7 Location Ideas for Apartment and Urban Gardens

Posted on Jan 23 2012 - 1:59am by Mike Lieberman

When you live in an apartment your space is limited.

That’s especially true when it comes to your garden.

We barely have room for furniture. Forget about tomatoes.

This is why it’s important to consider all options when deciding where to start your apartment vegetable garden.

Since a lot of apartment dwellers are renters as well, we need to take into consideration the costs involved and what our landlord will allow.

It ain’t no thang though because here are seven (7) spaces where you can start your apartment garden:

  1. Fire escape. This is where it all started for me in 2009. You can fit a few containers on the landing, but be sure to leave plenty of space for a footpath.
  2. Hand rails. I used these too on my fire escape to hang 10 soda bottle planters filled with mint, oregano, lettuces and more.
  3. Balcony or patio.This is what I had when I first moved to LA. I had about 10 containers out there. They lined up nicely on both sides allowing for a walkway down the middle.
  4. Walls.There are plenty of vertical garden planters out there right now. The thing with most of them is that you need to secure them to the walls, which might be an issue for some renters or landlords.
  5. Windowsill boxes. These are great to grow shallow rooted herbs and vegetables. Like the vertical planters they do need to be secured to the structure.
  6. Front or backyard.If you are on a lower level, this might be all you have. If you are renting, it’s unlikely that your landlord will allow you to rip up the lawn to start your garden. They might allow you to put some containers out there though.
  7. Along the side of the building. This is usually dead space that isn’t visible from anywhere and not being used. It is worth inquiring to find out if you can put containers out there to start your garden.

Where do you have or can you start your apartment garden?

56 Comments so far. Feel free to join this conversation.

  1. Ann Culey January 23, 2012 at 8:08 am -

    Hey Michael I saw where someone took the precut stair risers and cut it in half then nailed boards across it so it looked kinda like creaky steps but then lined up pots across it. I put the bottom of my soda bottles under other containers as saucers to catch water too so this can be inside a window OR outside on a patio/balcony. Obviously in really tight spaces it wouldn’t work as well but think how “pretty” it could be painted nice and easy to rotate crops if sun is at a premium on just the top “steps”. Love your blog – keep it up!

  2. Mike Lieberman January 23, 2012 at 8:10 am -

    Interesting. I think I understand what you are saying. Sounds dope.

  3. Abby January 23, 2012 at 8:11 am -

    I would really like to grow herbs but we live on the northside of the building so they wouldn’t get much sun.  Do you think they will still grow or have any suggestions for this?

  4. Mike Lieberman January 23, 2012 at 9:32 am -

    How much is not much?

  5. Abby January 23, 2012 at 9:35 am -

    I’d say they would be in the shade most of the day.  Maybe around noon it might get some sunlight.

  6. Mike Lieberman January 23, 2012 at 9:44 am -

    Start with some cilantro, parsley or oregano. See how those do.

  7. Ann Culey January 23, 2012 at 1:02 pm -

    Wouldnt lettuce work well? Just think fresh lettuce for the picking!

  8. Mike Lieberman January 23, 2012 at 2:07 pm -

    True. True.

  9. Tricia January 24, 2012 at 5:08 am -

    I have been wanting to grow my own herbs for the longest
    time…mostly basil, cilantro and parsley (as I seem to use those the most).
     You have inspired me to do so!  I will keep you posted on how I do!
     Thanks Mike!

  10. kampkennedy January 24, 2012 at 5:22 am -

    Just love the soda bottles. I will definitely be making these with my kids. They are really cute planters and we are accomplishing a little recycling too! Great idea!!!

  11. Mike Lieberman January 24, 2012 at 7:27 am -

    Dope. Please do!

  12. Mike Lieberman January 24, 2012 at 7:28 am -

    Thanks. Lemme know how they turn out.

  13. Lori D January 24, 2012 at 12:17 pm -

    I have a patio just big enough to hold the container out my husband made of reclaimed wood that I am growing tomatoes in.

  14. Mike Lieberman January 24, 2012 at 2:43 pm -

    Nice. Just make sure that the wood hasn’t been pressure treated.

  15. Kathy January 28, 2012 at 3:56 pm -

    I have a balcony that is over a main road and everything has a film of black stick stuff all on it and I don’t fancy growing anything out there.  The bit of space that I do have is vulnerable to anyone who wants to help themselves.  On top of that I kill more plants than I grow.  If you can point me towards any of your previous articles, I would be very grateful.
    Thanks and keep up the good work.
    Kathy =B-) Bedford, England

  16. Mike Lieberman January 29, 2012 at 5:16 pm -

    What specifically are you looking for?

  17. Mike Lieberman February 21, 2012 at 7:34 am -

    I’ve been thinking about how to adapt that for a balcony. How would you recommend?

  18. Anonymous February 27, 2012 at 11:32 pm -

    I tried to plant a leafy pineapple top in a flower pot containing soil on my back patio but the next day it was gone! (Critters I think).  I next put out some nuts still in the shell that I bought about a year ago.  Next morning they also started disappearing. About a week later, they were all gone. I know critters need to eat but that completely foils any garden attempts for my food.  Yesterday, I saw a raccoon (in a small town about 10 miles from my patio) climb to the top of a one story building.  Never saw that before.  My point is how do I keep critters away short of going indoor hydroponic?  If U have something like a greenhouse enclosure, won’t they just dig underneath it to get the veggies?  I live in Southern California and really do want to start a food garden. Thank you for reading this and any ideas you can provide are very much appreciated.

  19. Mike Lieberman February 28, 2012 at 8:36 am -

    i’ve heard that sprinkling cayenne pepper works pretty well. Can also use some type of enclosure.

  20. HeyShoutOut February 28, 2012 at 11:42 pm -

    Hmm, that sounds like a good idea – cayenne pepper would repel me too!  Thx!

  21. unlikely voters March 10, 2012 at 12:26 pm -

    The suggestion to put
    plants on fire escapes or to hang bottles or planters off of fire escape
    rails, while perhaps you think it inventive and resourceful, is CRAZY and this practice is literally life-threatening. Clearly you have never had to escape a burning building. And at least in NYC, further, it is illegal to keep anything, repeat anything on a fire escape. You might think the hanging soda bottles on twine are not in anyone’s way, but what happens when a string lets go and a 3-pound bottle of earth plummets 5 or 7 stories onto someone’s head?

    Re the importance of keeping fire escapes completely clear of ANY items, I say this as
    someone who years back had to escape a major building fire while carrying my
    5-year-old daughter in a slippery snowjacket down 3 steep flights of iron
    stairs and along the narrow passage surface of the fire escape, past
    flames shooting out of the bar at the street level.

    obstruct the passage of potentially a whole stream of people fleeing a
    ESCAPE. Do ***not*** think it’s pretty or cute or somehow Good Living to
    tie things to the railings!

    Other than this rant, I am fully supportive of finding inventive ways to create urban gardening spaces. But. Please. Not. On. Fire. Escapes.

  22. unlikely voters March 10, 2012 at 12:28 pm -

    (PS: Also consider, depending on your location in a front vs. back apartment, and on a major truck route vs. quiet street, you may wish to think about what sort of diesel fuel residues are being constantly blasted onto the mint leaves and basil and other plants you then plan to consume…)

  23. Mike Lieberman March 11, 2012 at 9:19 pm -

    You should then also take issue with the faulty radiator that’s necessary to step on to get out and the window that barely opens to get on to the fire escape.

  24. lawn maintenance Phoenix March 21, 2012 at 12:07 am -

    These are interesting locations for a container or urban garden especially if the mentioned spaces are not used much. In the city, having even a small garden can definitely help in making the atmosphere better and lovelier.

  25. Chefboop March 22, 2012 at 2:06 pm -

    I don’t have any outdoor space -no fire escape- but i doo have floor 2 ceiling windows facing the north side and 4  tall casement windows receiving reflected light from the white painted building directly next to us – should i even bother-

  26. Mike Lieberman March 22, 2012 at 2:56 pm -

    Do it!

  27. Liz April 4, 2012 at 6:05 pm -

    what plant in in the yellow and blue planter?

  28. Mike Lieberman April 4, 2012 at 6:47 pm -


  29. Nan Cristo April 19, 2012 at 3:59 am -

    Hi Mike…
    I live in a Condo, any thoughts on and what do you suggest if they spray chemicals around your deck?  Thanks, Nan

  30. Mike Lieberman April 19, 2012 at 7:31 am -

    Spray back at them 😉 Hmm…Is there some kind of light barrier you can put up to shield direct drift? There is no way to totally protect them.

  31. FrugalGardener May 1, 2012 at 10:54 pm -

    I would! You can grow food vertically and there are plenty of shade plants you can grow (check Mike’s list of shade plants). Check around on the ‘net and Youtube for vertical gardening and pop bottle systems. There’s a lot out there.

  32. Mike Lieberman May 2, 2012 at 6:18 am -

    Good call, but a lot being out there is part of the problem. Hard to wade through it all and find out what works.

  33. Lacey S Ross May 7, 2012 at 4:30 pm -

    I live in a duplex on the upper level, my problem is the downstairs kid. The people downstairs have a inquisitive two year old who likes to get into everything, even the many pots I already have on the small stairs leading up to our apartment. Any idea to steer this cute but destructive child away from my pots? 

  34. Lacey S Ross May 9, 2012 at 8:07 am -

     There is a draw back to cayenne…many small critters who get the pepper on their paws will get it in their eyes. A lot of the time they end up scratching their eyes out and dying. My husband used to work in a green house and he says there are a lot of plants that you can purchase that actually keep certain critter away, its worth looking in. 

  35. Mike Lieberman May 9, 2012 at 10:51 am -

    A pellet gun 😉

  36. Mike Lieberman May 9, 2012 at 10:51 am -

    Do you have examples to share?

  37. Lacey S Ross May 9, 2012 at 12:26 pm -

     Do I have any examples of one eyed critters laying around? lol No. I found a few articles on the topic last spring when I had some deer eat all my tulips. I agree that it’s a good alternative to letting the pest get at ones plants, however, soft hearted people like myself may want to look into other alternatives.  Squirrels for instance hate snakes, I have an elderly friend who puts rubber snakes in their gardens and such and it keeps the squirrel activity to a minimum. Also a mixture of crushed garlic and vinegar sprayed around the outside of your garden will help to keep them out, this will need to be reapplied after rain or watering. Blood meal around your plants can also help keep both squirrels and rabbits away, though I don’t know who organic blood meal is considered. Rabbits will stay away from gardens where rosemary, sage and thyme are
    growing. The long-haired pests are also repelled by lavender plants,
    Spanish bloom and evergreen shrubs. Hyacinth, amaryllis, lavender, mint, catnip, marigolds, narcissus or daffodils to help keep mice and other small rodents at bay. If you have a cat problem, my cat LOVES plants, citronella, lavender, rosemary and chives are great repellents. The bad thing with raccoons is they are smart! Something could be working for you for 2 months then they get wise and figure out how to avoid it. However, I have heard that they hate cucumbers for some reason, and I saw at Menards once this stuff called Shake-Away, it claimed to rid your yard of raccoons and was apparently organic…

  38. Mike Lieberman May 9, 2012 at 1:29 pm -

    The more options the better! Thanks for sharing.

  39. Ibsensgarden May 11, 2012 at 4:35 am -

    Give him a special plant or two all for him to take care of….There is a theory that people are hardwired to understand that plants take time to grow and studies show that kids who garden are calmer and more patient…and mre inquisitive….This kid could be your gardening ally…and passing it on is great too….

  40. Cathy May 14, 2012 at 7:47 pm -

    baby gate?

  41. Angie S. May 20, 2012 at 10:24 am -

    Lettuce likes its sunlight…

  42. Veronica May 25, 2012 at 3:17 pm -

    What is the best organic soil to use?

  43. Kasnola June 22, 2012 at 10:15 pm -

    Seriously consider hydroponics.  The yield per square foot is phenomenal and the plants grow much faster than in soil.  With organic nutrients, it tastes as good as growing with dirt

  44. Desiree June 24, 2012 at 9:54 am -

    I live in an apartment in Branson Missouri with my family. When we moved, we inquired to the office about planting in their garden beds and they actually yes! Since we have been taking care of it for the past year or so, we haven’t had many issues with the landscapers or management and everyone in the buildings around us love it! We keep it neat, but it definitely looks like a mini urban garden. It’s worth asking the management at your apartment. We also have containers on the patio, but we aren’t very good with container plants yet. It’s new, but we’re learning!

  45. Mike Lieberman June 24, 2012 at 2:24 pm -


  46. Mike Lieberman June 24, 2012 at 2:24 pm -

    Word. I’ve considered it, but seems like a lot to get started.

  47. Linda June 25, 2012 at 5:54 am -

    We have new management that is trying to enforce a sterile environment. They are using a guideline prohibiting storage on balconies and patios. Ideally one hanging plant would be acceptable. Current residents are being encouraged to re evaluate their patio and balcony usage. Previously I was allowed to place planters in a sunny barren spot behind the building. I am downsizing as plants are harvested. It has been distressing to go from full sun to 2-4 hours on my west facing patio (building shade and trees). If I line up my bucket planters I can get 6 across the edge and I am looking for a leafy green plant to plant uniformly, maybe a pea plant that likes heat and partial shade. I am keeping my hanging marigolds and the hanging mini tomato plant (both are flourishing). I am looking forward to fall gardening 101.

    Thanks for all your space ideas.

  48. Mike Lieberman June 25, 2012 at 3:55 pm -

    Word. Glad you likes.

  49. Rebecca Freeman (ForRent.com) July 31, 2012 at 1:39 pm -

    Great ideas for an apartment gardening!

  50. Sara September 12, 2012 at 4:05 pm -

    I am interested in starting a hydroponic garden in my apartment. Do you have a link to a good website with hydroponics information? Thanks!

  51. Jackie Norbridge January 6, 2013 at 9:03 am -

    I sure like the old soda bottle garden. What a concept!

  52. balle klorin July 7, 2013 at 6:24 am -

    Maybe it’s you who should take action?

  53. Aida F. October 12, 2013 at 3:31 pm -

    Hi Mike, I was lucky to have stumbled on to your site and I LOVE it!! I live in an apartment and have an eastern-facing kitchen window that is 42″w x64″L, and I mostly have regular houseplants. I do have two small lemon trees, my citrus twins, that I grew from seed this year and they were doing great all summer with 7 full hours of morning sun. They’re both 9″ tall but the lower leaves are yellowing around the edges and I think it’s because we’ve been having cold, cloudy days for the past three weeks so I moved them to my west-facing window. Can you give me some advice on what you think the problem may be and would a grow light of some kind help? Also I want to create a small herb garden and wanted to know what herbs would be easiest to grow and for the first time I’m rooting a sweet potato and it’s currently sprouting buds. I know it’s a lot but I would LOVE any advice on my small *kitchen* window garden. Thank you in advance Mike!! 🙂

  54. Veronica Rose February 24, 2014 at 8:31 am -

    Glad. You made your site. Can’t wait to start. This garden will help financially and also just knowing where your food comes from helps! I have two boys that love fruits and veggies! So availability 247 is just perfect!!

  55. Cheli Cuevas July 23, 2014 at 11:21 am -

    I started my garden along the side of my apartment building, parallel to the driveway. My landlord was nice enough to give me the garden. When I moved in he said, “This garden has been dead for 45 years, as far as I’m concerned, it comes with your apartment!”

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