Alternative & Apartment Gardening

Alright… confession time.  I’ve been getting a little distracted lately from my gardening series.  The truth is, it’s hard for me to focus on future things like a garden I have to wait for until Spring.  I am such a tactile person that I constantly need something for my hands to do.  Which is why I decided to write about container and apartment gardens for this installment!  The truth is, if I wanted to, I could start my garden right now – today!  From what I’ve learned all it takes is a few seeds, a sunny window, and some creativity to have a state-of-the-art organic container-garden right in my own home.

Also, it won’t cost a pretty penny.  The more I dig into the homestead lifestyle the more I’m realizing it’s what I’ve been looking for all along.  I don’t regret my decision to leave work to start our family but there are time when I feel like I’m asking a lot of my husband.  Especially now that we want to save for a house, I am becoming all too clear of my consumer habits.  I’m already a considerably thrifty person but it is still an area I could learn to grow in.  I look at our friends who are moving so quickly through life’s milestones because they have two incomes and feel a bit guilty that I don’t bring home any bacon.  Which is why I am so determined to have a successful garden and live more efficiently.  My homesteading research is teaching me I can help provide for my family many healthier, environmentally safer, and (oh so importantly) cheaper alternatives to what we would normally buy.

These alternative gardening tips in particular are fabulous money savers because they utilize “junk” you might already have lying around your house!  If you want to start a container garden it is absolutely ok to go buy a few planters from your local gardening store – but what I want to talk about here are some more environmentally (and wallet) friendly substitutes.  So if you’ve got a porch, balcony, sunny window, and some recyclables – you can have an apartment garden too!

Seed starting containers you didn’t even know you already have!

Egg carton seed starter > video
1. Take an empty egg carton and cut the bottom away from the top along the fold.  Also, cut off that little flap that holds the top and bottom together.  Keep the top half as this will go under your seed starter to as a watering tray.
2. Take anything with a sharp point (an awl, a screw driver, a pen) and poke 5 holes in each egg compartment for drainage.
3.Fill the carton with dirt (potting soil or dirt from the back yard is fine).
4. Poke your finger into the dirt of each compartment making a nice little indentation and plant your seeds.  Cover with dirt.  Add about a 1/4 in. of water to the watering tray and place your seed tray on top.

Oh, and don’t forget to label!  You can use an old Popsicle stick or if all the seeds are the same then just write along the side of the egg carton.  Also, this style requires an egg carton that has a top without hole in it.

Egg carton green house > video
1. Poke drainage holes in the bottom of each egg compartment.
2. Leave the top half attached but cut a rectangle out of it where the holes are.  See video for more info.
3. Rip off a piece of plastic wrap and cover the part that you cut out.  Tape along the edges of the plastic wrap to keep it in place.
4. Open the carton and fill with soil.  Make indentations in the soil with your finger.  Plant seeds in indentations and cover with soil.  Sprinkle with water.

For this seed starter you’ll need to find a watering tray.  I suggest a cookie sheet or other baking sheet you won’t need to use for the next couple months.

Old Keurig cups!
I absolutely love the idea of re-purposing k-cups because while single serve coffee saves on water – it still stacks up in the trash!  If your family drinks a lot of coffee then start saving those little buggers to make your own seed starter.
1. Remove the label from the top and clean out the coffee grounds.
2. Poke holes in the bottom for drainage.
3. Fill with soil and plant your seeds

This is another project that will require you to possibly sacrifice a baking tray to use as a watering dish; but aren’t fresh, organic vegetables in the summer worth a few less brownies in the winter?

How my eccentric grandmother gardens!

So I was looking around on Pinterest for some creative recycled container gardens when I had a sudden flash back of my grandmother’s garden.  It isn’t a container garden but it does boast an abundance of eclectic containers.  Number one on the list is:

Old boots and shoes
You might need some power tools for this one, depending on how thick your souls are.  I’m not sure I recommend this for vegetables but it works wonderfully well for flowers and my grandmother’s chicks and hens have always loved hunkering down in a dirty old boot.

1. If you’re shoe has some stinky old foot smell, soak it in water and vinegar bath and let it dry.
2. Use a hand drill or an awl to make drainage holes in the bottom of your shoe. (or a hammer and nail would work)
3. (optional) Remove laces and cut off the tongue for more growing space.
4. Fill with soil and plant your seeds.  Sprinkle with water.

I recommend using this on a porch or balcony garden and somewhere the water can drain freely.  Also, leather boots and shoes work the best.

An old colander
Just add your dirt and you’re ready to rock!

A wicker basket
No hole poking required.

Old soup cans
Of course you should clean out any soup remnants and then remove the paper label.  Don’t forget to poke or drill holes in the bottom for drainage and if you are feeling very cafty, poke some holes along the top for string and make yourself a hanging planter!  Also, you can paint the outside of your cans to make them look pretty.

Empty plastic soda bottles
1. Clean out and remove label.
2. Cut in half to desired height.
3. Poke holes in the bottom.
4. Fill the bottom with soil and plant your seeds.

If you want to utilize the top half then leave the lid screwed tightly and poke holes all along the body.  Poke holes near the opening you cut and thread with string to make a hanging planter.  Fill with soil and plant!

The best vegetables to plant in your container garden

Here is a list of some vegetables and herbs for the rookie gardener that grow very well in containers.

1. “Jade Gem” lettuce
2. Cherry tomatoes – a favorite of my grandmothers and very good in hanging planters
3. Basil – from my experience basil is easy to grow in a pot but is a very thirsty plant so make sure to give it enough water
4. Oregano – also from experience I can tell you that oregano is what hearty little herb!
5. Potatoes – this one surprised me but according to the experts, potatoes “thrive” in containers

Container mistakes to avoid

While we are discussing the scores of container gardening possibilities, it might be prudent to mention a few things we shouldn’t do.

1. This first piece of advice seems pretty common sense… but then again, it’s more than likely a mistake my over-eager self would make.  When using a big container, put it in the place you want it to stay before you fill it with dirt!

2. Don’t over-water your plants.  Whether you are using containers or not, it is never a good idea to give your plants more water than they need as it can lead to root rot and a poor harvest.

3. The flip-side of a vegetable water crisis is – don’t underwater you plants.  The less dirt your containers have, the less your plants are able to hold in the moisture which is why a watering tray can really come in handy.

4. Don’t buy sickly plants.  If you are using starter plants than look for ones with vibrant leafs, unbroken stalks, and un-withered buds.

5. Don’t have unrealistic expectations.  Whoa, this one hits home as I am usually the person who blatently disproves that old saying, “Shoot for the moon because even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”  I can tell you from experience that you will, in fact, not land among the stars when you overestimate your own time, resources, abilities, or determination.  Only start with what you can handle!

I hope you all enjoyed learning about apartment and container gardening with me!  May your plants be fruitful and your containers recycled!!

For more information don’t forget to check out those videos on egg carton seed starts.  Also, check out my Pinterest because I am always adding new articles and interesting projects.  Here are the articles I used for this post:

5 Container Gardening Mistakes to Avoid

5 Best Container Vegetables

35 Easiest Container and Pot Friendly Fruits, Vegetables, and Herbs

Tomato Varieties for your Container Garden

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3 thoughts on “Alternative & Apartment Gardening

    1. I actually haven’t planted anything yet – except a garlic head in a little bowl on my window sill. I’m actually planning my first garden now and am collecting all the great ideas I find in one place. They are super cute though!! lol

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