How to Garden Without a Yard
How to Garden Without a Yard
By Christine H.
I really like renting apartments. It’s nice to have a smaller space to fill, it makes it easier to move from place to place, and I don’t have to worry about all the little nitpicky maintenance factors – I just call the property manager.
The only thing I really miss, being in an apartment, is having space to garden. Not like I was ever wildly ambitious with a garden, but it was fun to grow some food for myself, and plants make me happy.
That’s why I’ve had to learn how to manage gardening with much smaller space. Even if you have nothing to work with but window ledges, a porch, a balcony, or just a little bit of extra space in your laundry room, you can enjoy some of the benefits of gardening. Here’s a little guide to getting you started, without breaking the bank. You will need, at the very least, pots. Later, you can also add shelves and/or lattices to make it more accessible and visually appealing.
If you’re gardening without a plot of soil, you’ll need pots, or planters… or at least SOMETHING to put the soil and plants themselves in. (Unless you’re just using airplants, which are pretty cool and don’t need soil, but can also be difficult to keep alive, especially in dry areas, like where I live.)
I’ve noticed that pots are actually the single most expensive thing to gather when you’re starting a potted garden. The price really starts to add up. But pots can be important for the aesthetic, and to keep your garden contained and functional. In order to save money and add some creative flair, here are some ideas:
- Shop in secondhand stores. You don’t just have to limit yourself to the garden section, though. Look at the dishes, cups, tea kettles, and bowls and bakeware. You can even use old metal lunch boxes or toolboxes, baskets… anything that’s a container!
- Use old metal cans or plastic yogurt cups for smaller plants. You can paint them in order to make them look more polished. These can also be really handy as the interior pot of an outer, decorative pot that doesn’t function as well with constant water, like some of the creative planters that you might find in the secondhand store.
- You don’t always have to use solid vessels as planters. I’ve seen people using rolled-up jeans as a pot, or old boots. Just make sure to allow for any leaks with plates underneath, and make space for drainage in the vessel.
Shelving can display your garden more beautifully and change the levels so that each plant is more accessible and more aesthetically pleasing. I think one of the biggest challenges, especially when you’re doing an indoor garden space, is finding a frame or shelf that’ll look great instead of scrubby. Be careful of opting for wooden shelves, especially if it’s cheap plywood. It will quickly get warped as you water your plants. A better option is plant stands. I like to use metal shelves meant to go behind the toilet, or beside it, because they’re built to deal with moisture. Do a search for “etagere” since they’re more likely to be metalwork with open sides and shelves to allow for better viewing and airflow. If you want to take on a fun project, consider restoring decorative metalwork for your small-space potted garden.
A lattice can be really fun to work with for your indoor or small-space garden. It allows you to use climbing plants, and grow upwards instead of outwards. Want flowers? Sweet peas and morning glory are wonderful climbers. Clematis and ivy are also great decorative climbers. If you want something edible, look at okra, cucumber, runner beans, and even squash.
You can buy a lattice at a garden supply store or online. There are even lightweight, collapsable lattices out there. You can also make your own with a staple gun and some scrap wood, or you can tie some string across a frame for the plants to climb. Whatever you choose as your lattice, lean it by the plants that you want to have climb. If they don’t start climbing themselves, you can easily guide them temporarily with garbage bag ties.
Some Potted Garden Inspiration
- Succulent gardens are great for small containers and interesting texture. Bonus: they don’t have to be watered that often! Just make sure they get a lot of sun.
- Something that makes a kitchen garden really handy is herbs. It’s amazing to have fresh herbs always on hand. This article has some great tips for growing and cooking with common herbs.
- Some edible plants do really well in pots and indoors. Look into bean sprouts, tomato plants, and peppers. Want to try out some fruit as well? Citrus trees like kumquat, dwarf lemon, and dwarf tangerine often do really well inside and they’re beautiful. They also smell great. Strawberries also do really well in pots, or window boxes.
Do you have any tips for gardening without a yard?