It’s the end of March, and you’re probably deep in the throes of some serious cabin fever. While it’s still too early (and freezing, in some parts of the country) to have a lazy picnic in the park, there is one way to start getting spring-ready: Gardening.
We know what you’re thinking: That you probably need a ton of space of gardening or that it’s kinda lame, but it’s actually really easy to add some fresh greenery to any size space—and it’s a cool thing to do, especially after a brutal winter during which greenery was scarce.
If you’re short on space and time, here are 4 simple ways to rock your green thumb without breaking the bank (or the terms of your apartment rental agreement!)
1. Build a Terrarium
A terrarium is a small enclosed garden that is simple to build and usually requires little maintenance. Best of all, it adds a little life to your home and makes for a great artsy accent piece.
How to do it : Find a great container for your project—ideally made out of clear glass to give your plants enough light. This can be anything from a cut-glass vase to a cleaned-out salsa jar. Then, pick a few plants to use. Succulents like aloe plants, jade plants, and cacti are often great for this, because they need minimal attention. Spider plants and air plants are also hardy, and won’t suffer too much from a little neglect.
Fill the bottom quarter of your container with sand or gravel for drainage, and then add potting mix as needed. You might want to use a cactus-specific mix for succulents, because they aren’t tolerant of overwatering. Conversely, spider plants do well in water, and they can thrive in a terrarium with only pebbles (or marbles) and water. Air plants need no soil and very little water, and can be happy with the occasional spritz of water from a spray bottle. Transplant your chosen greenery, let it root for a day or two, and then water as needed. For a more extensive tutorial, click here.
2. Frame your garden
If you’re living in a small apartment, it can sometimes be much more efficient to save precious floor space and create a garden that grows on the wall. Frame a small garden of succulents and enjoy your new piece of living art.
How to do it: The picture frame look is popular, but somewhat complicated to execute. You will need to find a deep frame with a wooden back, and remove the glass. You will also need to collect small cuttings of succulents, enough to fill up your chosen frame. These only need to be a couple of inches long, and can be clipped off larger plants.
Sempervivum (also known as hen and chicks) work really well for this project. Next, staple a sheet of wire mesh inside the frame, towards the front, and fill the space behind the mesh with potting soil. Attach the wooden back and make sure it’s secure. Lay the frame flat on the ground, and insert the stems of the cutting securely through the wire mesh until the frame is filled. Leave flat for a week or so to let the plants root, then water, and leave for another week before hanging on your wall. For an in-depth tutorial, click here. If this sounds a little too complicated to you, you can also buy a kit or a pre-planted frame here.
3. Hang it up
Just like the living picture frame, this is a vertical option that will give you lots of garden without occupying space that you really need. Hang plants (including terrariums!) from the ceiling or create a hanging display of flowers against a wall or window.
How to do it: There are a million different variations on this theme on the web, so you can definitely get creative with this idea. If you own your home or don’t mind losing your deposit, you can fix brackets into the walls which can hold potted plants, or bottled terrariums. If you go with pots, just make sure you have a trough underneath to catch the water when it drains.
If you’re crafty and have some time on your hands, you can try making a network of small glass terrariums to hang from wires in front of a window, or making one of these ever-popular shoe-holder planters. If you feel like going small, you can also try making tiny magnetic planters out of corks, like the photo above. Glue on a magnet, hollow out the middle, fill with soil, and add a minuscule cutting of your choosing. These are easy to make and you probably have a ton of available real estate on your fridge. Tutorial here.
4. Grow your own produce
Forget the farmer’s market, you can have an even fresher option growing right in your kitchen. Grow herbs, lettuces, and even bigger fruits and veggies in the comfort of your own home, and cut your Whole Foods bill at the same time.
How to do it: Try growing a little herb garden on your kitchen windowsill. Old spice tins sourced at your local flea market make great planters, just make sure to hammer or drill a few holes in the bottom for drainage. Rosemary, basil, parsley and most other common cooking herbs are pretty low-maintenance plants that just need sunlight and regular watering to thrive, so you can keep a steady supply on hand for all of your cooking experiments.
Lettuces do well in the hanging shoe planter mentioned above, and bigger veggies might take up more floor space, but can still make a lovely indoor accent. Tomatoes, strawberries, and beans all do fairly well indoors, so you can set up a few large pots of veggies in a cute (and utilitarian) arrangement in a well-lit corner, or by a large window or balcony door.
Give them plenty of water and light (they won’t produce veggies without 4-6 hours of light per day), and make sure to stake your tomatoes and beans as they grow, and you should get lots of at-home produce out of your apartment garden. Click here for an in-depth guide to growing produce inside, and here for a tutorial on growing an herb garden in mason jars.