Sunday, May 27, 2012

Lessons in Apartment Gardening

A couple months ago I planted peas, radishes, kohlrabi, and hollyhocks in pots and wrote about it here and here. Part of my goal was to see if, as an apartment dweller, I could grow vegetables in pots effectively enough to save money on groceries.

Here's what I learned.
  • It all depends on sunlight. I knew that my front porch would be shady by the summertime, but since I moved in in June last year, I wasn't sure exactly when I'd lose the sun. Well, I lost the sun by about mid-April. My radishes grew quickly enough that most of them matured as planned. Everything else, however, is just kind of limping half-heartedly along. SO: if you want to grow vegetables, the main point is to have them in full sunlight for at least 6 hours a day. Shirking on this doesn't work.
  • However, recently I read that if sunlight is an issue, you might have okay results with root crops or greens. Fruit-bearing plants or things that form pods or seeds DEFINITELY need their full six hours of sun, but you might be able to get decent, say, beets or carrots with less.
  • Think about pest control before you need to. You can see by the lovely leaf pictured that something's been munching on my vegetables, and I don't mean me! The sad part is that I let it happen. I was on the fence as to whether I wanted to use tried-and-true pesticides or research some greener, cheaper deterrents. I never actually decided which way to go . . . But one of my upstairs neighbors had an idea.
  • 1/4 laundry detergent to 3/4 water deters some kinds of munchers. I sprayed down my plants with this mixture, mainly because the idea was dropped into my lap and I didn't have to research anything or buy anything. (Not too sure about spraying laundry detergent on my vegetables, however....) but it works! The unidentified pea and kohlrabi muncher hasn't progressed any further.

All in all, I got about a dozen radishes, and I've been harvesting a pea or two a day for about a week. The kohlrabi were so thoroughly eaten that I don't expect them to recover in time to mature. So has this been a frugal win? No.

But I do think that if my pots were getting enough sunlight and I had managed to keep the pests off, they would have done respectably.

Now, my north window is getting the most sun—not much, but an hour or two before sunset—so I've moved some of my plants over to it.

How is your garden growing? Have you met any challenges?


  1. Yes! There's these beetles eating on my bean plants like they were planted just for their enjoyment. I've been picking them off by hand and spraying a water/dishsoap mixture on them to see if that will help. So far? I can't really tell. Guess I'll try something else soon.

  2. I agree about pest control. Apparently, these little critter come in when least expected like this one time we had a snail infestation and many of our plants were eaten. So, make sure to prepare everything you need to help your plant grow and stay alive and healthy or risk losing them altogether.

  3. The main challenge for me hasn't really been bugs eating my plants. Every couple of weeks I will put a few drops of dish soap in a spray bottle and spray them down to keep the bugs from eating, this has worked well. However the main challenge is keeping the squirrels and birds out of my plants. To my dismay I would look out at my plants during the day and find something has been digging in them deep into the roots, they even ate all of my mugwort seedlings! So I had the brilliant idea of putting some of my owl decor in the plants outside. This has kept both birds and squirrels away and my herbs are doing awesome.