4

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What are some good vegetables, houseplants, etc., to grow on an apartment windowsill?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created April 13, 2012 at 4:07 PM

I was thinking of growing some kind of potted plant or vegetable in my apartment in NYC. I have a small windowsill (inside) that faces north-northeast and seems to get a good amount of sun- no tall buildings are in the way.

My dream would be to grow tomatoes or some vegetable I could eat, but I don't know if that's possible. Herbs are a possibility, but I'm actually not that interested in them, because I rarely use them. Anyway, it would be nice to have SOMETHING green in the apartment. I hear some houseplants can clean and oxygenate the air.

Any tips? What's worked for you? What's the best kind of soil to get? (If I'm growing food, it would be great to get nutrient-rich soil). Thanks.

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 14, 2012
at 12:18 AM

Mint = I used to grow that one. I'd rip off runners and randomly toss them about as I walked around. They'll root up and take over in no time. Garden Bombing I called it.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on April 13, 2012
at 08:20 PM

If you grow basil and mint, you could start charging admission to your apartment as an "aromatherapy clinic".

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on April 13, 2012
at 08:19 PM

If you grow basil and mint, you start charging admission to your apartment as an "aromatherapy clinic".

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on April 13, 2012
at 07:55 PM

Nasturtiums!!!! Your window would look like a stained glass window if you trained them to grow upwards with string.

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on April 13, 2012
at 05:25 PM

Totally agree..

62442eec80b7d248ccfa08f98f736748

on April 13, 2012
at 05:13 PM

+1 for an awesome and novel question.

863fbe3ea7cacba9a77b19a09bf445cf

on April 13, 2012
at 05:02 PM

Agreed. And it smells great. Even if you rarely use herbs for cooking, they can at least look pretty. And you can use them to scent other things (soap, household cleaners) if you're one of those create-your-own stuff types. Thyme is easy. So is mint (an invasive menace in a garden, but fine in a pot). Here's an interesting list of air-filtering plants compiled by NASA (so sciency!): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_air-filtering_plants

F5f742cc9228eb5804114d0f3be4e587

(7660)

on April 13, 2012
at 04:38 PM

Yeah, tomatoes need about 8 hours of direct sunshine.

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10 Answers

3
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 13, 2012
at 04:52 PM

Herbs and Greens. If it is very shady think salad. Without lots of sun herbs tend to be a bit bland, they only get really stinky if you have hot sun on them a fair bit.

3
1edb06ded9ccf098a4517ca4a7a34ebc

on April 13, 2012
at 04:10 PM

basil is super easy.

Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on April 13, 2012
at 05:25 PM

Totally agree..

863fbe3ea7cacba9a77b19a09bf445cf

on April 13, 2012
at 05:02 PM

Agreed. And it smells great. Even if you rarely use herbs for cooking, they can at least look pretty. And you can use them to scent other things (soap, household cleaners) if you're one of those create-your-own stuff types. Thyme is easy. So is mint (an invasive menace in a garden, but fine in a pot). Here's an interesting list of air-filtering plants compiled by NASA (so sciency!): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_air-filtering_plants

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on April 13, 2012
at 08:20 PM

If you grow basil and mint, you could start charging admission to your apartment as an "aromatherapy clinic".

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on April 13, 2012
at 08:19 PM

If you grow basil and mint, you start charging admission to your apartment as an "aromatherapy clinic".

2
Ce7e28769d92d5de5533e775b1de966e

on April 13, 2012
at 05:14 PM

Definitely hit the Union Square Greenmarket and see what they've got going on as they have tons of organic starts in lovely soil - and if you want more they'll hook you up. I was just up there and had a fit of happiness and am planning my own window boxes as well. What I have listed will all work, I put some herbs in there for cooking and whatnot - have fun!

  • Mint - leave alone, add to cocktails, smash and top with seltzer-
  • Edible pansies and other florals - pretty to look at yum to eat-
  • Rosemary and/or Sage as it will make your apartment smell great-
  • Salad greens! Just snip when you want-
  • Radishes-
  • Tomatoes - just have something that you can tie them up to-
  • Peppers

Oh crap - forgot to add that I'm also going to be doing heirloom strawberries. They're smaller and I'm just going to be careful and start tying them up if/when they start to tendril. Experiment!

77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 14, 2012
at 12:18 AM

Mint = I used to grow that one. I'd rip off runners and randomly toss them about as I walked around. They'll root up and take over in no time. Garden Bombing I called it.

2
F5f742cc9228eb5804114d0f3be4e587

(7660)

on April 13, 2012
at 04:37 PM

Things like radishes and lettuces are ready fairly quickly and have high turnover. You could also try some edible flowers like nasturtiums, they make a lovely addition to salads.

6120c989fd5b69f42a0834b69b87955b

(24553)

on April 13, 2012
at 07:55 PM

Nasturtiums!!!! Your window would look like a stained glass window if you trained them to grow upwards with string.

2
8949bf87b0e0aefcad10f29975e4fa2b

(8989)

on April 13, 2012
at 04:34 PM

A balcony facing north/northeast doesn't usually lead to tomato success. You might have better luck with beans, root vegetables, or any type of green.

F5f742cc9228eb5804114d0f3be4e587

(7660)

on April 13, 2012
at 04:38 PM

Yeah, tomatoes need about 8 hours of direct sunshine.

1
518bce04b12cd77741237e1f61075194

(11577)

on April 13, 2012
at 11:00 PM

Honestly, I wouldn't bother with trying tomatoes unless you are confident those suckers are going to get at LEAST 8 hours of sun a day. I have never successfully grown them, outside of my parents very-sunny garden parch.

I agree with everyone on the herbs and lettuce, but would also suggest some fun houseplants that may or may not bare fruit. An avocado plant is a lot of fun: http://www.apartmenttherapy.com/how-to-grow-an-avocado-tree-53348 and our lemon tree, though it made the floor rather sticky around the window, produced a surprising amount of lemons and had a great smell.

0
77877f762c40637911396daa19b53094

(78467)

on April 13, 2012
at 10:37 PM

Rocket a.k.a Rucola.

0
78cb3c4f70de5db2adb52b6b9671894b

on April 13, 2012
at 09:34 PM

I don't really know how big the window is, how much light or whatever you get, so I don't know if I can help you with the plant question. Tomatoes are easy to grow, but they GROW. They are pretty low maintenance, but I imagine it would be difficult indoors because of the space limitations.

For houseplants, what about a small bamboo plant or orchids? Both of those are pretty easy to keep alive and they look "pretty". I'm not sure how well they clean the air, but all plants, do something, so they would be nice additions. Also, those plants don't really attract bugs, which is nice.

0
D826ee7c5f65d509348f7fe8aeeafdd4

(368)

on April 13, 2012
at 08:14 PM

My apartment gets about 20 minutes of sunlight a day otherwise I would totally do this. Whatever you grow, I'll buy! :)

I once worked with an entrepreneur who wanted to sell these designer rooftop/terrace garden planters (http://roofcrops.com). The project never came to fruition but I wonder if there are similar products on the market for the urban gardener...

0
1a7ba557a417504545aa70272b226f8f

on April 13, 2012
at 05:21 PM

As others have said, it's not easy to grow much food in your window, though people do have success. I'd agree with others that it's best to start with simple things like greens. You might also think about growing scallions or something similar. You can always use 'em. (Here's a tip on regrowing them after using the green parts: http://thatwasvegan.wordpress.com/2012/03/16/make-those-scallions-last-forever/) With most greens and the tops of things like scallions or even garlic, you can cut them back and they'll keep growing and producing food for you.

But don't dismiss the herbs out of hand: If you grow them, you're more likely to use them. Having something super simple around like thyme can make all your veggies taste better AND help in case of lung or sinus infections (use as a steam.) I'm biased, but I think you'll save more money, live more sustainably and be more healthy if you have a few decent first-aid herbs around.

As for air-cleaning plants, NASA did some research a few decades ago about the best plants for this purpose. There are tons of lists floating around (here's one, found with a random google search: http://www.englishgardens.com/10-best-clean-air-house-plants), but all are based on that original data. My feeling is not to get wedded to what's highest on the list, just go for plants you like and will keep alive. More is good. And you'll do better with plants you like. I'm personally a houseplant killer, so anything that moves in with me has to survive a lot of neglect. :)

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