How To Start A Simple Garden – Even In An Apartment

There are few things more enjoyable for a frugal person than to eat food you’ve grown yourself, picked, and brought almost straight to the table. Unfortunately, with today’s busy lifestyle, most of us don’t have time for a large garden, as they require a lot of maintenance work, so we replace this by visiting farmer’s markets or, even worse, buying vegetables and herbs at the grocery store that have been sitting there for days.

The truth is that one can have a small garden anywhere. All you need is a bit of time and the desire to grow some vegetables and herbs in your domicile. It’s quite easy, too. Here’s what you can do if you’ve never tried it before.

Start small – very small. This is especially true if you live in an apartment and don’t have much space anyway. Get one or two small pots and just grow everything in those. The first year I grew my own, I had a cherry tomato plant in one pot and some cilantro in another one; the pots sat near the window in a guest bedroom that also had a single natural light in there, too.

Focus on a very small number of different plants. What vegetable do you most enjoy? For me, it is usually cherry tomatoes, so I like growing two or three cherry tomato plants each year; during their harvest, I’m in heaven. I also grow a couple very hot pepper plants (habaneros) and some cilantro almost every year, giving me nearly enough material to make my own salsa. The advantage here is that things aren’t too complicated and it’s easy to tend to them.

Choose a place with adequate sunlight – or get some natural light bulbs. If you have a window with room for potted plants nearby, this is the place to use. Even if you have a window, I also recommend a lamp with a few natural light bulbs that do a good job of replacing sunlight.

Research your plant and buy an appropriate pot. For example, I had one small cherry tomato plant in a single flower pot, and then a flat bottomed, larger pot full of cilantro (and in future years other herbs). These two took up the top shelf of a small bookcase and provided a good harvest of cherry tomatoes and a ton of cilantro.

Use good soil. I reuse it for years, but the first batch you should get should be good stuff. Stop by a gardening store, tell them what you’re doing, and ask for their recommendation.

Get a handful of worms. These can usually be had at a bait and tackle shop. The worms get down in the soil and do a good job of breaking down some of the organics in the soil for easier absorption by the plants.

Set a clear watering schedule. Find out how much water the plants need (again, a simple internet search will tell you what you need to know), and plan a clear watering schedule. This makes it easier to keep up with what you need to do. I often water the plants using water I used to boil vegetables, as that would otherwise be waste water.

Weeding. Surprisingly, weeding is almost nonexistent with such a situation, especially for the first year (you can reuse the soil for years, esp. if you have worms). This is a big advantage of a “potted” garden.

Enjoy it. For the effort you put in (which isn’t that much), the enjoyment of an abundance of truly fresh vegetables at harvest time is well worth it.

Trent Hamm
Trent Hamm
Founder of The Simple Dollar

Trent Hamm founded The Simple Dollar in 2006 after developing innovative financial strategies to get out of debt. Since then, he’s written three books (published by Simon & Schuster and Financial Times Press), contributed to Business Insider, US News & World Report, Yahoo Finance, and Lifehacker, and been featured in The New York Times, TIME, Forbes, The Guardian, and elsewhere.

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