How to Garden in Your Apartment

Love growing your own herbs and vegetables, but also love the hustle and bustle that living in a big city has to offer? Well, while the two don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand, just because you want one doesn’t mean you can’t have the other.

Here’s a quick guide on how to garden indoors:

Getting Started

There are 4 main things you’ll need to consider before starting your apartment garden. (1) the amount of space you have available, (2) what kind of light you will give your plants, (3) the temperature of your apartment, and (4) the level of humidity.

Space

An indoor garden can really be as big or as small as you want it to be. That just depends on how many plants you want to grow (and how much space you want to dedicate to your garden). People who want to have larger gardens or grow plants that require more space might want to consider specifically dedicating a table or bench to their garden — even a small room if you have it (which if you do, we as New Yorker’s envy you).

Pro Tip: Shelves can provide you with a ton of room for plants without taking up any floor space. Put a simple shelf by a window, or even use a window sill.

Light

Light is slightly more tricky. Ideally, your apartment has a big enough window to provide ample light for your plants to grow, but this isn’t always the case in small apartments surrounded by big buildings, especially in the winter months. More than likely, you are going to need some additional artificial light.

When choosing an artificial light source, there are certain options you need to consider:

  1. Plants can only absorb the same wavelengths of light that the sun gives off. Therefore, normal light bulbs won’t work. We’re not going to get into the science behind that, but just trust us.

  2. Incandescent Lamps are fairly inexpensive and can be bought at most hardware stores. They can work, but aren’t ideal. They get hot very quickly and aren’t very energy efficient.

  3. Fluorescent Lights are best for plants that don’t require a lot of light, like herbs (scroll down to see more about lighting requirements). They will not provide enough light for flowering or budding plants. You can also buy these at your local hardware store.

  4. Compact Fluorescent Systems, a newer version of fluorescent lights, are much brighter and more efficient than their older counterparts and can therefore be used for all plants. They produce less heat than the other options so they can be placed closest to the plants. These are probably your best bet if you want to light a garden with a variety of plants.

  5. HID (High Intensity Discharge) Bulbs are the brightest and most efficient lights available, but also the most expensive. They are the most complex lights to purchase as they come in several types with lots of different specifications. At Moved, we don’t really like complexity ;).


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**Check out this link for a guide on building your own grow light system.

Temperature

The ideal temperature for most plants is between 65°-75°F.

Plants grown in temperatures that are too warm will be small and weak. Plants that are too cold may have dry, yellow leaves that fall off.

Humidity

Too little humidity can be challenging for indoor gardeners, especially in the winter months when the air is dryer.

While humidity levels aren’t very easy to measure, three signs you have a humidity problem are if (1) the tips of the leaves are brown, (2) your plants look withered, or (3) the leaves are falling off your plants.

Some options to increase the humidity levels of your indoor garden are positioning the plants closer together, setting the plant containers over a bed of moist pebbles or spraying them with a misting bottle.

Types of Plants

So what can you grow in your indoor garden? Well theoretically, when provided with the right amount of light, water, and space, anything CAN grow indoors. That being said, certain plants lend themselves to growing indoors more easily. We recommend you try some of these, especially if this is your first time.

These plants (which generally consist of leafy greens, herbs, and root vegetables) include:

  • Lettuce

  • Spinach

  • Bok Choy

  • Herbs (cilantro, basil, parsley, oregano, chives, thyme, sage)

  • Raddish

  • Carrots

  • Microgreens (kale, pea shoots, cress)

Planting Your Garden

Once your gardening space and lights are in place, you’ve chosen your plants, and the conditions in your apartment are ideal for growing, you’re ready to plant! There’s things you’ll need: growing containers, soil, and seeds.

Growing Containers

For most greens, you’ll need containers that are about 4 inches deep. For carrots, you’ll need at least 6 inches. You don’t necessarily have to go to the store and buy new planters. Consider using things like recycled produce containers or window boxes. Get creative!

Whatever you use, you’ll want to put a plastic tray beneath the containers to prevent water from dripping.

Soil

Different people will recommend different things, but in general, you should buy an organic, all-purpose potting mix for your indoor garden.

Seeds

You can buy seeds for the plants of your choosing at your local nursery or home improvement store. If you’re less patient, you also have the options of buying seedlings (plants that have already started to grow). Herbs grow especially slow so you might want to consider seedlings for a quick harvest.


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Planting Procedure

With everything ready, it’s time to plant:

  1. Fill the growing containers with soil and plant your seeds or seedlings, following the instructions on the back of the package for each individual plant.

  2. If using seeds, keep the soil evenly moist until the plants germinate.

  3. Hang the grow lights approximately 2 inches above the plants. As your plants grow, you’ll have to adjust the light. Plants grown under artificial light will need 12–16 hours of light each day. You can purchase a timer to make this easier.

  4. Water twice weekly, or when the surface of the soil feels dry.

  5. If the leaves of the plants show signs of stress, fertilize them with a weak solution of fish emulsion.

  6. Enjoy your delicious plants!

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Understanding Your Apartment Lease

Congrats! Your apartment application has been accepted!

Now here’s a giant legal document you must sign to live here… enjoy!

-All Property Managers

Signing a legally binding agreement is a daunting task. Especially when it looks something like this:


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😳😳😳😳😳

Unfortunately you can’t just look the other way and sign on the dotted line.

You MUST understand what you’re signing.

Here is what to look for when signing a new lease:

1) Make sure it’s all there.

You can’t assume that everything previously discussed or agreed upon is automatically in the lease. Notably — check the rent amount and lease term.

You should also review the answers they gave to the 7 questions you asked during your visit. Make sure it’s all there and accounted for. The last thing you’d want is to move in and find out your cat can’t come.


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Relax kitty. Your owner read the lease… right?

2) Paying & other fees.

The lease should have the property manager’s information on it, including how to contact them and how to pay them. If you need to physically mail a check, give yourself enough lead time so you aren’t charged a late fee.

Leases can sometimes include fees for things like parking, pets, amenities, utilities, and numerous other items. To reiterate — know what you’re signing.

3) Not sure? Just ask!

Don’t let the size and scope of this big agreement scare you. If something seems off, doesn’t look right, or is just confusing… ASK!

This is a legally-binding agreement so it’s perfectly reasonable to ask questions. You should be reviewing and signing with someone from the property management side so that the terms are clear and understood.

4) Have everybody sign.

Obviously you and your landlord need to sign. In certain cases, where you don’t meet the property manager’s income requirements, you’ll also need a guarantor to sign with you.

If others are living with you, they should also be signing the lease. If their name isn’t on the lease, they aren’t legally responsible to pay rent. Don’t get stuck with the entire lease in your name.

5) Sign and save.

After you agree to the terms and sign the lease, make sure you get a copy. It’s important to have this for your records so that you can reference the original agreement whenever you need to.

And that’s it!

You’ve got a new apartment. Time to party!


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The Apartment Application: What You Need to Know


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Finally… You visited an apartment and fell in love with it. It’s the place of your dreams!

So you’re done — right?

Wrong. It’s time to apply.

For those new to this process — it can be daunting and quite personal.

Have your paperwork prepared beforehand, so you can submit quickly and not lose out on that place you love.

What exactly is an apartment application?

Management companies don’t want just anyone living in their buildings. They want to know who you are and, of course — if you can pay.

While each company is different, most require the same things. So you should be able to plan ahead.

What do I need to provide?

Identification

A scanned copy or even a picture of your license should suffice. However you do it, make sure the front and back are clear and readable.


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This won’t pass for ID

You’ll also likely have to provide your Social Security Number. It’s personal, yes, but you won’t get the place without it.

Credit Check

This is one of the main criteria management companies will use to assess you as a potential tenant. Since this is always required, you can pre-empt it by printing a new credit report and sending it in with the application.

Bank Information

Often you’ll be asked to provide two recent bank statements, along with your account number. This, along with your credit check and employment info (below), will be used to gauge your ability to pay rent each month.


What applications feel like

What applications feel like

Proof of Employment

There’s a couple facets to this…

  1. Reference Letter. Your employer will provide this (on company letterhead), stating that you are employed by the company, for how long, and what your position and salary is.

  2. Income Requirements. Most management companies will require tenants to earn 40–50x the monthly rent (e.g. making $60,000 for a $1,500/month apartment). You’ll have to provide your last 2–3 pay stubs as proof of this income.

  3. If you don’t meet this requirement: You’ll need to have a guarantor who, outside of also going through the application process, earns 80–90x the monthly rent.

Tax Returns

This one is straighforward. You’ll be asked to provide your last two tax returns or W-2s. Have these ready when you start looking.

References

Management companies will often want to call your previous landlord to ask them about you as a tenant. Did you pay rent on time? Were you messy and troublesome? Or clean and friendly? These can go a long way, especially in big markets where you’re competing against other applicants.


These matter!

These matter!

The Application & Fees

Oh right… the application. Luckily, this isn’t too difficult. Applications are fairly standard, asking for some basic information about you.

Unfortunately, they also require an application fee. Expect to pay anywhere from $50–$100. The amount depends on the property manager, with some as low as $25 and others upwards of $200. This is non-refundable so make sure you have everything else in order before you pay to apply.

To take the apartment off the market while your app is processed, some management companies will have you put down a portion of your security deposit. If you love the place, it’s a recommended practice since you’ll have to provide that money anyway.

After the above, you must be thinking…

How does anyone actually get an apartment?

Don’t worry, it’s not as difficult as it looks.

Be prepared and carve out time dedicated to the administrative aspects of getting your new place. Then — you’re done!

Well… until it’s time to sign your lease and move. 😊

But we’ll save those for another time.

Until then, happy searching!

Thanks for reading! If you liked this post, please recommend or share it with others. 🙂

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