I really enjoy living in my cozy apartment, but I daydream about having a beautiful, flourishing garden. Prior to this year, I just figured that growing plants on my balcony wasn’t doable. But I did some reading and discovered that’s far from true. Almost anyone with a balcony or patio can have a versatile garden – no lawn needed!
If you’re like me, you probably feel overwhelmed by trying to delve into apartment gardening. Fortunately, I discovered that starting a garden is easy and affordable. In this post, you’ll find seven in-depth tips and tricks for balcony or patio gardening. Read on to see how you can get started.
1. Know What To Grow
There are two major things to consider when choosing what to grow in your apartment garden. First, the time of year is a big factor. A plant can fully thrive in one season, but fail to grow in another. Urban Farmer’s What To Plant Now Calendar is an excellent resource. You’ll learn what plants to start growing each month. This page even explains why growing at specific times is so crucial. For example, planting carrots in April will lead to delicious, fully grown vegetables in early summer.
The next factor is whether or not a plant is easy to grow on a balcony. You don’t want to waste money on plants that cannot thrive in their environment. The good news is that there are tons of plants that are perfect for apartment gardens. Here are several examples:
- Cherry tomatoes
Flowers and Foliage:
- Morning glory
- Coral bells
As you can see, you have a ton of options to consider. All of these plants are well-known for being easy to grow on balconies and patios. Many of them are pretty low maintenance options, too. Pick and choose which ones suit you!
2. See How Much Sunlight Your Space Gets
Knowing how much sun your balcony gets will help you decide which plants to grow and where. If your balcony or patio gets six or more hours of sunlight per day, it gets full sun. This is ideal for growing a wide variety of plants. Some plants only need 3-6 hours of sunlight per day, which is called partial sun or partial shade.
If you don’t know how much sunlight your patio or balcony gets, consider using a tool like the SunCalc. Additionally, most seed packets will tell you how much sunlight the plant will need to thrive. This information will be very helpful as you plot out your balcony garden.
3. Buy Secondhand Gardening Tools
To properly grow plants, you’ll need several different gardening tools. Some examples include a hand trowel, hand fork, pruners, shears, gloves…the list goes on. If you buy all of your supplies new, you may easily spend a few hundred dollars. But there’s truly no need to buy new; secondhand gardening tools work the same and they’re way less expensive. Here’s where to look for tools:
- Garage sales
- Thrift stores
- Craigslist “farm + garden” section
- Craigslist “free” section
- Local Facebook swap and shop groups
It also doesn’t hurt to ask friends and family members if they’ve got spare tools. If you explore all of these options, you’ll get your gardening supplies for a fraction of their retail price.
4. Make Your Own Fertilizer For Free
This tip is one of my personal favorites because making rich fertilizer is so simple. The recipe I use consists of food scraps that you’ll find in pretty much any kitchen! I combine leftover coffee grounds, a banana peel, and a few egg shells in a blender. I add a bit of water and blend it, and it makes perfect fertilizer. Best of all, it’s 100% free.
There’s a general rule when it comes to making your own fertilizer. You need to follow the N-P-K rule. This stands for nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium:
- Nitrogen helps plants become large and lush; it’s usually the main ingredient in store bought ‘miracle fertilizers’.
- Phosphorous promotes a healthy root system and abundant flowering.
- Potassium helps with overall growth, contributes protein, prevents disease, and more.
Calcium, magnesium, and sulfur are other essential nutrients for plant health and growth. It’s easy to add to homemade fertilizer. Below you’ll find some great ingredients and recipe ideas for your DIY fertilizer:
- Coffee grounds – Used coffee grounds release nitrogen and potassium as they decompose. You can use them alone or mix them with most of the other ingredients listed here.
- Eggshells – Eggshells are made up of 95% calcium, so they’re an excellent add-in for any homemade fertilizer. I usually combine them with coffee grounds and another source of potassium such as banana or sweet potato peels.
- Banana peels – Banana peels are rich in potassium. Mix banana peels with any other ingredients listed here, or simply puree them with water. This makes an excellent liquid fertilizer.
- Epsom salt – Epsom salt is simply magnesium sulfate, so it’s great for boosting soil’s magnesium content. It’s best used for plants such as tomatoes, peppers, and roses.
- Fruit and vegetable compost – Composting vegetable and fruit scraps is an easy way to make fertilizer that’s full of all of the necessary nutrients.This Forbes article discusses how to compost in an apartment. It’s pretty simple!
- Vinegar – A bit of vinegar is good for plants that thrive on acid. It also increases iron content in the soil. Mix one cup of white vinegar with one cup of water. Store it in a clean, used milk carton and use it to water acid-loving plants.
As you can see, these fertilizer ingredients are also everyday kitchen ingredients. It likely won’t cost you any extra money to create DIY fertilizer. For more recipes, visit the links within each ingredient description. You’ll see that you have plenty of great options for any plant you want to grow.
5. Grow Vertically Instead Of Horizontally
One of the hurdles of apartment gardening is working with limited space. Fortunately, there are several creative ways to get around this problem. One of my favorite methods is growing plants and vegetables vertically instead of horizontally.
Growing vertically gives you a lot of extra space to work with, so you won’t feel so limited. It can also be done with very inexpensive items or ones you’ve already got lying around. Here are some ideas to consider:
- Use upright wooden pallets for gardening against walls and fences. Wooden pallets for vertical gardens are both trendy and practical. To use a pallet, you’ll need to staple landscaping fabric along the back and sides. The most helpful and easy to understand guide I found was this Design Sponge post. Many different plants grow nicely in wooden pallets. Rodale’s Organic Life lists several vegetables that thrive when grown vertically. Succulents and several types of foliage can be grown vertically, too.
- Use hex wire mesh around your patio edges. Wire mesh is inexpensive and can easily be used to line patio and balcony edges. Measure and cut how much you’ll need, and secure it in place using nails or industrial staples. You can either use hex wire mesh for vine plants, or you can hang small flower pots on it. If you want to hang flower pots, you’ll need to do a bit of extra work. Start with Step 11 in this AKA Design article for great instructions.
- Upcycle old or secondhand furniture to make additional space. For example, I’ve seen a dresser used for this purpose. The drawers were simply staggered open and filled with soil and plants. An old bookshelf could make an excellent home for potted plants. A wooden ladder could be also be used to shelf potted plants, or you could easily hang plants from it. Go through storage, hit up thrift stores, and get a little creative!
- Use a hanging shoe organizer to grow an herb garden. I saw this idea on Pinterest years ago, and I’ve always loved it. Fabric or plastic hanging shoe organizers are easily less than $10. You’ll need to put a few small holes in the bottom of each pocket for proper drainage. Fill the pockets with soil and seeds or budding plants. Make sure that the metal hooks you use to hang the organizer are strong enough to support the weight.
These are just a few ideas, but they should get you off to a great start. Speaking of Pinterest, it’s full of ideas like these ones. Search for “furniture garden upcycling” for some diverse options.
6. Reuse Old Containers For Your Garden
Containers for growing plants can be surprisingly expensive. A small box planter and three or four clay pots will set you back about $25. If you want a decent-sized garden, those costs add up fast. But there’s really no need to shell out cash on items like these. Reusing old containers is a simple and free alternative. Here are a few examples:
- Empty coffee canisters
- Old bowls and cups
- Empty pasta sauce jars
- Empty plastic food containers
- Old baskets and crates
- Old wastebaskets
- Empty two-liter bottles (cut in half horizontally)
- Old cookware
- Old tea tins
- Empty glass candle containers
Essentially, anything that can house a plant is worth a shot! To spruce up old containers, I use metallic spray paint or use whatever spray paint you prefer. Dollar stores often have decorative stones and gems. You can use a glue gun to attach these to containers. By spending a few dollars, you can make your garden containers look like a million bucks.
7. Check Your Lease or Ask Your Landlord
Last but not least, make sure that you’re allowed to have a garden on your patio or balcony. Your lease may prohibit it or restrict some of your options. Read through it to see if there’s any information about what’s allowed on your patio or balcony. For example, some leases do not allow items to hang from balcony railings.
If you can’t find the information you need, just ask your landlord. He or she will be able to tell you what you can and cannot do. Additionally, make sure to get permission if any of your gardening involves – even the simplest changes. The last thing you want is to get fined! Covering your bases is the best option to ensure you can enjoy your apartment garden.
As you can see, there are plenty of tips and tricks for apartment gardening. From picking plants to creating the perfect layout, it’s all perfectly doable. The best part is that you don’t have to overspend to get the lush garden that you want. Use the information in this article, and you’re well on your way!
Did you find this post useful and informative? If so, we have a few related posts that you should check out. Read 8 Tips For Renting An Apartment On a Budget and 40 Cheap Housing Options To Put A Roof Over Your Head. You may be surprised that you can live frugally and comfortably with ease.