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  • Writer's pictureJon Mychal Heatherly

Grand Ideas to Garden in a Flat

Updated: Dec 3, 2021

Do you live in the city but lack a yard to garden? Let’s learn to garden with what space we have.

Traditionally, food crops and flowers grow in the ground, and humans perfected the art throughout millennia. Today, folks still flock to cities where there are jobs and resources. However, they lose yard space when living in apartment dwellings. In these circumstances, necessity requires a bit of unconventional thinking to appease the gardening bug.

Want to have your tomato and eat it too? There are ways to do so. Craving fresh herbs in the dead of winter but don’t want to leave the comfort of your condo? Cultivation within containers supplements that desire but requires a bit more maintenance than setting it and forgetting it.

You may choose to garden because there are ways to fulfill that need beyond digging in the ground. Whether on a balcony, near a sunny window or beneath a lamp, you must bring the forest to you. We flesh this out in detail as follows: why garden in your apartment, plant needs, what you can grow, and how to grow it.

Why garden in your apartment?

If you made it to this blog, you are probably already interested in apartment gardening. However, some remain to be convinced, so allow me to appease your reservations. By bringing the forest to your flat, you can freshen up your space, produce food or medicine, and more.

Plants situated throughout your place brighten up your living space with little cost. It costs even less if you refine your horticultural skills and learn to Clone plants from cuttings. Keeping houseplants improves mood, calms a space, and cleans the air. Houseplants reduce ambient, indoor carbon dioxide by up to 10%, and a 1989 NASA study confirms the remediation properties of some varieties in absorbing air pollution.

Light availability dictates what can be grown, but you can raise food and medicinal plants while living densely in cities. Flowers and fruiting varieties need 6 or more hours of full sun, but you can squeak by with less for leafy types. Reduce packing and shipping wastes by producing your own herbs and veggies. Save at the supermarket by growing teas and aloes, for example.

What do your plants need?

Specific needs must be met for your flora to flourish in your flat. Just like the body needs air, food, rest, and more, your darling houseplants need a few resources of their own. The primary needs to think about include sunlight, soil, and water.

As we learned in school, plants make food from sunlight. Therefore, the quality and duration of the sun in your apartment dwelling determine what you can grow. If we produce a variety to eat its leaves, not as much sun is needed.

On the other hand, varieties like tomatoes require more prolonged sun exposure because we eat their fruit. More time and energy are necessary when bringing a crop to fruit rather than just for its leaves. Take note of light requirements if you purchase starters from the store.

Most readers live in the northern hemisphere, which means that you want a south-facing balcony or windowsill. If you live in the global south, then the opposite is true. Additional possibilities lie in rooftop gardening. If you exhaust all other options and have money to spend, maybe buy a grow light to supplement your plants’ needs.

As mentioned in “Discover and Improve Your Soil Type,” soil acts as the structure from which plants grow. It buffers nutritional uptake, and it holds moisture and air, which supplies the plants. Unfortunately, dirt from your garden compacts too quickly for containers, so potting mix provides a sterile, fluffy medium calibrated perfectly for potted plants.

Container gardening dries out faster than conventional methods, so keep a regular watering schedule. Toil away carrying pails of water to the garden, or plan ahead to make things easy. Consider your options, including self-watering containers, glass water orbs, drip irrigation systems, or even a hose that connects to your faucet. These are but a few examples, and you cannot rely on rainfall.

Remember a few other facets about growing in your apartment. Container plants in a window or balcony dry out fast in the direct sun. They may need the occasional spritzing to keep things humid.

Think about how the wind blows, as potted plants outdoors can easily be knocked over or shredded. This leads to thinking about how much your plant containers weigh. You want them to be heavy enough to anchor but light enough to move around if desired. Dry container plants triple in weight when watered.

What can you grow?

Before deciding what you want to grow, think about whether or not you even like the flower or veggie. Sure, fairytale eggplants might appear whimsical and fun, but do you even want to eat eggplant? Furthermore, some apartments are situated where you cannot grow anything without supplemental artificial light.

Light determines what you can grow the most. For example, windows along a wall work well when facing the sun but not when facing away. Most anything can grow in a pot with adequate lighting. Use a compass, app, or pay attention to the sun one day to see where it rises and falls to determine where and for how long your residence receives light.

Flowering plants need full sunlight, which exceeds 6 hours a day. Partial sun of 4–5 hours works smashingly for succulents. Ivies and spider plants like partial shade or 2–3 hours of sunlight. Shade plants such as peace lilies subsist on less than an hour of sun a day. So now that you know about light requirements, what houseplants thrive in a cityscape?

Air-purifying plants: Aloe vera, Areca palm, Bamboo, Chrysanthemums, Dracaena, English Ivy, Ferns, Peace Lilies, Palms, Pothos, Rubber Plants, Spider Plants, Snake Plants

Full sun: Butterfly bush, Cacti, Calibrachoa, Clematis vine, Flowers, Peppers, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Dwarf-variety trees, Zinnias

Partial sun: Bromeliads, Chrysanthemums, Herbs, Leafy greens, Monstera, Orchids, Palms, Pansies, Petunias, Snake plants, Succulents, Verbena

Partial shade: Aglaonema, Air plants, Begonia, Bromeliads, Coleus, Dracaena, English ivy, Ferns, Fuchsia, Herbs, Impatiens, Leafy greens, Philodendron, Pothos, Prayer plant, Spider plants, ZZ plant

Shade: Anthurium, Bamboo, Begonias, Peace lilies, Virginia creeper vine

Many of these plant examples survive in less optimal light, but growth rates slow down. Several varieties prefer dappled light. Most others prefer indirect sun exposure except for the flowering and desert species under the full sun category. The above list is far from exhaustive.

Bright rooms lit by the sun work great, the difference usually being only in degree. So now that we know the needs of some great houseplant examples, how can we grow them while living close together in the city?

Photo by Huy Phan on Unsplash

How do you grow it?

“Our need will be the real creator.” — ‘Republic,’ Plato

Necessity being the mother of invention, how do you grow living plants away from the ground? One possibility includes hydroponics. While we reviewed the inexpensive Kratky method in Grow cheap hydroponics, you can also purchase all-in-one systems with a built-in light at most big box stores.

However, today we want to discover ways to hold soil in containers for your herbaceous housemates. We weighed the pros and cons of light needs, placement, and water. In what ways can we keep a garden in an urban environment? Choices abound, such as pots, hanging planters, window boxes, grow bags, raised beds, and more!

I appreciate the versatility of pots and containers. Move them outdoors and indoors depending on the season with less difficulty, quickly change out the soil, and more. Find all different sizes depending on what space you have available.

Hanging planters perfectly complement trailing specimens like vines and ivies. Find flowers that fill out their given space, like petunias with their tendency to overflow. Remember to deadhead varieties that quickly produce flowers; cutting off spent blossoms encourages more growth.

Window boxes make an excellent place for herbs and flowers. Obtain permission from property owners to drill or construct anything. Be sure these boxes are secure because they get heavy and must survive wind stresses.

Some varieties like more soil to develop more extensive root systems, and grow bags solve this problem. Tomatoes are so easygoing that you can cut a slit into the side corner of a bag of potting mix and place them there. Plant the tomato longways, covering it mainly in the dirt. Tiny tomato plants will grow all along the main stem, with root offshoots facing the Earth.

Make or reuse your own cloth bags, as well. You can sew up burlap, carbon fiber, and several Some varieties like more soil to develop more extensive root systems, and grow bags solve this problem. Tomatoes are so easygoing that you can cut a slit into the side corner of a bag of potting mix and place them there. Plant the tomato longways, covering it mainly in the dirt. Tiny tomato plants will grow all along the main stem, with root offshoots facing the Earth.

Make or reuse your own cloth bags, as well. You can sew up burlap, carbon fiber, and several porous, non-toxic fabrics sturdy enough to hold together. Root veggies like potatoes and onions love this kind of setup. Porous, thicker fabrics stand firm to the weight and tension stresses when watering, but they allow drainage to avoid standing water. Avoid plastic for this reason.

Balconies and rooftops receive a lot of light throughout the day. Constructing a raised bed with warehouse pallets, for example, costs little and can be quickly deconstructed. Structural and building code limitations should be considered when adding the weight of a garden filled with soil to any structure.

Note to self that houseplants do require consistent maintenance. They tolerate neglect less than when growing directly in the ground. Check soil moisture and light regularly received to avoid plant stress. Change the soil at least once a year, and some perennial varieties need to be repotted when they increase in size.

Maintain the soil’s nutrition as well. Some potting soils have fertilizers already, but the plants consume them typically after a couple of months. This becomes apparent as growth will slow. Supplement the soil with cured compost, as we learned about in Make black gold. Worm tea, dissolvable nutrient packs, or even synthetic fertilizer sticks suffice.


We only perceive a lack of yard to be a limitation in growing plants. I am here to tell you that you can live in cities and still bring nature indoors. Sure, most of our food and flowers are derived from the ground, but we cultivated enough knowledge across generations to reach beyond these original limitations.

Fresh, local food may be in short supply for many, but you can appease that problem for yourself and others with a bit of ingenuity. Rewild barren balconies with a thriving, lush greenscape. Enliven your living room with a touch of the wild outdoors. Improve indoor air quality with a choice of several diverse species to remediate pollutants.

Take care of your plants like you take care of yourself. They serve as gentle reminders to do so. Indeed, more fantastical ideas live on to be discovered, but now you stand equipped with the knowledge of how to grow different kinds of things no matter where you live. Improve your quality of life, food, and the indoor environment with a few photosynthetic pals. Whether urban, rural, or somewhere in between, these grand garden ideas are yours to glean!

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