Gardening in an Apartment

by Karen Dobbs 9 days ago in garden

Mistakes I Made and How I'm Fixing Them

Gardening in an Apartment
My aloe vera plant is doing great! Loving the orchid mix I planted it in!

Anyone that has ever lived in an apartment or small space with no yard of their own to grow in will understand the challenges I'm facing while raising herbs, potatoes, and other non-edible plants like succulents.

I live in the Northern Hemisphere, which means that the best exposure for growing plants that require full sun is any south-facing window. The problem I face is that the only windows in my apartment are east and west facing, which means half of my apartment gets sun in the morning and the other half in the afternoon. Couple this with the fact there is an overreaching eave over each side of the building, my direct sun exposure is limited to about 3-4 hours each day.

I always assumed that I had a brown thumb and that was why I killed everything I planted. However, this is not the case, as it was more a problem of just not understanding how plants grow and what type of conditions that each plant needs.

I didn't understand that each plant requires a different set of conditions to grow and thrive. I didn't understand that each plant has preferences on the type of soil composition you use. I didn't understand that potting up too fast too soon can cause root rot in your plants (was super guilty of this one).

As I began to realize I may have a lighting problem, I purchased just an inexpensive grow light that clips onto the table edge and provides different options on spectrum of light and intensity (and a timer to boot!) This is when I began to really research my plants to see what color spectrum to use on my new light (I have a red only, blue only, or purple option on the light I bought). In my researching, I discovered that not only was I not giving my plants enough light previously, but that I was also overwatering, up-potting too drastically and too soon, and using a soil composition that didn't allow for enough aeration to the soil.

Over the summer I had to buy a couple of A/C units for my bedrooms and was able to send in for a mail in rebate to one of my local home improvement stores. Luckily, I held onto the first rebate check I received and received a second one about the time I started to understand more about my plants. I hopped into my car and drove to the store and bought about $90 total of soils, amendments, pots, and even a couple seed packets to create a better mix for my plants to be happier.

Once I got all my soil mixed up in my bathtub (was doing it in a 5 gallon bucket, but the sheer amount of material I had to mix would have taken me 2 days in a bucket, so at the suggestion of my ex, I just dumped everything into the tub and mixed it there.

Once I had my good soil mix, I repotted all my plants and just threw out the old soil, which was started to grow mildew, and one pot had a really nasty infestation of gnats that I didn't even realize was as bad as it was, since they always stayed in the plants and didn't really fly around the apartment.

I wish I could have revitalized that soil with amendments, but c'est la vie, I suppose.

I placed my plants under the grow light and now all I really have to do is check them everyday to make sure they aren't bone dry and they are doing great! I lost a few that were already much too far gone, but overall, I'm so pleased that I was able to revive most of my plants and grow new seedlings that didn't die before starting to give me some true leaves!

I'm still making mistakes and learning from them, but now that I understand HOW to think about plant care and not just give them water, sun and soil, I feel much more confident in my abilities to grow beautiful plants, many of which can be used in the kitchen.

I want to give a huge shout out to multiple gardening YouTubers, especially Kevin from Epic Gardening. I sent Kevin a message asking for permission to link to his site, and am still awaiting a response, but if you search Epic Gardening, you'll find his site. He also has two YouTube channels, which is where I have gotten the majority of my information about small space and container gardening. He doesn't just tell you what to do, he gives guidance on how to figure out how to care for each plant yourself, such as thinking about the plants origins and what the environment is like in those parts of the world. Great resource for any type of gardener, but he specializes in small space gardening (perfect for apartment dwellers like myself).

Stay tuned to my posts for more a in depth analysis of each plant I'm growing, mistakes I've made while trying to grow them, and how I've corrected the mistakes for that specific plant.

Karen Dobbs
Karen Dobbs
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