, you should know how to maintain and keep it in good condition. Here are some tips on how to care for your indoor garden:

Watering

Consistent watering is essential for healthy plants. Establish a watering schedule and regularly check the soil moisture level. Water your plants when the soil feels dry. You should avoid over-watering because this can lead to root rot and other issues.

Lady watering plants in apartment garden in sunlight, gardening in an apartment

Pruning

Regular pruning can help keep plants healthy and encourage new growth. Remove dead or damaged leaves, stems, and flowers to prevent diseases and pests from taking hold.

Fertilizing

Indoor plants can benefit from occasional fertilizing to provide the nutrients for healthy growth. Use a high-quality, all-purpose fertilizer and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for application.

Dealing with Pests and Diseases

Common problems in indoor gardens include pests like spider mites and fungus gnats and diseases such as powdery mildew and root rot. To prevent these issues, keep your plants clean and healthy, and use natural pest control methods that will keep your plants healthy.

Lack of Sunlight

If you need access to sufficient natural sunlight, consider using grow lights to supplement your plants’ needs. Place the lights close to the plants and adjust the timing and distance according to the plants’ requirements.

Maximizing Your Space

Companion and succession planting can help you maximize your space and increase your yield. 

Companion planting involves planting compatible plants together to improve growth and deter pests, while succession planting involves planting different crops in the same space to maximize your harvest.

Proper maintenance is essential for the health and success of your apartment garden.

How to Enjoy the Fruits (and Vegetables) of Your Labor

One of the most rewarding aspects of apartment gardening is the opportunity to enjoy fresh, homegrown produce and herbs. 

You can harvest your produce and herbs several times throughout the growing season. Try to harvest them at the right time to ensure the best flavor and quality. 

You can make the most of your harvest if you know what to do with the final products. There are countless ways to use your homegrown produce and herbs in the kitchen. 

You can use your produce in cooking and baking. Additionally, use fresh herbs to flavor salads, soups, and sauces, or use them as a garnish. 

Use your vegetables in stir-frys, roasted dishes, or as a side dish. The possibilities are endless, and you can play with different recipes.

If you have more produce than you can use immediately, consider preserving them for later use. Canning, freezing, and drying are all great options. 

Canning involves processing food in jars to preserve it, while freezing consists in freezing the food in airtight containers. Drying involves removing the moisture from the food by air-drying or using a dehydrator.

Methods on how to do all of these can easily be found online.

Apartment gardening can provide a bountiful harvest of fresh produce and herbs that you can use in various ways.

indoor plants harvest, fresh vegetables

Final Words on Apartment Gardening for Beginners

Apartment gardening is a rewarding and accessible way to grow fresh produce and herbs, even if you do not have access to a traditional garden space. 

By following some simple steps, anyone can start their indoor garden and enjoy the many benefits that come from it; including improved air quality, reduced stress, and access to fresh, healthy produce.

Ongoing maintenance is essential for the health and success of your apartment garden. Regular watering, pruning, and fertilizing can help keep your plants healthy, while natural pest control methods can help prevent and address common issues. 

Finally, enjoy the fruits (and vegetables) of your labor by harvesting your produce and using it in your cooking or preserving for later!

To start gardening in an apartment, consider the available space, sunlight, and the types of plants you would like to grow. Choose appropriate containers and soil, and ensure your plants receive adequate water and nutrients. 

If you’re looking for an easy, convenient, done-for-you gardening option then definitely consider a smart garden system! 

Apartment gardening for beginners is a great way to get started with indoor gardening, also it’s a fun and rewarding activity for people of all ages and skill levels. You will be astonished to see how much you can grow in your apartment. Give it a try and share your plant-growing experiences with others!

profile picture of Gabrielle

About the Author

Elle Reed is a passionate gardener and advocate for teaching beginner gardeners how to grow their own food. Elle’s mission is to inspire and empower people to get back to basics, grow their own produce, and embrace a sustainable lifestyle. “Whether it’s a few herb pots in an apartment, a potager or a full garden plot, we can all ‘start somewhere’ to grow our own food, and in doing so, provide healthier food for ourselves and those we love”.