A Beginner’s Guide to Eco-Friendly – Gardening in Your Rental Apartment:
Whether you’re an aspiring green thumb or a clueless urbanite, apartment gardening is a growing trend in many cities across Canada, as more and more people want to have access to fresh, organic produce. Having a garden on your balcony presents the opportunity reduce your carbon footprint and know exactly where your food is coming from. If you think that you can’t grow your own vegetables and herbs because you live in a rental apartment, think again! Here are some solutions that can fit your space and your budget.
The Big Questions: Before starting out on this horticultural adventure, you’ll want to ask yourself a whole bunch of questions, all of which will point you into the most ideal planting direction for your lifestyle.
What type of sunlight does your apartment’s balcony or patio get? Select plants accordingly. What can you plant that is edible? Peppers, beans and baby tomatoes are a great start.
What is your area’s growing season? Find out! Do you get lots of snow? This will determine what you’ll be planting as many plants won’t survive a deep freeze.
What kinds of plants are your neighbours growing? (Hint: if the plants are thriving, yours will too!) Do you want your garden to yield fresh-cut flowers?
Location, Location, Location: First, determine where in your rental unit you can place your plants. Do you have access to a balcony or patio? Do you have a window that receives a lot of sunlight during the day? What about hand rails on a staircase? If you don’t have a balcony in your suite but your neighbour does, consider speaking with them about a communal garden on their balcony. You can go in together on the supplies and share the benefits!
Plant Smart: The best items to plant in a smaller garden in an apartment for rent are ones that can grow readily without a lot of space. Some of the produce you can plant includes tomatoes, carrots, herbs, lettuce and garlic. Depending on the amount of sunlight your selected location gets and the season, you can change up your plants every few months.
Speaking of planting smart, is your rental too close to the neighbour? Try creating a little privacy on your balcony with tall and bushy plants plants like sunflowers, blueberries, ornamental millet and Hollyhocks.
Containing It All: Once you have selected your location and desired plants, it’s time to prepare your gardening containers. For herbs, you can make containers out of used 2L pop bottles as the space they require to grow is limited. A handy guide for creating these containers can be found at the following site, complete with how-to videos:
http://www.urbanorganicgardener.com/2009/08/starting-a-hanging-herb-garden-using-recycled-soda-bottles/ For larger produce, you can pick up inexpensive planting pots at a gardening centre (or even Canadian Tire!). When you are selecting your pots, be mindful of the space you have chosen for your garden – you don’t want to clutter up your entire space with pots that are too large for you to maintain.
Loving Care: Now that you’ve got your pots and seeds, it’s time to get planting! The directions for planting and the exact care instructions are located on each seed packet you purchase. It is important that you select produce that you know you will be able to look after properly. For example, if you are out at work during the day and the produce you have selected requires water 3-4 times a day, it is probably not the right plant for you. Once planted, you should begin to see results for most items within a week. If it takes a little longer, don’t give up! You may need to change the location so your plant receives more sunlight – check the specific needs of your plant on the seed packet or online.
Practice Stick-To-It-Iveness: Keep at it and you will soon have your own self-sustaining garden! The money you will save and the sense of accomplishment you will feel from growing your own food will be more than worth it. If you yield more produce than you can use, consider giving some food to your neighbours or putting a sign up in your lobby indicating you have vegetables to give away. Who knows, you might just inspire others to start their own gardens as well!
Good luck and happy planting!
The RentSeeker.ca Team