What if we said you can have farm-fresh, organic produce in your fifth story walk-up apartment without paying grocery store or posh restaurant prices? It’s not as crazy as you think! Even in the tiniest apartment, you can grow your own produce year-round.
We talked to a couple gardening pros – The Gilmore Collection’s resident gardener Barbie Smith and Maaike Baker of Urban Roots, a local community farm and education center – for their tips on starting your own urban garden.
Why Should I Garden Indoors?
Building your own urban garden is a relaxing, fun, and rewarding way to source your own food, says Barbie. The difference between the produce from the grocery store and the produce you grow at home is really significant. While grocery store produce is grown to last travel conditions, the produce you grow at home will taste fresher, contain more nutrients, and ultimately cost less than purchasing at the store.
Maaike also loves connecting with nature through her gardening. “Living in an urban area, it can be hard to find time to enjoy the Earth’s beauty, and growing your own food provides an at-home connection!”
What You’ll Need to Get Started
- Pots and planters
- Hand shovel
- Seeds or transplants
What’s on the Menu?
Many herbs, as well as smaller fruit and vegetable plants, can thrive in small, indoor garden environments.
A few herbs to try:
If fruits and veggies are your jam:
- Leafy greens such as lettuce, kale, microgreens, and arugula
- Green beans
How to Keep the Life in Your Garden
Water: Many gardens don’t last because of too much or too little water. Research how much water each of your plant’s needs, then set reminders in your phone to water accordingly.
Lighting: Depending on the plant, your garden needs either direct or indirect sunlight. Refer to experts for the amount of lighting your plant needs. If your home is starved for natural light, small grow lights are available for purchase at many nurseries.
Fertilizer: Don’t overlook fertilizer! Your local greenhouse or nursery will have various fertilizers available, some specifically made for most indoor plants. Follow the instructions on the package for how often you should feed your plants.
Soil: Healthy soil = healthy plants. Your plants want to thrive, so provide the resources to do so! Start with a soil that has a high percentage of compost to help feed your plant. Maaike notes that there are plenty of resources in the Grand Rapids area that will provide compost ingredients for your garden.
Take notes: You’ll want a record of everything that went well, went wrong, the weather, germination, pests, etc. Maaike says, “We like to encourage people to think of your garden as a multi-year investment, and a journal is a great way for reflection in the winter months to plan the next year.”
From vibrant herb pestos to delicious additions to stir-fries and salads, there are endless ways to use the fruits (and veggies) of your labor.
Recipe: Garden Fresh Bloody Mary Mix
- 2 cans tomato juice
- 1/2 cup fresh oregano, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh thyme, picked from the branch
- 1/4 cup basil, chopped
- 1/8 cup chives, chopped
- 1/8 cup rosemary, picked from the branch
- 2 tablespoons garlic, chopped
- 2 tablespoons horseradish
- 1/4 cup lime juice
- 2 tablespoons fresh ground black pepper
- Garnishes: olives, celery, bacon, cheese, pickles, etc.
- **for a spicier version: add 1/4 cup jalapenos**
- Blend all ingredients in a blender with vodka and ice.
- Pour into a tall glass.
- Garnish with all the fixings – olives, celery, bacon, cheese, pickles, etc.
To learn more about indoor gardens and Urban Roots’ mission of promoting urban agriculture, visit their website at www.urbanrootsgr.org.
We love gardening at The Gilmore Collection, and we love sharing our harvest with our patrons. To learn more about our urban planting efforts, check out the Gardens page on the Blue Water website.