Think you can’t garden because you live in an apartment? Think again. You don’t have to live in the country to a have a great escape. Your patio, porch or balcony can become your garden retreat. Gardening is about being outdoors and playing in the dirt. It doesn’t matter if that dirt is in the ground or in containers. Your tiny space can yield a plentiful harvest of fruits and vegetables or a showy display of beautiful flowers.              

First, evaluate the sunlight your garden space receives. This is the most important consideration for choosing plants. Does your garden face north or south? Assess the quality and quantity of sunlight each hour from sunrise to sunset. Avoid disappointment by selecting plants according to their sunlight requirements. This information is available on the nursery tag in the pot. Attempting to grow sun-loving plants in the shade is a waste of time, money and effort.       

Here’s a brief explanation of terms. Full sun usually means six hours of direct sunlight. Full sun in the morning is better than full sun in the afternoon. Afternoon sun is more stressful because it’s hotter and drier. Most flowering plants and vegetables enjoy six to eight hours of full morning sun. The terms partial sun and partial shade are sometimes used interchangeably.  They both mean three to six hours of sun exposure each day. Partial shade refers to morning and early afternoon sun. Partial sun plants require relief from the intense heat of the late afternoon sun. Dappled sun is similar to partial shade. It’s the sunlight that’s filtered through the branches of deciduous trees.  Daylight in the forest is an example of dappled sun. Full shade means less than three hours of sun each day. The easiest way to get a true sense of light requirements is to visit your local nursery.  The settings that you find the plants for sale will be the same settings you’ll need to grow them at home. Even if your balcony is in full shade there are plenty of shade-loving plants to choose from.         

Planter boxes are a classy way to garden.  Make sure the box itself drains freely. Be sure to use coconut liners in your planter boxes as well as your hanging baskets. During the growing season they hold water and release it slowly. Coconut fibers also have anti-fungal properties that help prevent plant diseases. At the end of the growing season, cleanup is so much easier. Just lift up the liners and add the whole thing to your compost pile.       

Nothing draws more attention than a fancy window box. Again, make sure it drains well and use a coconut liner. Use a potting mix but don’t fill more than two-thirds full. This keeps it from spilling over when you water. You’ll want at least three types of plants in a window box: one that grows up, one that spills over the sides and one that will fill in the gaps.  Contrasting colors and greenery make for dramatic displays. Miniature roses are an excellent choice for window boxes. Use every inch of your limited space. Grow things up instead of out. Grow vertically against a wall.  Railing planters come in a wide variety, from your basic fire escape type to five-star luxury.  The containers you choose should match the look and feel of your apartment and reflect your personal style.  

Rachel and Ivan Minnis are avid gardeners. They live in Leavenworth. For more information, visit The Minnis Rose Garden on Facebook. Contact them at