Adventure in Apartment Gardening: Containers for the Busy and Mildly Forgetful

This years tomatoes with a few collard green plants on the left.
This years (2016) two tomato plants (one cherry & one Juliet) with a few small collard green plants on the left. (Photo taken in Fairbanks AK.)

What lead me to apartment gardening:

I grew up having a garden, white picket fence and all. As I became an adult and ultimately ended up living in an apartment, I realized how much I missed having fresh fruits and vegetables at my fingertips. I also remembered how much better they tasted. Not just because they were fresh but because of the amount of pride I took in being able to enjoy the fruits of my labor.

Where the apartment gardening began:

So at 18, living in a small apartment in Washington State, I started trying different techniques I had heard about and some crazy ones of my own. Planting in the ground worked great until the neighborhood cats found the fresh soil. That upside down tomato and strawberry planters I hung from my porch fed the neighborhood birds well the one summer I tried them. I didn’t try these again. Being on the bottom floor of almost every apartment I have had over the last ten years has often left me with limited hours of sunlight during the growing seasons. This meant either growing plants that do not require a lot of sunlight or finding a way to move the plants to sunlight daily. So what’s a gardener to do? Well let me share what I did. . .

A planter that worked:

The first planter I tried that worked well was a self-watering tomato planter that came with a 4 ft. tall cage that went around it. It held  4 gallons of water–and if any of you had had to water every day of a hot summer by filling up buckets or watering cans–you understand how happy I was when it dawned on me that I can put this out where the rain will fill it for free, and the cage will keep the critters out! I was also easily able to place a cheesecloth over it to keep pests off. I mostly grew tomatoes and both sweet and ghost peppers. After years of struggling to grow something edible, I was more than pleased.

Over time, I have acquired a few more of the self-watering planters and bought a few grow bags to try. For me, the grow bags were perfect for herbs and smaller plants like strawberries. I have not tried the newer bags or, the larger bags yet, but I see great reviews on them. For me, the smaller bags with handles meant at the end of the season, I could carry it up to the dumpster and fall cleanup was over in less than 10 minutes.

How apartment gardening is working now:

I have used the same planters for almost seven years in four different states and have found it to be a good match for someone who is either traveling a lot or someone who is often busy and doesn’t have the time or space to commit to an anything of a larger scale.

Currently, I am living in Fairbanks, in a small apartment, and doing field work in the summers. Unfortunately, this means I am away from home for weeks on end. While I have not truly enjoyed working in the rain all summer, my tomato plants have not been without water and are healthy. With any luck, I will be enjoying fresh-picked tomatoes soon.

3 self-watering planters with tomatoes on left and peppers in middle and right.
Three self-watering planters with tomatoes on left and peppers in middle and right. (Photo taken in Florida)
Ghost pepper plants grown in Florida.
Ghost pepper plants in self-watering container, grown in Florida.

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