Wednesday, June 6

Apartment Gardening 101

Growing a garden when you live in an apartment? NO FREAKING PROBLEM!

As I mentioned before, my mom {read about her here} has a wicked garden. She's got trees, and flowers... Tons of herbs... Heads and heads of lettuce... Peppers upon peppers... even onions and eggplants! Most recently she planted raspberries, but much to my dismay they aren't supposed to be good for a year. A year! As if I can wait that long for fresh-from-the-garden berries... We used to have raspberry bushes when I was little, but my babysitter tore out all the plants. Though that's not what this post is about, and no buddy likes a rambling post!

So my momma's green thumbs had me green with envy, right? Right. ;) Only one problem: I just moved into an apartment. It's a pretty sizable apartment, don't get me wrong, but in addition to being an apartment, it's on the second floor. That means I have no ground. Essential for planting things, right? Right. But I could get pots! Because I have an enormous balcony that needs filling! Did you know you can grow like, anything in a pot? Well supposedly that's true, but for now I'm trying cherry tomatoes and five different herbs. But I want to grow everything!

Problem solved... I got pots! And to top it off, I made them sassy pots! Check out my post about painting them if you'd like the behind the scenes, easy DIY: {Adventures in Spray Paint}. And once I had my pots, my wonderfully loving mother donated a 40 pound bag of potting soil, some loose gravel, an extra trowel, and, of course, her time and expertise to my cause. Together, we hauled supplies up to my balcony and set out to do some planting! Oh, did I mention she bought the plants? She just up and bought them. Because she's fantastic, and I'm poor. I had every intention of buying them. I hear they're pretty cheap {especially considering how expensive fresh herbs are at the store}. But she beat me to it! Ugh, love her...

I decided to list out the steps we took, the tips she gave me, and you know, the basics! I know growing your own "stuff" is getting sort of trendy and hip, so I thought this could be helpful to fellow apartment dwellers like me, or even college students still trapped in the dorms. All you need is a sunlit place and some dirt-filled pots, really!


You will need:
a large planter with drip tray
a small tomato cage
small pots
potting soil
small rocks/loose gravel
a trowel
gardening gloves
plants, plants, and more plants!

Now, you may need different sized pots depending on the plants you choose. I planted 5 different herbs and a tomato plant. I used a large planter for the tomato plant and my parsley; the parsley was divided into 3 small parsley plants rather than one, so I could spread it out in the planter. Otherwise, I used pretty small pots for my remaining herbs (sweet basil, thyme, rosemary, and chives). Keep in mind that as far as your herbs are concerned, they are kind of like goldfish! By that I mean, they will grow to the size pot you plant them in. 

Let's start with your large planter: 

1. If your planter does not have drainage holes in the bottom, add some! This is not as complicated as it sounds, I promise. Just borrow a drill from some handsome man {if you don't have your own that is!} and use a drill bit to pop some holes in the bottom. I put 3 holes in the bottom of mine, about a half inch each {unfortunately I did this a while ago, and don't have photos of the process!}. Once you've got holes, place your planter in your drip tray; the drip tray will collect excess water for the plant to draw up when it's needed. 

2. Pour your gravel into the bottom of the planter. You want about an inch of gravel at the bottom to aid in drainage for the plant. 

3. Fill your planter with potting soil, almost completely. 

4. Use your trowel to "dig" out a deep hole in the center for your tomato plant. I say "dig" because you're really just pushing the soil to the sides to make way for the plant. 

5. Remove your tomato plant from the container it came in, and use your fingers or your trowel to gently squeeze or slightly break apart the soil and root "clump" at the base of the plant. 

6. Place your plant into the hole you've made, and add more potting soil around the base of the plant. You want to not only fill in the hole, but also cover the stem up to 2 -3 inches up. Don't worry if you cover up some small, under-developed branches -- it's all good! 

7. I used the same technique to "dig" out three smaller holes around the tomato plant for my little parsley plants. Again, I used the same technique to fill in the hole with dirt. 

8. When all your plants are in, top off the planter with more potting soil. The dirt will settle in the next couple days, so don't worry about putting in too much. You want to fill the planter within an inch or two of the top. 

9. Put your tomato cage around your plant, being careful to thread your plant's branches through the cage gently. 

Now on to the little guys!: 

**Worth noting: I was lucky enough to find little self-watering pots for under $2 each, but if your pots aren't self-watering, you'll want to follow steps 1 & 2 for the large planter before proceeding. Your small pots will likely only need 1 or 2 holes in the bottoms. 

1. Fill your planter will potting soil, about two-thirds of the way. 

Here I am, looking attractive in gardening gear
with a goofy double chin, filling my pots. 
2. Use your trowel to make a small hole in the middle for your plant. 

3. Use the same technique as above to lightly "break-up" the roots and dirt at the base of the plant. Then insert your plant into the hole you made in the soil. 

4. Use your trowel to fill in the rest of the pot with dirt. You want the soil to be within about a half-inch from the rim. 

When your plants are all securely planted in their sassy pots, water those babies!! You want to water them really well, so they get nice and homey in their new environments. Be sure to water the roots of the plant... To do that, focus on pouring water at the base of the plants -- not over the top of the plants or in the surrounding dirt. 

Now be sure your put your herbs in a sunny spot!! I actually wanted to put my pots in my kitchen, but unfortunately there's no sun in there... From what I understand, herbs need "as much sun as they can get." Like I wrote earlier, mine are on my balcony where they get plenty of morning sun. 

You can use your new fresh herbs whenever you'd like, and soon enough you'll be harvesting yummy tomatoes! Good luck and happy planting! 
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  1. I'm going into college next year, and I'm hoping to do this in my dorm. Thanks for posting this! :)

    1. Yayy, how exciting, Chantel! I wish I had done this while I was at school. I hope it works out! :)

  2. thanks for the info super helpful!

  3. love this!! Thanks for posting. I am trying to do the same thing here on my Arizona balcony!

    1. No problem, Kali! I'm glad you found it helpful, and I hope your plants survive!! I know the climate inArizona is quite different... It's lovely there!


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