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problemlikemaria's avatar

Any advice for a beginning urban gardener?

Asked by problemlikemaria (64 points ) December 12th, 2012

I would really like to get into gardening, but I live in an apartment. Does anyone have any advice for something that I could grow in a window box or pot? The more difficult to kill, the better. I don’t exactly have a green thumb.

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17 Answers

Bellatrix's avatar

Geraniums are virtually unkillable, they grown in a lot of climates and are pretty worry free. They also come in lovely colours. They usually come in either an upright growth habit or an ivy version.

Impatiens are pretty and colourful too. Great for baskets and window boxes. They are quite hardy as well. You could look at Gazanias too. I have brown thumbs and I can’t kill Gazanias.
They are pretty and come in a range of hot shades.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Did you also want to do veggies and things?

YARNLADY's avatar

Visit a local nursery and discuss your plans with a Master Gardner. Plant for your climate and be prepared to provide food for your plants. My mother used to treat hers like pets. She read books on caring for them and was very vigilant.

problemlikemaria's avatar

@Adirondackwannabe Veggies would be cool, but I’m not sure if I could keep up with the seasons of when to plant and harvest. I wouldn’t say no to some herbs though.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@problemlikemaria Herbs are great. Rosemary, thyme etc will last forever in a pot. Years literally. The veggies aren’t all that difficult.

Coloma's avatar

If your balcony gets full sun ( at least 6 hours, preferably 8 or more ) you can grow tomatoes in pots and all sorts of other fun stuff. You could have a pot of morning glory vines ( sun lovers ) that can twine across your balcony railing and up a trellis. You can grow dwarf sunflowers. Cosmos ( that get really tall and sport gazillions of flowers into the late fall. )

A great cherry type tomato is “Sungold” they produce hundreds and hundreds of delicious, tiny, yellow-gold fruit.I grew just one last year and it was more than I could keep up with, harvesting about 2 cups a day of fruit. Most excellent just halved and marinated in a little red wine or italian/balsamic dressing, or, especially with sliced cucumbers too.
A medium size, lightweight plastic pot will be all you need filled with high quality soil and steer manure. The more poo the better. Fertilize weekly with something like Miracle Grow and you will have tomato up the wazoo. lol

I have tons of hybrid morning glory seeds I collected this year. If you want a few dozen just PM me and I’ll send you some. :-)
They’re a mix of white with pink/purple/blue dots, rose color, deep purples and who knows what else. Every year is an adventure.:-)
You can also grow shade loving Impatiens in the shady corners and hang other baskets of whatever from the overhang.

I also love Zebra grasses and they are really impressive in pots but need to be cut back in March or so for the new growing season. You would have a huge pile of dry grasses to dispose of, but, they are the coolest grasses. Purple Fountain grass is beautiful and impressive too. Both like sun.

You can also find some really cool shade/partial sun, bamboos and another thing I LOVE, is find a ceramic bowl on a pedestal and fill it with pebbles and add small aquatic plants. Water gardens are awesome! I have a set up like that on my deck and it weighs, maybe 40 lbs. or so with rocks and plants. You do need to top it off daily if the water becomes too hot in the summer.

Have fun…gardening is so fun!

jaytkay's avatar

I garden in big clay pots. It’s really easy.

1) Place a layer of gravel or broken planters or rocks in the bottom of a pot
2) Fill the pot with garden soil
3) When the weatherman says “no more frost” in the spring, bury some seeds in the dirt
4) Place the pot in the sunniest spot possible
5) Water every day (if you miss some days don’t worry about it)

Based on advice from Fluther folks, I learned to start tomato seeds earlier indoors, using an egg carton planter (seedling photo)

Here is that same tomato plant a few months later, and a basil plant (my entire 2010 garden)

Now I have three big pots. I grow basil every year, it’s my favorite. This year I also had banana peppers, dill and mint.

Baby basil plants

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@jaytkay Nice plants.
@problemlikemaria Looking at those plants reminded me of one thing. Feed containers often with diluted fertilizer solutions. Don’t use it full strength.

gailcalled's avatar

I love giving gardening advice.

So, here is my most important question, the sine qua non of all planting counselling.

Where do you live and do you have any windows with a southern exposure?

(Do you have a balcony? If so, how big?)

problemlikemaria's avatar

@gailcalled I live in the southwestern United States. I have two windows with southern exposure and one with western. I do have a pretty big balcony, but it’s on the north side.

gailcalled's avatar

@problemlikemaria: Good start. Check out your gardening zone and tell us what the terrain is like. Arid and dusty, like in Santa Fe or irrigated and green and lush such as in parts of LA? Some drought? Some watering restrictions?

Does the n. balcony get any sunlight or some indirect or reflected light. Any wind issues?

Hardiness zones in CA.

My uncle used to live in Escondido, which was the perfect spot for his large avocado farm in the 1950’s, RIP.

“Escondido was primarily an agricultural community, growing muscat grapes initially. After a dam was built in 1894–5 to form what is known today as Lake Wohlford, orange and lemon trees were planted in large numbers, as were olive and walnut trees. By the 1960s, avocados became the largest local crop. Since the 1970s, Escondido has lost most of its agricultural land to housing developments. Source

Do you want decorative flowering plants, herbs or things to eat…or all three?

Or simply forget all this and go to your local gardening center and ask someone knowledgable there. That’s the easiest way to get the info you want.

However, it is fun to learn this stuff yourself.

Yetanotheruser's avatar

With your southwestern exposure you should have some real success with tomatoes, peppers of all types, herbs, and more. Possibly, as @jaytkay suggests, start seedlings earlier, indoors. I would also second @Adirondackwannabe‘s advice about plant food. We have an extensive garden, and we also have many plants in containers. Make sure you follow the instructions, and do not over-feed.

Several of our containers which are now inside were started outside last spring. We have rosemary, sage, thyme, several types of basil, lavender, and several others. We watered extensively outdoors during the summer (a dry one here in Colorado), and moved the containers in when the frost came in October.

(Also, if your southwestern location is Colorado, it will soon be legal, if you are so inclined, to grow a few marijuana plants for your personal use. From past experience what I’ve heard, they’re not hard to grow indoors.)

nimarka1's avatar

well i don’t have much advice for actual gardening, but if you want a great looking plant, to bring some green into you rapartment with minimal care, i suggest getting bamboo. I have them all over my apartment in different sizes. some smaller shorter ones that go on a table, and some tall (about 3 feet that go in glass container on the floor. they dont even need to be in the sun. plus it brings you good luck. I have told that they must be in odd numbers., I keep them in glass containers filled with either rocks or sand, fill them with water, and refill with water once a week.

Coloma's avatar

@nimarka1 Oh no! I have 4 bamboos, bad Feng Shui for me. lol

wildpotato's avatar

If you have an east window, you could try a Phalaenopsis orchid. They are beginner level orchids, and are not difficult to keep alive and thriving as long as you follow a few rules: do NOT overwater – once every two weeks is good for my phal, – water with room temperature water, drain the container completely when you do water, dry the leaves and especially the crown if water droplets get on them, and don’t let your roommate kill it by keeping the blinds closed for a week while you are away grr The most important thing is to pick a plant that doesn’t have root rot before you get it, so examine the roots carefully (you will be able to see them poking out of the potting medium) for any mold. This doesn’t mean the ones you see in Whole Foods are off limits – I’ve gotten great plants there – just check them carefully. Here is a site for orchid noobs.

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