I might be biased, but if you live in an apartment, container gardening is an easy way to give your space some personality and flare (not to mention some free food). I certainly lived in my share of apartments with white walls, white vinyl blinds, light brown carpeting, and a lease that said I couldn’t change any of that. But it’s truly amazing how much difference even a few plants can make in an otherwise boring space.
Something as simple as a planter with a few different herbs can liven up a kitchen. A few vegetables on your patio can make you feel like you live in an organic oasis. I also know trying to grow vegetables and herbs in an apartment can be tricky. Some places dictate what you can and can’t have on a patio or balcony. Sometimes you just can’t get decent light. And of course, whatever you grow has to grow in a container.
Despite the challenges inherent in an apartment container gardening adventure, it’s also very possible to find success. And yes, that’s true even if you’re on a tight budget.
How to win at the (un)official apartment container gardening challenge
Let’s run through the basics of container gardening first.
- Use fresh potting mix for your plants so they get the nutrients they need.
- Put your plants in a location where they can get as much sunlight as possible, although an outdoor location in partial shade is usually preferable to an indoor location with more light.
- Be sure to check moisture levels regularly. The soil in containers tends to dry out more quickly than soil in the ground or in raised beds.
- Be sure to use appropriately-sized pots for your plants, and don’t crowd too many plants into one pot.
As for your apartment container gardening budget, you’ll need to keep your eye on the money. It’s far easier than I would have ever believed to walk into a gardening store intending to grab just one thing like a gardening tool, and walk out an hour later having spent most of my retirement funds on seedlings, tools, fertilizer, pots, and whatever else.
There are, however, plenty of creative ways to get what you need. When we’re talking about container gardening, you really only need a few things: containers, potting mix, and maybe a scoop or spade to fill in the dirt around your seedlings. How can you do that on a budget?
1. Look around your apartment. Container gardening doesn’t require special pots. You just need something that drains so you don’t end up with root rot. Old coffee cans are a classic (just poke a few holes in the bottom), but you can also use:
- orange crates
- plastic storage bins
- the drawers from an old dresser
- Mason jars (with an inch or so of rocks in the bottom for drainage)
- Wicker baskets
2. Start your own seeds. It’s less expensive to buy packets of seeds than it is to buy seedlings. It also extends your growing season. That’s true whether you have a big garden in your backyard or you live in an apartment, container gardening on the three square feet you have on the porch. Bonus: Sell your extra seedlings. Bang! You just made money.
3. Make friends with gardeners. Or sweet talk your friends who already have gardens. There must be at least one of them that would gift you with cuttings of basil, rosemary, oregano, or other herbs that you can propagate.
4. Stick with plants that are easy to grow. This won’t help your budget directly, but it will help you get a bigger return on your investment. I can tell you from experience that it’s a real bummer to blow your budget on plants that don’t thrive.
5. Don’t buy extra stuff. Yes, I know it’s tempting. Garden tools and office supplies are addictive. But you don’t need most of it. Fresh, high-quality potting mix should have plenty of nutrients for your plants, so you can probably skip the fertilizer. You’re working with containers, so you probably don’t need a hoe or a rake or any of those other fancy garden tools.
You may not be able to have the garden of your dreams when you live in an apartment. Container gardening is, however, the next best thing.
What’s your take on sticking to a tight budget with container gardening? Any tips or ideas you’d like to share in the comments?