Sustainable Apartment Gardening [ How To Grow Sustainable Vegetables ]

What is sustainable apartment gardening and is indoor gardening sustainable? I believe it can be, but I think it depends on how you define sustainable. 

What is sustainable apartment gardening and is indoor gardening sustainable? I believe it can be, but I think it depends on how you define sustainable. 

Sustainable Apartment Gardening With Coco Coir

 

Sustainable and sustainability are common buzz words that are thrown around and applied to many things. So I decided to do some research and find out what they really mean.

My definition of sustainable apartment gardening is growing the plants in our apartment naturally by using organic gardening methods and organic nutrients that sustain your soil and feed your plants without depleting natural resources or damaging our planet.

Well, that’s what I think it means anyway. Here is what the dictionary says:

Essential Meaning of sustainable
1: able to be used without being completely used up or destroyed
sustainable energy resources
a sustainable water supply
2: involving methods that do not completely use up or destroy natural resources
sustainable agriculture/farming/techniques
3: able to last or continue for a long time
sustainable development/growth
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/sustainable

So I guess I am much pretty spot on. Obviously, it is much easier to sustain some plants than others. Vegetables are usually short lived and more demanding than most house plants.

Sustainable Apartment Gardening For Vegetables

If we want to try our hand at sustainable apartment vegetable gardening, then sustainability is a bit harder to achieve, but I think it can be done.

Our first problem is that most vegetables are annuals. Because they are short lived and they are more demanding of light and nutrients.

But it is possible to save seed if you grow open pollinated varieties instead of hybrids. So to be completely sustainable you would have to do this. Personally I don’t think it is a big deal if you buy organically grown seeds.

Now some vegetables are perennial. Tomatoes come to mind. While you can’t grow them forever you can learn how to take cuttings and root them.

Best Soil For Sustainable Apartment Vegetable Gardening 

The best soil for apartment vegetable gardening isn’t soil at all but coco coir. Coco coir is made from ground up coconut shells so it is a completely renewable resource.

By contrast, most potting soil mixes are made with peat. Peat is strip mined and this strip mining is destroying our natural wetlands. Peat is also extremely acidic. It is treated with lime to raise its pH. It is also very hard to wet once it has dried. So it is treated with wetting agents.

Once these additives have been used up (after one crop) you need to replace your potting soil. Coco coir can be used at least 3 times before it starts to lose its structure. Soil will also lose its structure and compact over time.

Nothing needs to be added to coco as it is fairly neutral in pH. It is easy to wet, has great wicking abilities and retains a lot of oxygen even when wet.

Please also be aware that regular garden soil cannot be used indoors. It will compact and it could bring outdoor pests into your home. So you can’t fill your pots with outside dirt.

So it is pretty obvious if you want to grow vegetables indoors it is your best choice. Here is an article I wrote about growing in coco. Growing Vegetables In Coco Coir Get Amazing Results (indoorvegetablegrower.com)

Use Indoor Worm Composting To Feed Your Veggies

Worm castings make fantastic fertilizer for your veggies. As long as worms are alive they will be sustainable. You can buy them ready to use.

Worm Castings

But if you are truly into sustainable gardening, you will want to set up a worm composting bin. It is not hard to do and it won’t smell up your apartment.

It can be done with a couple of 5 gallon buckets. So it does not take up much space. I am using a Worm Factory 360 in my small apartment. It works well and does not take up much space at 16.5 inches square.

You will probably need to buy worms unless you have a friend with a manure pile. Composting worms are called red wrigglers and are specialized worms and not the same as regular earth worms.

Worms can help you turn your kitchen waste into garden fertilizer. They also eat paper and cardboard so you can recycle your junk mail!

If you want to become a sustainable apartment gardener then I would really consider keeping worms. Worm Composting In Your Apartment – How To Turbo-charge Your Garden (indoorvegetablegrower.com)

Bokashi Composting In An Apartment

Not everything can be fed to worms. You should not add meat, dairy or very acidic things like citrus. However, a bokashi composter can take care of these things. This is an anaerobic (without air) type of composting and results in a pickling type of compost.

Learn more about bokashi composting Bokashi Composting Easily Start A Bokashi Bucket (indoorvegetablegrower.com)

But it must be further processed to use in the garden. You can use a Bokashi soil factory to do this. Bokashi Soil Factory Bokashi Composting For Apartments [What No One Tells You] (indoorvegetablegrower.com)

Buying  OMRI Certified Fertilizer 

If you are not planning on keeping a worm bin or buying worm castings then there are quite a few brands of complete organic fertilizer.

Miracle Grow OMRI Certified Plant Food

Miracle-Gro Performance Organics Edibles is OMRI Certified. It is water soluble, so easy to use while watering. However, some ingredients are mined natural minerals so I don’t consider its sources totally sustainable.

HOSS Complete Organic Fertilizer

HOSS Complete Organic Fertilizer  This should satisfy those who want to use a totally sustainable product. It is made from pelleted chicken manure and is OMRI Certified.

But make sure you read the label. Some companies will claim their fertilizer is organic or natural. If it is really organic it will say it is OMRI Certified. You can check what is certified and what isn’t below:

The OMRI Products List© is a directory of all products OMRI has determined are allowed for use in organic production, processing, and handling according to the USDA National Organic Program. OMRI Products List | Organic Materials Review Institute

Is Indoor Gardening Sustainable?

Indoor vegetable gardening is harder than just keeping a few low light houseplants. But it is doable. How much of a challenge it is depends a lot on you.

Those that take the purest approach to sustainability will strive to be more self sufficient and will measure success by not having to buy a lot of products from somewhere else.

But there is nothing wrong with buying worm castings or organic fertilizer. My view is that anything that is not harmful to people or the planet is fair game.

Just make sure any products you buy are OMRI certified. So for those of you whose goal isn’t total self sufficiency then sustainable gardening is much easier to accomplish.