Apartment Container Garden Week 1

My grandmother has an amazing green thumb. Not only was my family big on buying fresh produce and meats, but they were big on growing as much as possible in the spaces we had as well. We lived in Staten Island, Brooklyn and Queens. At each place we had a private backyard that we could do whatever we pleased with. Living in Manhattan right now, I realize how much of a luxury that was. While I do have a backyard still, it’s one that I have to share with all the other tenants in the building. I have a feeling if I started a garden in the middle of the basketball court, they might kick me out.

I remember going to the various backyards with her when I was too young to be left alone in the apartment. She’d let me be as I amused myself and dug up snails and earthworms, played with stray cats and caught fireflies to keep as pets. Till this day I still feel guilty about that baby snail I accidentally killed. I didn’t realize how soft its shell was because it was so young, and crushed it when I picked it up. And since we are talking about guilt, I also still feel bad about all the fireflies I kept as pets in jars of water because I thought they would get thirsty, and when seeing that they weren’t drinking any of it, would then violently shake the jars up and down to get them to have some. While I was waddling around doing what kids would do, my grandmother would be off tending to her plants. The list of fruits and vegetables she kept seems endless. She rotated between grapes, watermelons, peaches, Asian pears, wonder berries, long gourds, zucchini flowers, peppers, tomatoes, basil, cilantro, Chinese string beans, amaranth, Chinese chives, garlic shoots, Chinese eggplant, bok choy and more. When I was older, I would just run out to the backyard whenever I wanted something to snack on and I really miss being able to do that.

The last time I visited my grandmother I felt so much jealously when we were making lunch and we could just pick the exact amount of what we needed, without having to buy it or waste any of it. While I’ve grown herbs (basil, rosemary, sage, cilantro, parsley and mint) successfully the last few years, I know that I would get more use out of having vegetables and fruit. When I went home that night, I immersed myself in John Kohler’s Growing Your Greens YouTube videos and decided I would start my own apartment container garden since I don’t have a backyard I can take over. I found his vids through search engines and am hooked on them. He even turned his entire front lawn into a garden because he considers lawns to be wastes of space. After going through his channel, I went onto Amazon.com and bought the following:

Potting soil
Bush cherry tomato seeds
Swish cherry tomato seeds
Dwarf mulberry seedling
Rainbow blend cherry tomato seeds
Cilantro seeds
Parsley seeds
Kale seeds
Chinese garlic chives
Pea seeds (I’m going to grow these for pea shoots, not the peas though)
Japanese black trifele tomato seeds
Amaranth seeds

I added all this to basil, Chinese basil and chili plants I was already keeping. Except for the tomatoes, the rest of my choices were based on how well they grow indoors, or grow as a fall or winter vegetable.

Basically all I did was plant everything according the instructions on each packet, but with even more seeds since not all the seeds will actually come alive and form plants. I figured if the pots got too crowded, I could just transfer them to bigger pots. I used drainage pots, as well as Tupperware that P cut drainage holes into for me. Honestly, you can pretty much plant anything in any container you find around the house and cut drainage holes into. If keeping in your apartment, make sure you put it on top of a plate or some sort for the water to drain on to. Just keep in mind that if you are going to have a plant with deep roots, you want a deeper container, otherwise the roots will get stunted and the plant won’t grow. As a test, I’ve also planted pea shoots and Chinese garlic chives in a wide bowl with no drainage holes to just see if they will grow well or not. I’ve had herbs that I planted in buckets die before because there weren’t any drainage holes.

Today is one week since I have planted everything and as you can see pretty much everything has sprouted. I’m kind of in shock about that, but really happy too. I just assumed nothing would’ve grown since it was my first time doing this, or it would take 3-4 weeks for anything to come out of the dirt. They started spouting 3-4 days after I planted the seeds and so far seem to be doing well. I have a terrace that I’ve been keeping everything out on. When it gets really cold, I’ll just bring everything into the apartment. I’ll keep you guys updated to let you know if anything is growing or dying in case you want to try any of this yourself!

Pea Shoots



Swiss Chard and Kale

Dwarf Mulberry Tree

Basil, Chinese Basil, Cilantro, Chinese Garlic Chives, Parsley


-Joyce Huang

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