Whether you’ve got a certified green thumb and are lamenting your move to a yard-less apartment or you’re a longtime apartment dweller looking for a nature-friendly hobby, apartment gardening can be a rewarding way to spend some time, decorate your home, and maybe even grow something edible. This article shares a few tips for getting an apartment garden started.
Location is a primary concern for an apartment garden. Perhaps you have a small—or, if you’re lucky, medium-sized—patio or balcony. If so, that’s a great place to put some pots. Getting down and dirty won’t be as much of a problem outside, and the plants will also be able to absorb more sunlight. If you don’t have any outdoor space to speak of, putting some plants by your windows or growing highly shade-tolerant varieties are also good options.
Just because you don’t have a garden plot to plant in doesn’t mean you can’t grow something beautiful or beneficial. Container gardening presents many options for growing a variety of plants, from asparagus to zinnias. It’s also a great opportunity to be creative. Almost anything can serve as a receptacle for soil with a modification or two. From overturned football helmets to watering cans to old boots, you can create a patio- or window-full of eclectic containers holding exciting plants. Even if you’re just using plain ol’ terra cotta pots, consider painting them in interesting ways to help liven up your balcony. Drainage holes are the main necessity for any container being used for plants. If you can’t or don’t want to put holes in a particular pot, think about how to fit a smaller container already equipped with drainage holes inside the pot in question. This can be a good way to hide the not-so-pretty plastic containers you might buy your plants in. You may have to empty the larger containers of water and clean them every so often, but it’s a small price to pay for having better-looking pots.
And much as you planned a decorating scheme for your apartment itself, you’ll want to plan a decorating scheme for your garden. Should it be country? Cutesy? Modern and austere? Make sure your containers match each other, as well as your balcony’s general construction and the atmosphere of the rest of your house. If you have a colorful house with eclectic decoration, a dull garden with terra cotta pots will seem out of place. Likewise, if your house overflows with Victorian decor, a set of bright, funky flowerpots painted like cartoon characters might seem a bit out of place next to your Chippendale cabinet.
The multitude of exciting plant container possibilities might send you overboard, prompting a shopping spree at the nursery and quickly cluttering up your balcony. Before getting too involved, think realistically about what you can handle, both in terms of time and money. At the same time, you’ll want to remain conscious of any clutter that might develop in your small garden scheme. You may get very gung-ho about the container gardening thing, but that doesn’t mean your patio will look attractive or organized with 1000 tiny plants on it. Consider having a few larger “core” plants around which you can arrange some smaller ones. Larger plants are trickier to grow in smaller pots, but some, like the ever-popular Japanese maple, come in smaller or dwarf varieties and can be very happy in container situations.
In addition to being practical for small spaces, container gardening is also convenient and beneficial in other ways. It allows for a lot of experimentation without a lot of investment. Instead of trying to purchase and cultivate enough of an interesting ornamental grass to cover a quarter of your backyard, you can just fill a medium-size container. You can also easily move your plants around to see what looks best, or which plants can provide shade (or thrive in it), all without the mess and uncertainty of constant transplanting. Come winter, you probably won’t need to cover, trim or transplant your entire garden—instead, you’ll just be able to lug some containers inside to brighten up your home.
Keep in mind that, depending on their size, your containers by no means need to hold only one type of plant. Many plants thrive in symbiotic relationships with one another in nature, and you can replicate these beneficial pairings in containers. Furthermore, you can create beautiful arrays of color by joining different types of flowers in the same pot or window box. Your neighbors will gasp in envy over the rainbow of hues on your porch!
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