10 Fruits And Vegetables You Can Grow In A Tiny Apartment

Go way, way beyond windowsill herbs with these easy crops that thrive even in the smallest spaces.

March 21, 2017
strawberries growing in an apartment
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Want to grow your own food but don't have any land to speak of? Renting doesn’t have to mean forgoing garden-to-table produce or that delightful feeling of soil between your fingers. Here are 10 fruits and veggies in pots that can sit pretty on a super small porch, fire escape, or even in a well lit indoor area. And, unlike traditional gardens, you won’t have to deal with many intrusive weeds either! 

(No room? No problem! See how you can grow tomatoes in the driveway, dill on the deck, and peppers on the porch with Rodale's Edible Spots & Pots—get your copy now!)

strawberries growing in pot
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Strawberries

Look for either a June-bearing or ever-bearing variety (Alpine strawberries are great for growing indoors), and then make sure you can house them somewhere that receives at least six hours of strong daylight. If you’re growing them inside, you can plant at any time of year.

Related: Is Your Container Garden Leaching Toxins Into Your Food?

If you’ll be housing them outdoors, plant in the early spring in areas with cold winters; plant in the fall if you don’t. Start with transplants to avoid the complications of germinating seeds, and soak the roots, trimmed to 5 inches, in water for an hour before planting with the bud crowns level with the soil. Strawberries have shallow roots, so the shape and size of your container matters little, but a hanging planter is a fun and unexpected option. Remove blossoms for the first six weeks, and then fertilize your flowering plants every 10 days. Water daily during their growing season.

growing rhubarb in pots
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Rhubarb

While rhubarb won’t thrive in a container the same way as in a garden bed, it will produce, and that’s good news for renters or homeowners lacking true backyard space. Since rhubarb root systems run long, plant transplants in a pot with at least a 12-inch diameter and good depth. Drainage is a must. Look up your particular plant variety to determine which season to start. Plant the rhubarb crowns 1 to 3 inches below the soil surface, and then plop your container in an area that receives at least six hours of daylight. You may want to put it on a sunny porch or other outdoor space as long as your hardiness zone is 3 through 8. If and when the roots fill the container, likely after several years, you can divide and repot. Avoid harvesting new or repotted plants for at least year, but after that, your homemade pies and crumbles will never be the same.

Related: Make This Strawberry Rhubarb Galette

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Ginger
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Ginger

You thought it only grew in dense, tropical jungles—not exactly your suburban living room. But this spicy, versatile root is easily grown in containers. Ginger foliage also happens to be pretty, so you get an ornamental and a banging stir-fry seasoning all in one. You can start your container plant from a grocery store root as long as it’s fresh (and organic). Ginger doesn’t mind being crowded, so most containers will work, though wider planters are good for ginger’s horizontal growth. Break the root into pieces (ideally with an “eye,” like the ones on potatoes, on each one), and plant them an inch or two below the surface. Plant with the eyes facing up. Use healthy, rich soil with good drainage—a 1-to-1 mix of compost and sandy soil is ideal. Keep the soil consistently damp without allowing for too much runoff, which carries nutrients with it. Place your container in a warm spot next to an indirect light source. You can harvest after a few months, but the longer you wait, the better your results. Homegrown roots will be milder than most you find in the grocery store but no less delicious. (Here's your comprehensive guide on exactly how to grow ginger indoors.)

winter squash grown indoors
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Winter Squash

Squash means sprawling vines, enormous leaves, and huge, heavy fruits, right? Well, yes. But not bush squash, like Butterbush, which are easily and happily planted in containers. Wait until two weeks or so after your last frost date for the best results, and choose a pot at least 20 inches in diameter and depth. A 5-gallon bucket (or larger) will work as long as it has drainage. Again, transplants will fare better than direct-sowed seeds. Plant in nutrient-rich soil, though beware excess nitrogen. Give your plants about an inch of water a week. Leave them on the plant for a few weeks after you think they’re ready—it’ll give them a fighting chance in storage.

Related: 5 Quick Ways To Cook Winter Squash

watermelon
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Watermelon

Look for compact varieties with small fruits, like Sugar Babies, and plant a single seed in a large container, like a 5-gallon bucket, with ample drainage. Fertilize well, and plant when there’s no longer any threat of frost. Protect your growing seed from any wind. It’s a good idea to set up a trellis behind the container to give your plant vertical room to grow. Lastly, check the seed packet for your particular variety to find out just how long before you can harvest. Then dig in!

Related: 7 Things You Should Know Before You Buy Your Next Watermelon

 
 
Asparagus
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Asparagus

Asparagus is famous for needing years sans harvest in order to thrive. For renters, that can be a huge barrier to planting, but grow in a container and suddenly you’ve got a portable perennial treat. Like rhubarb, asparagus doesn’t grow as strong and plentiful in a container as in a garden bed, but if permanent planting isn’t an option for you, there’s hope. Here’s how to do it.

Peas
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Peas

You can grow super sweet peas, both snap and shelling, in a container with little effort. And peas grow quickly, so you can enjoy the fruits of your small-space efforts in no time. Plant in the spring when temps climb above 60 degrees. Choose a large container with good drainage and fill it to a few inches below the rim with good potting soil. Fertilize, but not too much—excess nitrogen will destroy the peas’ productivity. Planting from seeds is fine; place them 1 to 2 inches apart, gently press them down, then add another inch of soil. Keep the soil moist but not wet, and place your container in the shade until the seess germinate, then move it to an area that receives full sun. Lean your container against a surface that can support a trellis and help your peas climb as they grow. Snap peas are best harvested young; shelling peas are better when they’re mature.

Beans
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Beans

While not exactly a living room option, pole beans will thrive in containers with a little support. Learn everything you need to know about planting and growing them successfully here

 
 
Artichoke
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Artichokes

Artichokes—especially Globe—can and will produce gorgeous, dense buds when planted in containers. They’re heavy feeders and take up lots of space, so choose a large pot, fertilize amply, and provide plenty of water, especially when the buds begin to appear. Plant seeds under grow lights 8 weeks before your region’s last frost date, or, depending on your zone, you can plant them in a container set outdoors in the fall and allow them to overwinter. Sow seeds 1/4-inch deep, 1/4-inch apart, and under 1/4 inch of potting soil, then wait! Their growing season is long but worth the wait.

Related: How To Trim An Artichoke

rare seeds
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And More!

Ready to grow some really, really cool stuff? Joseph Simcox, aka The Botanical Explorer, searches the world over for super nutritious and unusually delicious rare plants. He seeks out those that can be adapted to growing zones all over the world, including the U.S. Try your hand at cultivating Peruvian berries, Malaysian eggplants, or Italian melons by searching his seed growrareseeds.com catalog.

Related: 7 Secrets For A High-Yield Vegetable Garden, Even When You're Tight On Space