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Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Lyle Vincent

How to start an indoor garden in even the smallest New York apartment

Annalise Mantz
Written by
Annalise Mantz

With constantly increasing real estate prices and a sky-high cost of living, the odds of getting your own outdoor space in New York City are slim. That doesn’t have to mean giving up your dreams of a green oasis filled with fragrant herbs, colorful blooms and spiky ferns—you just have to bring the garden indoors.

Even the smallest studio apartment has enough room for a windowsill herb garden or succulent colony. Here’s everything you need to turn your walk-up into a makeshift greenhouse, whether you’ve never grown so much as a Chia Pet before or you’re a bona fide green thumb.

Step one: Buy your seeds and soil

It’s not always as easy as plopping any old seed in some dirt, adding water and waiting for it to grow. You need viable seeds, the right type of soil and often a little expert guidance about how to get started.

Nature’s Blossom Herb Garden Starter Kit
Complete beginners should start with this all-inclusive packet. Just douse the compressed soil with water, place it with the seeds in the biodegradable pots and wait for your cilantro, sage, parsley, basil and thyme to sprout. Still afraid that your black thumb will ruin it? You can usually find already sprouted plants at the grocery store.

Modern Sprout Herbal Tea Seed Starter Set
Start this self-watering seed kit in the transplantable coco husk pot it comes in, then move it to a permanent planter when you’re ready. The combination of mint, bee balm and lemon basil offered here would make a lovely herbal brew.

Urban Agriculture Co. Flower Seeds
If you’d rather grow something colorful, these organic zinnia and sunflower seeds are a perfect fit. Each packet contains enough seeds to sow 15 plants, so you can try again if you fail the first time.

Miracle Gro Moisture Control Potting Mix
You can’t just throw your plants in any dirt you come across. Choose a quality potting soil like this one, which is made for container gardening and protects against both under- and over-watering. This basic soil suits most houseplants, but succulents need their own special soil.

Step two: Choose the ideal planter or pot

You can’t treat every species of herb, flower or cactus alike. It sounds obvious, but it’s a common mistake among aspiring gardeners. Do some research to find out what your plant baby wants in a home—shallow soil, lots of water, plenty of depth—before picking a pot, tray or planter.

Self-Watering Herb Planter
Herbs can be devilishly tricky for new gardeners to keep alive. Take it from this writer: Over-watering is just as big of a problem as under-watering. These handy planters prevent both catastrophes by doling out only as much water as the plant needs from a built-in reservoir.

Woven Jute Pot Cover
Instead of lugging heavy terra cotta pots around, hide a cheap plastic pot from the hardware store inside this woven cover. It still looks stylish, but it’s easier to carry up the stairs to your fifth-floor walk-up.

Rectangular Copper Plant Tray
Succulents and other drought-tolerant plants don’t need much soil or water to survive. This planter is shallow enough to prevent you from adding too much of either. Plus, it doubles as a stunning centerpiece.

Umbra Trigg Wall Planter Set
Save space by hanging your plant babies on the walls. Since these wall-mounted planters don’t have any drainage holes, they work best for succulents, air plants and other species that don’t need a lot of water.

Metal Rectangular Balcony Planter
Blocking any part of a fire escape is technically illegal in New York City, but that doesn’t stop hundreds of renters from gardening out there. If you’re going to chance it, opt for a planter you can hang from the railing to keep the platform and stairs clear.

Step three: Don’t forget the accessories

Here's the hard part: Watering your plants diligently and waiting for them to grow. Stock up everything you need to feel like a bona fide gardener and fake it 'til you make it.

Fiskars Garden Tool Set
Most indoor gardeners won't need any tools at all, but if you are going to be doing any re-potting, it's always a good idea to have a trowel, transplanter and weeder around. And hey, if a tiny tool set makes you feel like you know what you’re doing, who are we to judge?

Metal Watering Can
Watering your houseplants with a cup just isn’t as fun as using this sleek gold watering can. It’s petite enough to work as a table decoration when you’re not using it.

Urban Jungle: Living and Styling With Plants by Igor Josifovic and Judith de Graaff
Once you’ve got the basics down, pick up this glossy coffee table book to take your garden to the next level. It’s chock full of styling inspiration, DIY crafts and plant care tips.

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