City Living: 5 Tips For a Healthy Window Garden

Photo: Maryanne Ventrice/Flickr

Photo: Maryanne Ventrice, Flickr

If you live in a city, the idea of personal outdoor space might seem like a luxury to you. Chances are much slimmer that you’re sporting a garden out back. But for those longing to see green space in their apartment, hope is not lost. All you need is a windowsill.

Read on to learn five tips for a healthy apartment window garden and how to make your landscape a bit more bearable.

1. Shape and space

Choosing what to grow in an apartment mini-garden is an important — and exciting — decision, but one that is determined by several factors. First up is determining the space you want to grow in. For many, this might be as simple as a window and windowsill, while others may be interested in expanding outside of their apartment and utilizing their fire escape or window bars. Though the latter is certainly possible, it’s important to remember to leave space for footpaths. Hanging planters on handrails is an option around this, should you be interested in putting plants solely outdoors. Once you’ve determined where you’ll grow, it will help you decide what to grow.

2. Sunlight

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/maveric2003/

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/maveric2003/

Assessing how much sunlight your dedicated space for gardening will get is also an important preparatory step. After deciding the location of your “urban garden,” it’s time to do some more research. Typically, there are approximately four main categories of sunlight: full sun, or more than six hours of sunlight; partial sun, with four or five hours of direct sunlight; partial shade, between two and four hours of direct sunlight and shade, with less than one hour of direct sunlight. Once you’ve determined how much sun your dedicated locations receive, you’re better able to determine what will grow best.

3. Planting

A good rule of thumb is that if something has deep roots or is grown for its fruit, it needs full sun. Still, with three to six hours of sun a day, you’re able to grow a variety of vegetables including arugula, radishes, and kale. If you do have limited space and limited sun, an option such as a window box may be a good one. For planting, all you’ll need are the seeds, soil, the box or container, and fertilizer, depending on your soil. After settling the potting soil in the window box — approximately ¼ inch below the rim of the window box — decide how many rows of vegetables you want to plant. Use your fingers to make shallow holes for each row and follow the spacing recommendations on the seed packets. After sowing the seeds, cover them with the recommended levels of soil.

4. Watering

Photo: Kristin Bonardi Rapp/Flickr

Photo: Kristin Bonardi Rapp/Flickr

One of the most important elements of a healthy window garden is watering. Though it may seem an obvious tip, it’s also one of the most forgotten. Because you’ll most likely be growing different vegetables and flowers in different sizes, different containers, and maybe even in different soils, each plant’s watering needs are unique: Thus, attempting to set a time to water your plants every day never really works well. Still, know your plants’ needs and do make it a routine to check the soil daily with your finger. Broadly, most plants’ instructions will specify allowing them to dry out between watering: Soil will feel crumbly, and the potting mixture will be lighter in color. Self-watering window and flower boxes offer an alternative and are said to reduce the stress on plants, but they’re more expensive than your average garden boxes.

5. Rotation

If growing outdoors, a plant often receives light from a variety of angles, resulting in uniform growth. In indoor spaces, however, dedicated effort to ensuring even growth is part of the process. Though it’s easy to forget to rotate your plants — especially in the early stages when growth isn’t as evident — try and rotate them 90 degrees every time you water. Besides rotating a plant or moving it closer to a bright spot, you can also place a blank panel behind the plant to reflect light. Once the vegetables or flowers begin growing, it will be easier to determine which direction the plants are growing, and if one side needs more light.

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