Bloom Where You Are Planted: Tips for Gardening in a Small Space

Now that you have settled into your perfect, cozy (translation: small) apartment, have you ever felt that something was missing?  Do you ever regret not having a back yard or a little plot of land you can call your own?  A place to grow some pretty flowers, some fruit, or vegetables you can say you grew in your own garden?  Well lament no more!  With a little creativity, sunshine, and the desire you can do it!  Even in the smallest spaces, there are ways to brighten up your world with living, thriving, plants of all kinds!

Bloom where you are plantedSome apartment communities already have community gardens where residents can grow vegetables, fruit trees, or whatever they wish.  Check with the management to see if they have anything like this in place, or if it is in their plans for the future.  If not, mention that it is something you would support and take advantage of.

Whether you have a balcony or patio, a sunny window sill, or just a small space on a wall, there are opportunities for you to exercise your green thumb and bring life into your space.  This is just an introduction to some of those options.  Apartment gardening can satisfy that longing you have to get your hands in the dirt and actually see the “fruits of your labor”! (Pun intended).

Yes, you can plant and grow small fruit trees that produce full-sized edible fruit in very little space.  Or, if you prefer miniature corn on the cob, peppers, and other veggies, they are totally do-able.  Dwarf top hat blueberry plants grow only two-feet tall, but produce full-sized berries. They are even self-pollinating! And of course there are an endless variety of flowers and houseplants just waiting to be cultivated in unique and space-saving containers inside your new home or on your patio/balcony!

In a 4’ x 6’ outdoor space, apples, strawberries, cranberries, and even peaches can be grown.  Colonnade apple trees can be grown in containers as small as 17 inches. The trees grow eight-feet tall and two-feet wide.  When mature, they produce an abundance of full-sized, delicious apples. But, you will need to plant at least two for proper pollination.  First, however, you should check with your landlord to find out how much extra weight your balcony can hold and if there are any restrictions you need to be aware of.   With that information in hand, you’re ready to get started.

If your available space is limited to a sunny window sill, herb and tea gardens are a good choice.   Perhaps you have just a little space on a wall that gets some sun.  Maybe you aren’t quite ready (yet) to start your own urban orchard.  Vertical gardening can make a wall with no personality come alive.  There are vertical garden “systems” and containers available on-line from under $30 to hundreds of dollars.  But, it’s not difficult to make your own with salvaged materials.  Shutters, a trellis, a ladder, or some bendable wire can provide the base for vertical or hanging gardens.

Balcony flower boxSomething as simple as an old shutter mounted on a wall with S-hooks can be home to as many or as few potted plants as you wish to hang there.  Terracotta pots can be left as is or painted to match your décor.  Buckets, pails, even discarded wood pallets can be called into service and can be beautiful as is, sanded and painted, or whitewashed and weathered.  Even a funky tennis shoe or colorful rain boot, a teacup, or a book (yes, a book!) can be made into a home for small succulents or flowers.   Your choices can be as sophisticated or whimsical as you desire.  You can hang mason jars from a bent wire frame that you crafted.  Just wrap the wire around the jar and bend so that it has a hanging point.  If you are hanging things on a wall, Command Brand™ strips take the worry out of decorating because they are easy to remove and do not damage walls.  Go to for coupons, instructions, and other useful decorating tips.

There are a few things to keep in mind, whether you are planting indoors or outdoors.

  • Even the smallest containers need drainage.  You can easily drill a ¼” hole in a teacup or pail, or you can buy a teacup planter on-line.  Rocks in the bottom of a planter can provide some protection against root rot.
  • Be sure to place something under the container to catch the runoff when you water.  Water, with or without fertilizer, can stain concrete, carpet, and even wood flooring.  There is also the additional problem of mold forming, especially if carpet gets wet.  And moisture of any kind can warp, or even rot, hardwood floors or wood decks.
  • If you don’t think you get enough sun, you can purchase “grow-lights” at your neighborhood hardware store or nursery.
  • Some plants are poisonous to pets.  Don’t forget about your bird!  For a list of poisonous plants, go to:

I hope we have awakened your appetite for and given you the confidence to give apartment gardening a try.  The possibilities are endless.  It can be a lot of fun and very rewarding!  So don’t wait until you can move to the country to try your hand at gardening.  Bloom where you are planted and brighten up your corner of the world!!



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