It’s officially spring, and garden centers everywhere are rolling out their tents in preparation for planting season. However, many of us here in the city don’t have the luxury of a spacious yard, and even if we do, some landlords prohibit yard alteration. So what are we apartment-dwellers to do? Fear not: even for those of us with not-so-green thumbs, apartment gardening can be deceptively easy. The following tips will assist you in cultivating a successful plant family indoors.
• Make a gardening scrapbook or journal to keep track of all your plants.
Even if you aren’t the creative type, having a record of all of your plants is a good idea. If you’re willing to go the more craft-oriented route, you can save the little plant tags or seed packets and paste them in, along with the date planted and any care instructions. You can even include where the seeds were purchased. The cool thing about a gardening journal or scrapbook is that it can be as creative or detailed as you’d like. It can simply be a list of the plants you have and their instructions for care, or you can go all out and include photos and sketches of your plants, stickers, gardening tips, a watering schedule – the possibilities are endless.
• Choose plants that thrive indoors and in containers.
Some plants just work better in indoor containers than others. However, that isn’t as limiting as you might think. No matter what type of plant you’d like to befriend, there’s almost always a subspecies that will grow in a container. Even fruit trees will grow indoors if you choose the right type and care for them properly. When in doubt, ask a garden center sales associate. In the meantime, here’s a list of some plants that work well in containers indoors.
Fruit trees: Calamondin orange, Rangpur lime, Ponderosa lemon
Herbs: basil, chives, lemongrass, thyme, mint, sage
Vegetables: Red Robin tomatoes, Totem tomatoes, kale, beets, mushrooms, Little Finger carrots, Thumbelina carrots
Non-edibles: Spider plant, arrowhead plant, parlor palm, peace lily, English ivy, heart-leaf philodendron, Chinese evergreen
• Succulents are your friends.
Succulents are a forgetful gardener’s dream. They’re incredibly low-maintenance, and they’re as tough as they are cute. Though they do require a sunny spot to hang out in (they are desert plants, after all), you only have to water them once a week or so. Green succulents do best indoors, so opt for varieties like jade plant (Crassula ovata), aloe (Aloe barbadensis), pencil cactus (Euphorbia tirucalli) and hens and chicks (Sempervivum).
• Use the right soil for potted plants.
A vital component of a plant’s success is the soil it grows in. Soil requirements can vary from plant to plant, so make sure to research the individual needs of your plants. However, a good general rule of thumb is to get a potting soil that drains well while still holding a healthy amount of moisture. Some potting soils may also include some sort of fertilizer in them to nourish your plants, which is never a bad idea. Again, when in doubt, don’t be afraid to consult a garden center expert.
• Prep your containers and pots.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll be incredibly tempted to plant your brand new spearmint in that weird cat-shaped cookie jar you found at the thrift store last week. And you can! But there are a few things you need to do to get it ready to house your plants.
First, if your pot is thrifted or saved from a previous season, you should clean it. It seems obvious, but it’s an important step.
Next, you need to make sure that the container drains properly. Pots and planters sold at garden centers usually already have drainage holes in the bottom, but if you’re using a more unconventional container, you might have to drill them yourself. Make sure to use the appropriate drill bit for the material the container is made of.
Finally, you need to help that water drain properly by creating a layer of large pebbles or polystyrene chips (packing peanuts). This keeps rot away from your soil while also keeping your soil from draining out of the holes along with the water.
• Utilize your windowsill.
If you’ve got your heart set on a plant that requires a lot of direct light, consider getting a window box. No counter space has to be sacrificed, and your plants will be getting all the sun they need. Window boxes are versatile, and can house everything from flowers to herbs to strawberries.