Vegetable Gardening In An Apartment

Although it may seem impossible to grow vegetables in an apartment, it can be done with these tips, ideas and techniques.

Although it may seem impossible to grow vegetables in an apartment, it can be done with a little work and ingenuity. Here are some ideas to show you how.

First determine how much sun your apartment gets each day. You need to know this so you can decide what to grow. If you are lucky enough to have an apartment with a balcony or patio that gets at least six hours of sun per day, you will be able to grow tomatoes, peppers, herbs and even melons. If your apartment gets less sun, you can still grow lettuce and many other kinds of greens.

Be sure not to pick containers that will be too heavy when filled with soil. Plastic pots are best. Although terra cotta and wooden planters are attractive, they may be hard to move around. If you have several pots, their weight might be too much for a balcony. You can also use hanging pots to maximize your balcony space. Try a strawberry pot to grow strawberries or herbs. Since the strawberry pot is taller than it is wide, this will also help make the most of your growing space.

The soil mixture for the pots should be rich but light. Mix equal parts potting soil, peat moss and vermiculite. The vermiculite is very light and will help the soil drain well. The peat moss will help retain a consistent level of moisture and add organic matter to the soil. Fill the pots with the mixture and water the soil lightly to moisten it.

Now that your pots are ready, it is time to plant your vegetables. Choose varieties that grow compactly. Bush tomatoes, especially grape and cherry varieties, will grow well in a pot with a stake or a small trellis that they can be tied to. Peppers, both sweet and hot types, will thrive when container grown. For greens, choose leaf lettuces, baby pak choi, arugula and, in the winter, flowering kale. You may even grow melons or cucumbers, if you pick a dwarf variety and provide a trellis for the vines to climb. New varieties of dwarf vegetables are being developed all the time - feel free to experiment.

Don't forget to grow some herbs along with your vegetable plants. Basil, parsley, chives, thyme, sage, oregano, rosemary, mint and sage all grow well in containers. Trailing herbs, such as thyme, will grow well in a hanging container. Grow different herbs together in a big pot for an attractive and sweet-smelling planting. But grow mint in a pot by itself, as its roots are invasive and it might crowd out the other plants.

Plant lettuce and other greens from seed. Tomatoes and peppers are best grown by planting seedlings bought at a nursery. However, if you cannot find the varieties you want, you may have to grow them from seed. The same is true of melons and cucumbers. Herbs, except for such annuals as basil, may be purchased in 4-inch pots and are best not grown from seed, as their germination time is long.

Water often, as the pots will dry out more quickly than regular garden soil. Make sure that the soil never gets entirely dry. Water when just the surface of the soil is dry. Fertilize vegetables monthly with a mild fertilizer such as fish emulsion. Herbs usually should not be fertilized, as lush growth dilutes the flavor of the herb.

Even if you don't have a balcony, you can still garden in pots on your windowsills or in hanging containers in your windows. Lettuce grows well in a pot on a windowsill. So do many herbs. You may even grow a pepper plant or so. Follow the same rules for the soil mixture and for watering and fertilization.

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