Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Successful and not so Successful Apartment Gardening

Planters Potatoes

This spring I took the time to do an experiment. For the first time since finishing school I had no outdoor garden so rather than going through total withdrawal I decided to try my thumb at apartment gardening. Although I knew the likelihood of my success was pretty bleak I set to it. I planted a little bit of this and a little bit of that, really it was what ever seeds I had left from previous years, or whatever I had sprouting in my pantry. Here is the list of edible plants I tried:

  • Alfalfa sprouts
  • Basil
  • Chamomile
  • Cilantro
  • Lavender
  • Lemon Balm
  • Pansies
  • Peas
  • Potatoes
  • Tomatoes

I didn't plant very many of each as I didn't know what to expect. My apartment doesn't have very much natural light, is older so it has some drafts, and it is south facing so can get quiet warm. To top it all off I didn't have access to any type of aquaponics or hydroponics systems, so this truly was an experiment.

When all was said and done I had some success as well as some failures. I rated my success not only on the productivity of the plants but also the amount of water they used, space they took up, and effort they took to grow. So lefts start at the top of the list, I might add that in a conventional garden I have had fairly good luck so any failures aren't just at the hand of a black thumb. 

Alfalfa sprouts:

These little guys should be easy to grow in lower lighting but under the environmental conditions. the heat from the furnace during early spring, they would start to sprout and rapidly dry out. I may try them again now that it is summer but as of right now I can not say they were a success story.


This one on the other hand was great! I have never really cared for basil but once you have it fresh from your own garden it changes your perspective, fried tomato basil sandwiches have to be a new favorite!Once these guys germinated they just kept on growing. It is important to make sure they have enough room to fill out a little otherwise they just grow up up up. Once it was warm enough I transplanted mine to containers on my balcony and it is still doing great. I think it is safe to say that this one is a success, plus it makes the house smell good so that is a bonus. 


Another success. Although this one took me a couple tries to get the seeds to germinate, once they did and I found a place in the window it likes, it has really taken off. At first I was worried I would only get a couple blooms off the plant so not even enough for a cup of tea but the plants are currently loaded with blooms. 

Cilantro, Lavender, Lemon Balm:

These three I grouped together because I struggled a little with some of my herbs. Although I could get them to germinate I had some issues keeping them happy/alive. They have potential to do really well in an apartment but between me forgetting to water them and them needing more light, it was a recipe for disaster.


Not everyone might think of these as edible but they are a great garnish. Pansies can be quiet prolific in low light so I figured they were worth a shot. The only problem with growing them indoors is they can get quiet leggy. Once the weather smartened up I transplanted them to the deck and they have done fairly well.


Peas are a tough one. They are prone to disease, need something to climb, and need space to root. Although I wouldn't recommend them to most apartments (unless you are harvesting them for sprouts/micro greens) I did get one lonely pea pod off mine, so they are possible to grow indoors. If I would've had better lighting or a larger space to place them on the balcony they could've had a better yield potential.


Now just because I tried them does not mean I would ever recommend growing them indoors. It just so happened I had some sprouting and figured I'd give it a shot. Potatoes need lots of space, water, nutrients, and light. Although they can be very successful in patio bags they are not ideal to start indoors as they become leggy very quickly and do well in cooler temperatures. I did get three lonely potatoes from my plant though before it lodged in a wind storm.


This one is a little up in the air for me. I over fertilized mine so unfortunately I don't think they will ever yield but that isn't the reason I am up in the air about their success. Tomatoes are fairly high maintenance plants. They need careful watering, large planters to root, they require pollination, they don't respond well to drafts, and they need good lighting. This does not mean in any way that they can't do well in an apartment or planter (mine are coming back and are quiet large healthy plants now). It just means that without a rain barrel, good lighting, and good management they are not worth the effort when you can zip down to the farmers market and get some fresh tomatoes for less of a headache.

For my first year of apartment gardening I would still call this a success. Although things didn't go exactly as planned I learned a lot and now have something to go off of next year.

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