You can minimize your grocery bill by growing your own fresh vegetables, fruits and herbs, even if you live in an apartment. Tomatoes, strawberries, green beans and herbs can all be grown in a window, or on a balcony!
Tomatoes can be grown in 5-gallon buckets, hanging upside down or even in large clay pots. Green beans can be grown in $5 tote from the dollar store or in a 20-gallon utility tub. There's so much that can be grown, even in a window!
I started my container gardening journey last year, with one tomato plant on my apartment balcony. My apartment has large sliding glass doors that lead out onto a 4x8 balcony. At this point it was still getting cold, especially at night, but I was ready to get started. I bought a tomato plant, threw it in some dirt and kept an eye on the temperatures.
If it was going to be too cold, I'd simply move it inside in front of the doors and leave the curtain cracked for 6-8 hours/day. When it was going to be 60+ degrees, I left it out on the balcony.
To my brown-thumbed surprise, this little guy thrived. It had almost outgrown it's pot, when I left town and accidentally left it on the balcony. That week's lows reached 28 degrees Fahrenheit for several nights. My little tomato plant was a brown, shriveled up mess by the time I returned.
Now, with a little more experience on what not to do, I'm currently growing cucumbers, tomatoes, lavender, thyme and strawberries.
There's a lot of choices when it comes to varieties, but remember to keep your pets in mind when selecting plants. The ASPCA has a list of plants toxic to pets, here, but you should also call your vet to be sure before diving in.
I did want to experiment with sprouting seeds, instead of just buying plants. So far, I've had excellent success in sprouting chamomile, green beans and tomatoes all from my window. I only recently planted the cucumber seeds, but everything else is growing great!
To start my seeds, I used a medium clay pot and some organic potting soil. I filled the pot until around 2" from the top, then patted the dirt down. Then, I simply sprinkled the seeds around, covered with dirt and watered them. I planted the actual plants in clay pots and left them out as well.
Side note: Clay pots are not necessary for this. I just prefer them, but I believe almost any type of pot or reused container would work for this.
You can also plant seeds in individual pots, seedling pots or trays or where you intend to grow the plants. It's all about finding a method that works for you and your situation. I will eventually transplant my tomatoes to a 5-gallon bucket, but for right now, my clay pot will do.
We were expecting sunny, warm weather, so I put the seeded pots out on the balcony for the next few days. This really helped to kick start the germinating process.
I chose to plant early and move my plants in/outdoors as needed. With only a few plants, this is a method that works for me, but after transplanting my seedlings, I'll leave them in one spot until it is warm enough to move them outside for good. They really shoot up when they're left in the direct sunlight and warm air for a day or two, but they do alright in the light of the doors as well.
Growing your own food is a great way to minimize your grocery budget and feed your family the healthiest food possible. On top of this, it provides you with a great sense of self-sufficiency and pride knowing that the food on your plate is directly from your garden. It's also so much healthier.
Do you garden from your apartment? Let us know in the comments below how you do it!
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