If you’re dreaming of a lush green garden, but think you don’t have the space to make it a reality, I encourage you to think again. All you need is a small balcony, or even just a windowsill, to flex your green thumb. And no, it won’t be as difficult as you may think.
In a delightfully informative Youtube video, Kevin Espiritu, the urban gardening expert behind Epic Gardening breaks down his beginner vegetable gardening tips with lifestyle blogger, Aja Dang.
If you’re like Dang and just moved into a new sun-laden spot, or if you’re simply looking for a new hobby, I highly encourage you to consider gardening in whatever way your home allows for it. Here’s exactly how to get started on your small space vegetable gardening journey.
Small Space Vegetable Gardening for Beginners
Growing your own vegetables, even in a small space, can have a big impact on the planet. From reducing shipping emissions, to preventing food waste, to providing you with a reliable supply of healthy, organic food, the benefits of gardening are plentiful.
To begin, you’ll want to assess your home’s light conditions.
“The number one thing plants need is enough light,” says Espiritu. “If you don’t have that everything else doesn’t matter.”
While it is possible to grow plants like leafy greens and herbs in as little as four hours of sunlight per day, Espiritu recommends positioning your garden for maximum sun exposure. To do this, try to utilize south-facing windowsills or balconies. These will get around six to eight hours of light everyday making them ideal for growing a variety of herbs and vegetables.
How To Pick Plants for Your Vegetable Garden
Once you’ve picked a location for your garden and evaluated the light conditions it’s time to choose your plants.
According to Espiritu it’s best to start small, and with foods you’ll actually want to eat. If you’re also concerned about difficulty, Espiritu has some recommendations.
“A good rule is, if you’re eating the leaves it’s going to be an easier plant to grow,” says Espiritu.
So if you’re a true gardening beginner, any kind of lettuce or herbs may be your optimal starting point. For an extra challenge you could experiment with root crops like radishes, carrots, and onions. And if you’re looking to jump right into the deep end, try plants like beans, tomatoes, or cucumbers. Espiritu says these plants take longer to grow and therefore there is more time for things to go awry.
A pro-tip from Espiritu: when starting off, purchase already grown plants instead of seeds as this will increase your chances of success.
Related: Curious About Plant-Based Eating? Here Are Some Tips to Get You Started
What Kind of Soil to Get for Your Vegetable Garden
Okay so now that you know what you’re growing, it’s time to determine what you’ll grow it in. You’re probably thinking “soil, duh.” But if you’ve ever glanced down the gardening aisle at Home Depot, then you know there are a lot of different types of soil and it’s important to pick the right kind.
“You want to get the highest quality you can find,” says Espiritu. “Because besides light, soil is the second most important thing, so like you wouldn’t put bad food in your body and expect you to be ripped, you know what I mean? Like, it’s not going to happen, so the same thing will happen with your plants.”
For optimal growth, Espiritu recommends potting or vegetable mix. This type of soil can generally be used for everything from herbs to vegetables to flowers.
What Kind of Containers to Use for Small Space Vegetable Gardening
When picking a container you’ll want to ensure first and foremost, that is has enough space for the food you want to grow. For instance, if you’re growing carrots, those grow down into the soil, so you’ll want to make sure your container is deep enough to accommodate that.
Espiritu recommends plastic containers for something affordable and durable, or a pot made of terracotta clay.
It’s of course important to note, that for trailing or vining plants, like tomatoes, it’s important to get the correct materials for optimal growth. For example, a hanging planter may be best for trailing plants, while you may need to invest in a trellis for tomatoes.
Related: 10 Food Storage Hacks to Keep Your Groceries Fresh For Weeks
How Often Should You Water Vegetables?
There’s no straight forward answer to this ever popular question. As a rule of thumb, most plants like soil that is somewhat moist all of the time, but you should be very cautious about overwatering as this can quickly kill your plants.
To be safe, always check the moisture level of your soil before and after watering. You can do this by poking your finger into the soil a couple of inches. If it feels damp your plant is good to go on water. If it feels dry it could use a drink.
When Are Vegetables Ready to Harvest?
According to Espiritu, you should let your newly planted vegetable babies grow for at least a week before you begin harvesting.
That said, harvesting practices can vary greatly depending on the plant. So check out these tips to make sure you’re harvesting at the right time with the best tools.
And finally, once all is said and done, enjoy your veggies by perhaps whipping up a delicious plant-based meal. I promise, knowing that you grew the ingredients yourself, will make it that much tastier.
Did you enjoy reading these small space vegetable gardening tips? Get access to even more sustainable living tips by signing up for The Eco Edit! You’ll be joining hundreds of other pro-planet enthusiasts who are passionate about bettering the world through small, sustainable steps.