This is the biggest setback when it comes to turning your apartment into a green wonderland. Don't let this make you despondent though. Plants do all their growing in the evening anyway. The first step would be to plan the growing area(s). If you live in an apartment with a balcony then you're scoring ground, but if you don't it's okay. Every windowsill in direct or partial sunlight will become the domain for your chlorophyll-collecting friends. The space utilised will decide which plants you can grow as well. It's best to think of ways to utilise the space you have. There is nothing stopping you from growing your own veggie patch in the comfort of your very own two bedroom apartment ... cherry tomatoes grow well under these circumstances. You'll just need to support the vines with wooden dowels.
Growing from a seed is one of the coolest things on earth. There's a certain type of joy that pops up as soon as the seedling sticks its head out of the growing medium. If you are keen on growing flowers, look for plants that will thrive in low light. Primrose, Forget-Me-Not and Lily of the Valley are all winners in this field. If you're more into growing for sustenance, then keep in mind that a kitchen windowsill is a perfect spot for herbs. Basil, parsley, mint, sage and rosemary are very easy to grow and maintain. When buying seeds, check the back of each packet for more information about how much sunlight each plant needs. Perhaps grow some strawberries. The plants can be used as decoration as well.
Pretty much anything that can hold liquid can be used... well, except for upcycled bottles of detergent or the like. The bottom of two litre soft drink bottles can be cut off and used. But, remember that the exterior will need to be spray painted or covered to stop light from shining on to the growing medium. This trick is to prevent mould and algae from growing in between the crevices on the inside of the container. Old yoghurt containers may be used as well - just wash the plastic well enough because potting soil and stale dairy don't mix.
Be sure to drill at least three drainage holes at the bottom of each container. Otherwise, the roots of your plants will rot. Always make sure you place a tray under these containers. You don't really want to soak your apartment up with filtered flora juices. Other than that, you can always go buy clay or ceramic pots from your local hardware store or nursery.
While you're at the nursery grab a bag of potting soil and some compost. Never use soil you had dug up from your garden, your neighbour's garden or any other garden. Because you are going full swing and growing from a seed, you want those babies to get the right nutrients from the get-go. Mix up two-thirds of potting soil with one-third of compost. Leave at least three fingers remaining shy from the container's lip. Steer clear of things such as bone meal because these tend to burn saplings.
This is the easiest step. On the back of your store-bought packet of seeds, it will indicate how far each seed needs to be planted from the next. This is fairly important, because having a bunch of plants right next to each other will lead to pretty much all of them dying out. The average seed needs to be planted about 25mm - about half an index finger - into the growing medium. After sticking the seed in the ground, cover and compress the hole lightly.
The first time around you want to water thoroughly. After that you just need to keep an eye on how dry or damp the potting soil/compost mix is. Over water and you will end up with yellow leaves. Under water and you will end up with nothing.
In the age of the internet, we have no excuse for not finding solutions to our problems. Do a search on container gardening and grab yourself some inspiration. Remember, if they can do it, so can you.
By Shawn Greyling