How To Grow Vegetables In Your Apartment (With Minimal Effort!)

I’ve lived in over a dozen places in London. And while I was lucky enough to have access to the occasional small patio or balcony, growing space was usually nonexistent.

Yet I never let this deter me from growing my own food. I realized that all I needed was a little kitchen space, a window, and a touch of patience.

If you live somewhere that’s short on space, or you haven’t the time or inclination to look after a larger garden, the three healthy options in this article will be perfect for you. You’ll have tasty, homegrown food throughout the year, with next to no cost or effort!

Sprouts

Growing Time: 3 Days

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A sprout is essentially a young plant in its earliest stage of growth, which is triggered using only water. A seed germinates and puts out tiny roots and its first (cotyledon) leaves.

Some of the health benefits of sprouts include improvements to immunity, brain health and a reduction in the risk of various degenerative diseases. A recent study found that broccoli sprouts contain some of the highest levels of anti-carcinogens ever recorded in a foodstuff.

What you need:

  • A jar
  • Cheesecloth or a kitchen towel
  • An elastic band
  • Sprouting seeds (buy packets with “sprouting” on the label so you know that they haven’t had any chemicals added. I buy my seeds from Amazon.)

What to do:

1. Rinse your jar with hot water and soap to disinfect it.

2. Add your seeds (a tablespoon is a good measure) and half-fill the jar with cold water. Leave it for eight hours or overnight.

3. Drain the jar through the cheesecloth, rinse the seeds, and set it aside in a shady spot (without any water) for another eight hours.

4. Repeat this rinsing process every night/morning (draining the jar as much as possible before setting it aside) for three or so days until the sprouts are two to three inches long.

One cautionary point: Sprouts can be particularly susceptible to fungus if not regularly rinsed. If mold appears in your batch (you will know from the smell), throw them out.

Don’t mistake fungus for root hairs, however. If they smell OK and the root hairs disappear after rinsing, then it’s likely not mold.

Microgreens

Growing Time: 2 Weeks

Microgreens are similar to sprouts. The difference is that they are grown in soil and left to mature a little longer, usually until their first “true” leaves (called the epicotyl) are showing. That said, they can be harvested at any stage.

According to one study, they're up to forty times more nutrient rich than mature plants when measured on a weight basis.

What you need:

  • A shallow container (old plastic supermarket trays are fine)
  • Sowing mix (soil)
  • A handful of vermiculite*
  • Seeds

*Vermiculite is a mineral that goes fluffy when it's heated up (it's sold in lots of tiny pieces). It's good at retaining moisture in soil, which is how lettuces like it.

What to do:

1. Unless you really like bugs in your kitchen, don't use garden soil. Whilst multipurpose compost is fine, if you do want to provide highly favorable conditions, use a bag of specialist sowing mix with a handful of vermiculite.

2. Punch a few holes in the bottom of the container for watering. Just pop the tray in a sink filled with half an inch or so of water for a minute or two.

3. To sow, sprinkle seeds, without covering, onto damp soil. Give them the brightest spot you can. To harvest, just snip off above the soil level.

(Not Boring) Lettuce Boxes

Growing Time: 5 Weeks

When I think of “window lettuce boxes,” one word springs to mind: boring. They're not a bad idea, far from it, but I feel they lack a spark of imagination.

What about a lettuce box that’s both eye-catching and optimally healthful?

Tall-growing romaine lettuces, especially Winter Gem, are suitable for smaller spaces. The Tom Thumb variety of butterhead lettuce is one of the fastest growing and most nutritionally dense. Add some Lollo Rosso for a dash of purple.

What you need:

  • A container of about six to eight inches depth
  • Good multipurpose compost or potting mix
  • Seeds

What to do:

1. Scatter seeds lightly and cover with a light scattering of soil, to allow space between plants once they start to grow.

2. Regularly apply a light weekly feed (a liquid mix of all the nutrients a plant needs, that's diluted in water and poured into the soil) after about six weeks. They can tolerate lower light levels so are suitable for growing all year long.

3. To harvest, for those lettuces that don’t form tight “hearts,” simply snip off the mature leaves and new ones will pop up in their place.

Photo Credit: Shutterstock


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