Gardening for Apartment Dwellers

Special Guest Post by Mike Lieberman

A lot of the information out there when it comes to gardening is geared towards homeowners or those that have lots of land. Unfortunately at this time in my life, I am neither of those

That doesn’t mean that I can’t garden and grow my own food. It just means that I have to be more creative about it.

It was the spring of 2009, when I began urban gardening. During that time, I was living in one of the least likely places to get my start – New York City. I was on the fourth floor of an apartment building in the East Village neighborhood. I don’t think that I have to tell you, but I will anyway. I didn’t have much land or space to grow.

All I had was a 2×3 fire escape, which I turned into my fire escape garden where I grew cherry tomatoes, lettuces, peppers and herbs.

In April of 2010, I moved cross country to Los Angeles where I know have a 13 x 4 balcony. In comparison to the fire escape, the space I have is huge. I call my balcony garden my balcony farm.

What have I done to maximize the little space?

One thing that I’ve been doing to keep costs down and maximize the space to to repurpose old 5-gallon good grade containers to make my own self-watering containers. I’ve also used soda bottles to make hanging planters.

Self-Watering Containers

Once you have all the tools, making a self-watering container is cheap and easy. It’ll cost around $3.00 or less.

A self-watering container is made up of two containers. The reservoir and the planting containers.

Inside of the reservoir container a wicking basket is placed. I usually use a half pound deli container that has holes drilled around it. You could also use an old cotton shirt as well.

Here is a video of how to make your own self watering container:

Soda Bottle Hanging Planters

On my fire escape I had very limited space and had to get really creative, so I used the soda bottles and hung them from the hand rails. I was able to line the railings with about 10 soda bottles to grow mint, oregano, basil and lettuces.

To make, the bottom portion of the bottle was cut-off and holes were punched to hang the planters from the railings. A small hole was drilled into the cap to allow for drainage.

Here’s a more in depth instructions on how to make your own soda bottle hanging planter.

These aren’t the prettiest of options, but you can certainly decorate them to suit your needs and  pretty them up. If you aren’t into the DIY thing, there are several products that do the same thing and accomplish the same results.

Living in an apartment and having little space shouldn’t be an excuse to prevent you from growing some of your own food. Growing one herb or vegetable will make a difference for you and for the environment.


Through his blog and social media, Mike Lieberman shares his expertise on urban gardening, green living and real food. He inspires others to start growing their own food and believes that growing just one herb or vegetable will make a difference. It will help to cut back the intensive resources that go into the production and transport of food to our plates. It will also help us to re-establish our connection with food that we’ve lost over the past few years. We are humans. We grow food. Connect with Mike on his blog, Twitter or Facebook.



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2 Responses to “Gardening for Apartment Dwellers”

  1. May 23, 2011 at 11:46 am #

    It is amazing what you can grow in New York City apartments . I love the self-watering containers if you are lucky enough to have a balcony. But the hanging-bottles garden can be done in any window that gets sun (again if you are lucky enough). Thanks Mike!

  2. May 30, 2011 at 5:34 pm #

    I have windows 4 and will not be updating even it dies, my husband is handcaped and so am I however , living on a Tree surrounding piece of property almost 1/2 acre. I have raised beds for vegetables , 2 water barrels,Gifts from my children,as well as 2 composts.
    I decided to let my gardens go fallow this year, in the Bible the Lord, instructed us to do it for 7 years. Not knowing what tommorow will bring, I wondered if you can tell me, how many plants I can put in one of those buckets. I have 3 different kinds of mint in 3 different one and a Varigated and a fern leaved Tansy in 2 more sunk in the ground.
    Can you send me a diagram, as you need windows 7 to get adobe update, so I could not see how you did bottle or bucket.WE both workrd at the time we were building the beds for vegies and flowers, shrubs and trees. now on a fixed income I rely on my Garden Club Plant Swarp, to keep my garden supplied with plants. i Have people give me plants as do I; I have about, 100 different varities of Daylilies, 20 or so different Hosta,1o different lilacs, around 20 roses 1/2 are minitures, 2 different Mt laurels, 6 different Azleas, 2 diff. Rodys.Can you tell me if the ants that have built nests around 2 of my roses are a threat, or should I let them be? I heard the till the soil.Thanks for your time Mary K Orlando

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