When living in a small apartment it sometimes seems like the idea of having a garden is just not in the cards, but with a little repurposing, and upcycling, one can really go a long way. Small apartments can be a challenge when planning either an indoor or patio garden, but with enough persistence you’ll be growing your own in no time. Wine crates are a great option for small space living, if you don’t already have some laying around you can likely find some at a local wine shop that are goin’ to the landfill—saves you money and a little environmental karma. While visiting a local urban farm, The Little River Market Cooperative, I had selected what we would attempt to transplant into the wine crates, and the best part— I already knew they were healthy, happy little plants to start with, no waiting required. Muriel Olivares is a brilliant urban farmer who keeps it simple and organic— just how I like it.
Deciding what to grow can be a tiny bit tricky if you’re not too confident in your abilities, but rest assured there are low maintenance options to which you can test out your green thumb. My rule of thumb, is to select produce that you actually want to eat that way you have a vested interest in them doing well.
Lettuce greens are always a great choice because they don’t require too much muss or fuss, and they give you instant gratification since they do tend to sprout quickly under good conditions. You can even eat the baby greens if you get extra excited. If you like spicy food, then you need to try your hand at peppers, they are packed with flavor to add a new dimension to your spicy recipes. While at the market, there was a sun gold tomato plant I just couldn’t pass up— this tomato is perfect for Fall planting in Miami. Normally, you just want to plant them straight in the ground, but container planting this small variety is not unheard of or impossible. Again, have other vested interests, as to avoid being discouraged in case it doesn’t pan out.
What you’ll need:
2 Wine Crates
1 Bag Organic Soil
1 Trowel (a.k.a. mini hand shovel)
1 Cultivator (a.k.a. the claw lookin’ thing)
1 Pruning shear
1 Pair of gardening gloves
1 Small roll of chicken wire ( for trellising tomato plant)
1 Drill with attachable 1/4 inch drill bit
What we planted:
Sun gold tomato (seedling)
Serrano Pepper (seedling)
Cayenne Pepper (seedling)
Butter Lettuce (seed)
Citrus basil (seedling)
Simple Transplanting Instructions: Applicable to all seedling
Fill the container with soil up to ¾ of the way up using your trowel.
The soil needs to be worked thoroughly to break it up so that it's more fluffy and airy. Your cultivator will do well with this step, but I love to just get my hands in there and fine tune the texture using my fingers.
Dig a little burrow in the center of your crate— just enough so that the roots of the seedling fit and you can easily cover the base of the plant with the soil you dug out.
Pat down the soil around the base of the plant firmly, but not too much, you want there to be a little “breathing” room in the soil. The plant should be able to stand on its own.
Sun Gold Tomato Wine Crate:
Place the chicken wire cylinder over and around the sun gold tomato plant. You want to trellis this little one early on, otherwise you risk damaging the delicate body as it starts to vine. I used a sheet of chicken wire about 2 feet long to create a cylinder that would encase the plant on all sides. As the plant grows, you will need to add additional chicken wire to the top to allow it to keep growing upward. Make sure that you have pressed the chicken wire down enough, so that it isn’t wobbly or flimsy.
Peppers and Butter Lettuce Wine Crate:
The serrano pepper, cayenne pepper, and butter lettuce were planted in one crate, but we left a good 6-8 inches between the peppers to give them enough space (one on either side of the crate) and sprinkle the lettuce seeds in the center between them.
Caring is simple:
Peppers don’t require too much water, since these are in a container you will likely water more frequently than if they were in the ground. A simple way to know if your pepper plant wants some water is to poke the soil about an inch deep, if the soil underneath is dry it could use some water. Water enough to ensure the soil is saturating, but not so much that you drown the soil making it a soup.You likely won’t need to water more than once to twice a week depending on the temperature. They like full easterly sun, and a little shade in the afternoon, so pick a good spot accordingly.
Tomatoes love water, you should be watering a bit every day, just to ensure that the soil is moist, but again, not drenched. You may be able to skip a day or two depending on the weather. To avoid over watering, check the weather report for rain, and intend to water based on that and the soil moisture you’ll be checking daily.You can also mulch the top of the soil to help retain moisture, and avoid watering everyday. In about 60 days you should have a mature plant, and see the fruits of your labor.
Once in the soil these tiny seeds will sprout within 7-10 days, and at the very beginning you just want to space em’ out to 1-2 inches apart. You can eliminate the extra sprouts by thinning out the baby leaves you don’t want to make room for the strongest growers. They are pretty tasty at this stage. When watering, check the soil for dryness, and add as much as it needs to be moist. In about 30 days you should already be harvesting some delicious leaves to make a salad or add to a veggie wrap!
I hope you give wine crates a shot at making your small space a bit more garden friendly, and as always please leave your comments and questions in the comment box below.