Gardening Questions for Jennifer: Little Light and No Outdoor Space – What Can I Grow?

(Image credit: Apartment Therapy)

We asked you last week for your gardening questions for our friend and kitchen gardening expert Jennifer Bartley. Here’s the first question – one that we’ve heard frequently from many of you! This is a combo question from from Dena and Kate:

I live in an apartment with low light and no outdoor space. I have a large kitchen windowsill that I want to put pots in, but it gets limited light. What can I grow? I want herbs, but i would love to try vegetables also (lettuces) if they would survive. How do you suggest I go about it? And thank you!

It is possible to grow herbs and edibles indoors in low light with supplemental lighting. I have a friend who has had success growing hydroponically (without soil). There are plastic hydroponic kits available; however, I find these fairly unattractive and expensive. Let me offer an alternative.

Find a few lovely ceramic pots that suit you, fill them with potting soil and grow your herbs in the kitchen – under the cupboards. To do this you will need to mount a light under the cupboard and use a grow light.

These lights are available at stores that specialize in growing edible plants indoors. A convenient size is about two feet long. Use a grow light so the plant gets the complete light spectrum it needs; add a timer, plug it in and wa la year round lettuce and leafy greens.

I have harvested lettuce in the winter this way. Sprinkle the lettuce seeds on the soil, press in and water. Sow additional lettuce seeds every week or so for a continual harvest. Herbs like basil, parsley and oregano will do well. Flowering vegetables like tomatoes and peppers may be more difficult but certainly worth a try. You will need to add fertilizer, either organic or chemical to the pots. Water daily as the lights dry the soil.

To my high rise apartment friends I would ask… is there a possibility you can create a roof garden? One friend in Manhattan now takes charge of the roof garden in her building for all of the residents to enjoy. I have also had friends grow herbs and nasturtiums in containers on outdoor balconies (even, I dare say, fire escapes). Good luck.

— Jennifer Bartley is the author of Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An American Potager Handbook, and she blogs at American Potager.

(Image: Sunstreamer)