Urban Gardening for the Philly Apartment-Dweller

Think you don’t have room to grow your own vegetables in your Philadelphia apartment? Think again! There are plenty of plants you can grow, even if your space is limited. Get started with these simple urban gardening ideas.

With the onset of spring, you may be craving some greenery in your home. If you’re living in a Philadelphia apartment, you might not have much room to garden. But that doesn’t mean you can’t plant! Instead of focusing on what you don’t have — tons of space, or a lush backyard — focus on what you do have. Try these urban gardening ideas to get started!

If You Have a Balcony …

Many Philly apartment-dwellers have balconies. If you’re among them, you already have the perfect spot to grow plants! You surely have space on your balcony for at least one potted plant. Did you know you can grow lettuce, tomatoes, beans and peppers in containers? If you only have room for very small containers, consider growing shallow-rooted crops like radishes and carrots.

You can choose pots or other containers (like buckets, wash tubs, or wooden crates) to grow your plants in; just make sure they have holes in the bottom for drainage. Once they’re planted, put your container plants in a sunny area that is protected from wind. Consider using blocks to raise your containers an inch or two off the ground — this promotes proper airflow and drainage.

Not interested in vegetables? Instead, spruce up your balcony with a colorful pot or two of gerbera daisies, a bright, cheerful flower that grows well in containers. Zinnias and tulips are other great choices.

If You Have Access to a Rooftop …

Rooftop gardening has become a popular type of urban gardening. Rooftop gardens help make the building look more attractive, while using valuable space that would have been wasted otherwise. Just like with balconies, container gardens are also a convenient option for rooftops. Before you get started, be sure to have a licensed professional check whether your rooftop is structurally able to handle a rooftop garden. Once you have the green light, use your green thumb to grow a variety of fresh veggies, like squash, cucumbers, bush beans, and more in containers.

If you’re growing a container garden on your rooftop, make sure that the rooftop is easily accessible, and don’t forget to regularly water the plants you’re growing there!

If You Have a Small Yard or Patio …

If you have a little spare outdoor space, consider creating your own garden bed — no digging required! Raised garden beds can be customized, allowing you to create a small garden in the size and shape that best fits your space. You can create a raised bed by laying down some newspaper, then layering organic materials on top of soil. Then all you have to do is plant your plants and mulch your garden bed, and you have an attractive, perfectly sized patio or backyard garden.

If You Have a Windowsill …

Even if you don’t have any viable outdoor space to garden in, that doesn’t mean you’re out of options! If you have a windowsill or a shelf that gets some sun, you can create an indoor herb garden. Many popular — and delicious — herbs can be grown inside, such as basil, rosemary, oregano, parsley, and mint. Make sure your herbs are placed somewhere that gets at least six hours of sunlight each day. If the spot you want to place the potted herbs is not sunny enough, supplement with fluorescent lighting.

Enjoy Other Urban Agriculture Projects in Philadelphia

If you’d prefer to purchase your own locally grown food instead of growing it yourself, check out the Emerald Street Urban Farm in East Kensington, Marathon Urban Farm in North Philadelphia, or Walnut Hill Farm in West Philadelphia.

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Nikki Hess, a Philadelphia native, graduated cum laude from Dickinson College in 2003, where she majored in English and minored in creative writing. Since then, she has worked in the radio, beauty, and newspaper industries, racking up a diverse set of skills, experience, and titles. In addition to writing her first thriller series and various freelance projects, Nikki is currently a Senior Marketing Communications Specialist for a leading health advocacy company in suburban Philadelphia. 

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