By Emma Stessman
Thanks to minuscule apartments and an overall lack of greenery, no one thinks of urban environments as ideal for growing fresh fruits and veggies. Still, you shouldn’t let city living destroy your green thumb fantasy.
The truth is, if you have a fire escape, a window, or even a table with a lamp (more on that later), you can create a garden filled with edible greens.
The best and easiest place to start is by growing herbs. They tend to require less space and less attention than most standard garden veggies, and having fresh basil and mint on hand to slip into salads and cocktails is always a plus.
Below, we’re sharing the basics on how to grow three of the most popular herbs in your small space, so you can start sprouting antioxidant-packed plants at home in no time.
The Best Herbs to Grow in Your Apartment
These tasty little salad toppers are relatively low-maintenance, so they’re great for growing in your apartment. Next time you pick up a bunch of green onions from the market, make sure to grab the ones with the little white roots attached to the bulb––the longer the roots, the faster it will grow. Cut off the long green tops, and use them to make this napa slaw, but make sure to keep the white bulb and roots intact. Place one or two of these bulbs root-side down in moist soil and add more until you just barely see the trimmed onion tops sticking out.
The nice thing about green onions is that they don’t require that much space, the pot just needs to be at least six inches deep––and however wide your space allows. This makes them perfect for sitting on a windowsill, where they can get at least six hours of sun a day.
If you’re notorious for killing plants (and are a lover of summer cocktails), mint is the herb for you. According to The Kitchn, mint is known as a “runner.” As it grows, it shoots out new roots which then produce additional stalks. This makes for a fast-growing plant that’s able to handle some negligence (like when you forget to water it or leave it in the shade for too long). However, there’s one caveat: If you plant mint in too small of a pot, the roots can wrap themselves around each other and essentially choke the plant (uhh, yikes!). This means you need to choose a longer and more shallow planter (like this) that will give the roots room to spread. If you’re pressed for space on your sill, this might not be the best choice.
If you do have the space, however, go ahead and pick up a pre-grown mint plant at your local grocery store or farmer’s market. It thrives in full sun, so your best bet is to pick the windowsill in your apartment that gets the most sun throughout the day, though if necessary, it can also handle being set in partial shade (remember, it’s hard to kill). Mint likes a moist environment, so don’t let the soil dry out, though you want to make sure to choose a planter with plenty of drainage so you’re not drowning the plant.
Basil is another super easy plant to grow inside––provided you’re giving it enough light. Ideally, it will have a home on your windowsill or fire escape, where it can get more than four hours of sunlight every day. But if you don’t have either option available (because unfortunately, bedrooms without windows are a thing), basil does pretty well under artificial light. All you need is a lamp with a fluorescent bulb. Place the lamp about two to four inches away from the plant, and leave it on for 12 hours during the day. (This obviously isn’t ideal in terms of energy use, so choose this option only if you have to!)
You should be fine watering your plant once a week, but if the soil feels dry at the end of the week, move to a twice-a-week watering schedule.