General Question

halabihazem's avatar

Can I grow my own food in a small apartment?

Asked by halabihazem (455points) December 24th, 2011

I live in a small apartment with moderate sun light.

I would like to try growing a single plant (like Parsley) in my apartment just to see how it would taste like compared to the ones I get from the market.

The reason I want to try this is just to explore how easy/hard it is to do something like that. I’m obviously not looking for a sustainable source of food or saving cash. I’m just curious about the process.

One more reason I want to do that is because I want to know what it feels like when you grow your very OWN food. Something that doesn’t go through the “system”, if you understand what I mean. It just feels special (I hope so)

Any ideas on best plant options? materials I need?

P.S. I have 0% experience in dealing with plants

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24 Answers

CaptainHarley's avatar

Yes, but probably not enough to keep you alive. You’ll need to supplement.

gailcalled's avatar

Where do you live? How much light do you have in your apartment. Do you leave your windows open or closed? Do you have four traditional seasons?

Herbs are fairly easy; parsley, basel, chives and rosemary work (but might attract white flies.)

My sister grows green peppers indoors during the winter months (here at N. latitude c. 43˚).

Google :“indoor herb gardens.”

Sunny2's avatar

I was going to suggest herbs. If you have sun, they will thrive with regular watering. I just noticed that the Chia Pet people (in the U.S.) have an herb growing version. It’s worth a try. If you have an outdoor balcony, tomatoes would be possible. I know they taste better home grown.

halabihazem's avatar

@CaptainHarley : Again, I’m not doing this to supply myself with food. It’s just an experiment to try something special.

@gailcalled : I live in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. We don’t have the traditional four seasons here. It’s either dry cold winter (mostly around 18 C) or hot summer (up to 48 C). I don’t care if my plant dies in the summer, as I wont be present during summer anyway. I don’t have much sun light in my apartment, but I don’t mind keeping the lights on if it helps. (Again, excuse my complete lack of knowledge about these things)

Thanks for pointing out the flies issue. I really hate insects. I would never attempt growing a plant that attracts any sorts of insects (including ants). I’m lucky enough to live in an apartment with 0% insects, and I want to keep it that way :)

I’ll google more about that, thanks for help!

@Sunny2 : Thanks! Unfortunately, I don’t have a balcony in my apartment, so I guess I’ll stick to herbs for the time being.

laureth's avatar

If you don’t have full-on sun for more than 6–8 hours a day, you are best growing plants where the leaves are the edible part (like parsley), rather than something that must work much harder to make an edible part, such as tomatoes. But yeah, small herbs and such can be grown on a very sunny windowsill or under a grow light.

halabihazem's avatar

@laureth I don’t think I’m ready for tomatoes yet anyway. If parsley works, I’ll be more than happy. I think I need to do more googling about Parsley. I just hope it doesn’t turn out to be a major insect magnet.

dabbler's avatar

These people at Window Farms totally got ya covered.
The have plans and instructions for do-it-yourself methods, including what works well in different light conditions.

gailcalled's avatar

@dabbler: Can you check out the fresh produce at a local market to see what the typical vegetables are? I would guess mint, cilantro, olives, dates, tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, garlic, onions, eggplant, zucchini, limes, lemons, and the traditional spices?

If you have any kind of plant in an apartment, you may attract bugs. Ask your neighbors if they grow houseplants.

“Riyadh climate is characterized by harsh, dry and arid conditions. The Arabian Peninsula experiences extreme heat and minimal rainfall all the year round.” Source

Forget all my advice; this is a climate that I have no experience with.

Coloma's avatar

You might be able to grow an herb garden as mentioned or a few pots of tomatoes, otherwise your options are rather limited.
If you have a balcony with good sun this would increase your options.
You could turn a closet into a chicken coop, buy some duck diapers, and you’ll get more bang for your buck with eggs than veggies.
Of course chickens do need sunlight to be healthy, you can line them up in a sunny window once a day for a few hours, or, tether them out with little strings tired around their legs on your balcony. lol

You could also grow mushrooms in a closet, they would be quieter and less trouble than chickens, but not nearly the fun.

SmashTheState's avatar

I live in an apartment with small windows and indirect sunlight, and while tomatoes and peppers haven’t done very well on my balcony, the chives, stevia, sage, and parsley in my window box produce enough to supply my personal needs. I also have a struggling avocado plant which isn’t exactly thriving, but is still gamely surviving after two years, which is remarkable given that I live in the second-coldest national capital on Earth after Ulan Bator and get about 6 hours of sunlight right now.

nikipedia's avatar

You should have no problem at all. Do you have a balcony?

CaptainHarley's avatar


Perhaps you should try your hand at hydrophonics?

Male's avatar

I like this idea.

You could go completely organic if you’re successful. There’s gotta be some vegetable or fruit-bearing plant out there that can survive indoors.

DaphneT's avatar

Research what grows naturally in your climate by checking with your local markets. Sadly, insects love plants, it’s their home and food. Any plant can thrive indoors if you provide the right warmth, cold and light conditions. Good luck with your experiments.

halabihazem's avatar

Thank you all for your suggestions. I don’t have a balcony at the moment, and I’m only planning on using 1 single small pot for whatever single plant I choose, so window farms are currently not my concern.

I thought about this idea after watching a hydroponics video on TED, but I wanted my own much simpler version: a single pot.

I asked a friend about it and he suggested mint. According to him, I shouldn’t worry about insects if I go for mint, as long as I don’t get a contaminated soil. We have a good local supplier for plant stuff, so proper soil and seeds wont be a problem. Oh, and it seems Riyadh’s weather is quite compatible with many plants during the winter, not in the summer though.

Finally, he says he had success growing a lot of plants away from direct sun light, so I guess I’m now all set.

I’ll one day post the results I get from my experiment. Thank you all :)

basheersubei's avatar

@Coloma LOL, mushrooms? hahahaha!

but seriously @OP , mint sounds like a good idea. I suggest you get two or more pots of different herbs (just in case the mint fails to grow). We don’t want you quitting on such a brilliant idea, do we?

halabihazem's avatar

Doing that to chickens would be cruel, wouldn’t it?

basheersubei's avatar

@halabihazem I think he was joking about the chickens and mushrooms (I may be waaaaay off).

gailcalled's avatar

@basheersubei: @Coloma is a she, as it happens, and does have a very nice sense of humor. She also has a pet Chinese goose named Marwyn, who has his very own Santa outfit.

He wears it with pride and panache (red and white striped stockings too). If you ask nicely, @Coloma may put that pic up as her avatar.

laureth's avatar

I thought the chickens were a joke (they really need to be able to poke around outside), but mushrooms seem serious. There are people that sell mushrooms (oyster, crimini, shiitake) at my local farmers’ market, that grow them at home. They also sell mushroom kits for those that want to try it for themselves.

gailcalled's avatar

@laureth: MUshrooms in a “harsh, dry and arid” climate? Don’t mushrooms need moisture and darkness to thrive? I wouldn’t think to buy local mushrooms in Riyadh?

halabihazem's avatar

I don’t think mushrooms are a good thing to start with, and as @gailcalled mentioned, I don’t think it’s possible to grow these things in Riyadh’s climate.

laureth's avatar

I would assume that the inside of apartments in Riyadh is more climate-controlled than the outside?

halabihazem's avatar

We do control the temperature, but few people here seem to care about humidity control.

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