One of the disadvantages of urban living is the lack of space in your house or apartment. If you are one of those homeowners who always wanted a house with a large garden where you could grow your own pesticide-free vegetables, the good news is that you can do this even in a small apartment! Whether you find gardening therapeutic or want to adopt a healthy lifestyle by avoiding produce grown with chemicals, homify presents you with these simple tips that will help you to get started with planning your garden right away.
While, traditionally, a kitchen garden is accessible directly from the kitchen, in an apartment, you can innovate to include one in any available space, whether it’s a terrace, balcony or corridor. However, ensure that the area that you choose has sufficient sunlight so that your plants can thrive. If you can’t find any other space, assess your windows to see if you can place pots or planters on them in which you can grow greens, herbs and other plants that don’t become too tall and block the natural light. Vertical gardens are becoming a popular solution for tiny apartments as all you need is a wall and some sunlight to grow vegetables.
We have ideas to inspire you on the best plant tubs for small spaces.
Once you have identified the space where you will set up your kitchen garden, decide on the type of planters or pots that will work best in the space. If you have a balcony, you could use a combination of railing planters, pots on the floor or even wooden planter boxes. Creating layers will not only keep the floor uncluttered and easy to clean, but also increase the space available for you to grow a varied mix of herbs and vegetables. For a vertical garden, you will need to use wall-mounted planters. Depending on your budget, these can either be a D-I-Y design using shelves with pots or a professionally-installed system with automatic drip-irrigation.
After considering the amount of sunlight in the area and the size of the pots, make a list of vegetables, greens and herbs that you would like to grow. We recommend starting with easy-to-grow plants that are well-suited to the climate in your area. Usually, methi (fenugreek) and local varieties of spinach are the best options to start with. Tomato, cucumber and bitter gourd are ideal vegetables for beginner gardeners to grow. However, these will require more space and will need trellises and support once the plants grow bigger. Herbs such as mint and coriander, which are used daily in Indian cooking, are also excellent choices. Once you get more confident, you can experiment with more exotic varieties such as lettuce, zucchini and coloured peppers.
You can buy readymade potting soil from the neighbourhood nursery. These usually contain a mix of soil, cocopeat and compost. It is convenient as all you need to do is fill your pots with the soil mix. Alternatively, if you know an avid gardener or an expert, you can consult them to create your own mix by sourcing soil and blending it with cocopeat and organic fertilizer. The advantage with the latter approach is that you can customize the soil depending on the plant, as some varieties need more drainage and others more compost. When you buy compost, remember to get an extra packet, so that you can sprinkle some over the top layer of soil once a month to give your plants a boost of nutrients.
Many cities in India have social networks for home gardeners. You can consider joining one of these groups to enquire about the best places to get seeds and saplings to start your kitchen garden. These forums will also alert you about any seed exchange programs or gardening related events where you can get reliable organic seeds and saplings. If you don’t have access to these forums or events, you can order seeds online. However, take care to buy only certified organic or heirloom varieties. Visit the neighbourhood nursery to buy saplings as they are more like succeed than seeds, which take a longer time to sprout.
Once you sow the seeds and saplings, make sure that you watch them daily and take care of their needs. Take care not to overwater. Check under the leaves of plants to spot any insect attack as soon as it starts, so that you can take control measures to nip it in the bud. Look out for drooping or yellowing leaves as these usually point to the plant not getting the right amount of water or nutrients. Remember to ask a friend or neighbour to take care of your plants while you are travelling, so that they continue to thrive in your absence.
You can become a good gardener only by learning from your experiences. Once you start growing your own food, you will never look back as there’s nothing more rewarding than watching the magic of nature within your home. Moreover, you can reap rewards every time you get a fresh harvest of vegetables. Before you know it, you will be an avid gardener offering expert advice to newbies in your apartment complex who want to start a kitchen garden in their home.
If you prepare an ornamental garden, we have images of easy to maintain zen gardens for you to get inspired.