Although we would all love to have acres and acres of luscious growth, pretty petals and vine-ripe vegetables, that’s not reality for many of us who live in apartments and cities. But just because you don’t have access to a huge yard, that doesn’t mean all hope is lost for having a garden! By thinking outside of the box, you can come up with some really creative ways to bring the great outdoors inside.
But first, before you get too far into planning your garden, make sure to clear things with your landlord on the front end – find out what spaces you are free to use and whether you can attach anything to the wall without it being considered a “permanent fixture” (in which case, it is now a part of the structure and stays behind even when you move on). Get your agreement in writing to avoid miscommunication and potential trouble on the back end.
Now that the bit of “housekeeping” is finished, let’s move on to gardening! Here are a few tips to get you started.
Making Your Plans
The most important thing when designing any indoor garden is to pick your spot – find one receiving as much natural light as possible. If you have no windows at all, plant near an artificial light source. Once you decide on a location, pick your plants based on what will grow with whatever amount and type of light you are working with.
Movin’ on up!
When you live in an apartment and can’t spread out, the most logical option is to venture up – by designing your own vertical garden. Living walls, as they are often called, are not only cool and interesting displays in your pad, but they also improve your air quality! Moreover, there are bonus benefits for your plants: since they are not rooted in the ground, they are not at risk of being overtaken by weeds and soil-borne diseases. In short, planting up is a healthy option all the way around.
Whether you use a pre-fabricated system or build your own, make sure that you provide a strong support for your vertical garden. There are companies out there that specialize in exactly this type of thing – check out some options here: www.woollypocket.com. You can also make your own living wall by attaching flat-back baskets, mesh pockets, burlap bags and plastic containers (with drainage holes) to a sturdy board. The support structure here is crucial because once you add up the weights of the vessel, the plant, the soil, and the water, your garden is pretty heavy.
To create that cascading effect, go with plants known to grow well in the upright position. Several great options include verbena, trailing impatiens, lantana and creeping phlox. Just be sure to properly water your plants and provide a trough or bucket underneath to catch any drainage.
Just Hanging Out
If vertical is not your thing, but you are fortunate enough to have a balcony, fire escape or porch, consider making your own hanging garden. Some great options for hanging pots are clear plastic soda bottles (2 liter size works well), small Tupperware-type containers, and pretty much anything you can plant in and suspend in the air.
To make a quick and easy (and totally transportable) hanging garden out of clear plastic soda bottles, gather an odd number of bottles to fill the space you have. Carefully cut off the tops below the neck and poke several holes in the bottom of the bottle. Poke four holes about an inch from the top of the newly cut bottle, in equal distances around the rim, and thread them with thick twine or rope so that you can hang your pots.
Add a bit of moss or coconut fiber to the bottom of the bottle to aid in drainage and prevent the soil from escaping through the newly-drilled holes. Add potting soil – it’s best to go with a potting mix for flowering plants as this will help ensure whatever you choose to plant receives proper nutrients.
And now for the best part – actually planting in your new pots! Choose a variety of plants to make up your garden: some excellent options are different types of ivy, spider plants, petunias and golden pothos. To complete the effect, hang your pots from the railing at varying heights for added aesthetics; these plants in particular create a lovely textural effect as they grow and add a lush element to even the dreariest fire escape!
What are some of your favorite things to plant in a concrete jungle? Have you experienced any issues with growing in apartments that you can share with first time gardeners?