Do you in an apartment with a patio? Do you have limited space but still want to grow your own produce? Do you think that you have to wait until you own a house to build your own garden?
I thought those exact same things a few months ago. Eventually, I got impatient in thinking that I had to wait for a house in order to have a garden and started brainstorming how I could grow my own garden out on my patio apartment.
Step One: The Garden Bed
There are plenty of good options, from building your own wooden bed to using a bunch of pots. Both of those options seemed a little pricey and/or required much more work than I wanted to put into creating my garden at this time in my life.
While browsing my local big box store garden centers, I found the City Picker’s raised garden bed. They’re only $30 from Home Depot, Lowe’s and Wal-Mart. They’re essentially big plastic boxes with wheels on the bottom, which I love because now I can roll the garden around my patio whenever I need to (like if it’s exceptionally windy or cold) and I won’t have to haul around a giant, heavy garden bed. (Note: I’m sure that this doesn’t need to be said, but this post isn’t sponsored by any company mentioned in this post.)
I didn’t assemble this item exactly like it’s supposed to, either. I placed the grate on the bottom, laid the mat on top of that, and then I filled the entire thing with soil. I did it this way because 1) There are no drainage holes in this container. I’m sure that you can easily add holes if you have a drill, but I don’t, so I couldn’t. Because of this, I used the grate and mat as a way to let the water drain the soil and make sure that my plants aren’t sitting in super wet soil. And, 2) I didn’t like how the plants are supposed to grow through the grates. I planned to get starter plants and not grow my veggies from seeds, so they wouldn’t be able to grow through the grates like in the photos.
Step Two: Soil
There are so many different soil types, depending on things like the type of plant and where you live. For example, for potted plants you’ll typically use a hydrating but highly draining soil. There’s also soil options for in-ground garden beds, raised garden bed, organic soil, indoor plants, outdoor plants, mulch, high in perlite, etc. Each type of soil contains different ratios of soil mediums, like dirt, perlite, peat moss, clay, sand, wood ships, etc. For my vegetable garden, I made sure to use organic raised garden bed soil. It has a little bit of perlite, but lots of organic soil and small wood chips. So far, it’s been working great for me.
Quick tip: You’re going to need more soil than you expect. If you think that you only need one bag, get two. I have two of the City Pickers garden beds and I needed two bags of soil to fill them. It’s better to have too much than too little.
Step Three: Seeds or Starter Plants?
This is a minor step and is more of a question for yourself than a real “step,” but it’s important. Do you want to start growing your plants from a seed or use a plant started by a nursery? Personally, I’m too impatient to grow plants from seeds so I chose to pick up some starter plants from my local plant nursery.
If you chose to pick up some starter plants, I’d check your local nurseries before going to big box stores. Most, if not all, of my starter plants were $2 at my favorite local nursery (Maas Nursery, if you’re in the Houston, Texas, are), whereas I found that many of them were over $3 at box stores. You’re also supporting local business, so put your money back into the community!
Step Four: Pick Your Plants!
What do you want to grow?? This is the fun part. For me, I wanted to make sure that I picked things that I would actually eat and wouldn’t go to waste. One year, my grandma picked some weird type of broccoli that no one ate so it rotted and was no good. However, if you’re growing your veggies based on aesthetics, go for it!
Something also to keep in mind is how big the plants are going to get. For example, veggies like pumpkins, eggplants or other squashes need a lot of space and vine out a lot. They might take over your garden and kill the other plants. If you want to grow these veggies, you might want to place two or three plants in one container and let them take over the garden bed throughout the growing season.
The plants that I chose to plant in my vegetable garden are: Romaine lettuce, curly lettuce, curly kale, purple kale, spinach, strawberries, bell peppers, basil, rosemary and tomatoes. I also threw some cat grass seeds into the soil for my cat, and it ended up sprouting super easily and it’s still growing. Each of these veggies (and fruit) don’t get too big if I continuously prune them down and eat the produce, which is what I’ve been doing.
Step Five: Time to Plant!
Now comes the fun part. I love planting and getting my hands dirty, so planting is so much fun. I, personally, planted all of my leafy greens together in one container – that’s my kale, lettuce and spinach. In the other container, I put everything else. I know there there are specific methods of planting on the internet, but I planted them based on container orientation. For example, I know that the tomato and rosemary would get big, so I put them towards the back, whereas the strawberries and basil were smaller and needed more light, so I put them towards the front. Of course, the containers that I have them in can be rotated, so I just made sure that the plants were at least 4-6 inches apart and had plenty of space to grow.
When I first planted my garden in February, I watered my veggie garden once a week. Now that it’s warming up, I’m having to water it twice a week and, eventually, I might need to water it three or more times a week in the summer. Just keep an eye on your plants – they’ll let you know when they need water. My lettuce and spinach will start drooping when they need water, so that’s usually a sign for me to water the entire garden. You can also use a moisture meter to more accurately measure soil moisture.
I would wait a week or two before starting to pick off your vegetable plants. They’ll need some time to establish their roots before you pluck off their leaves. Also, make sure to not pick off too much at one time. If you cut off all of the leaves of your lettuce, it’ll take longer for it to recuperate since it won’t have any leaves to photosynthesize and grow.
You might also have some casualties along the way – that’s okay! I had three bell pepper plants, but one of them died for an unknown reason. So instead, I planted a baby avocado tree to see how it’ll grow in the garden bed. It’s important to not take it too personally if one or more of your plants dies. It might have already been sick when you bought it from the nursery, or it just might not like the growing conditions in the garden bed. It’s all up to the plant and how it adapts to living with you.
Of course, this is all my experience with growing my vegetable garden, so it might need to change a bit for you! Everyone has different experiences growing vegetables depending on where they life, their lifestyles, etc. My garden has brought me so much joy and I absolutely love being able to go pick lettuce for a salad or fresh basil and rosemary for a pasta sauce. I hope that you enjoy gardening just as much as I do!
Thank you for reading! Do you have a vegetable garden? Let me know in the comments below and like this post if you want more like it!