You might think that lush gardens are only for those with large homes and sprawling acreage, but we have good news: here are 4 tips for creating a botanical paradise, even in small urban spaces!

Science says that finding time to commune with nature is critical for mental health and happiness, but we didn’t need a study to tell us that. Do you know many people who would reject the idea of relaxing in a bursting garden as the sun warms them from the outside in? 

For most city-dwellers in teeny tiny apartments, that feels like a pipe dream; but it doesn’t have to be!

There are plenty of ways urbanites can bring the outdoors in. We’ve done some digging, and we’re here to let you in on four easy-to-implement ideas to create an inner-city botanical ecosystem.

Terrariums

Terrariums are gardening’s answer to the tiny house: a compact space that packs a lively punch. Put simply, a terrarium is a garden in a bottle. Or a bowl. Or a fish tank. Or any glass container, for that matter. 

These tiny gardens are so popular because they’re incredibly low maintenance, inexpensive, and long-lasting. Terrariums are fascinating, self-dependent ecosystems, which means they can thrive on their own without you lifting a finger (or thumb - the green kind!). 

You can buy ready-made terrariums, but where’s the fun in that when you can just as easily make your own? Here’s how: 

Step 1: Choose a clear glass container. Make sure that the opening is wide enough for your hand (or a similar tool) to get in and out. 

Step 2: Cover the bottom of the container with rocks, stones, pebbles, or marbles. Don’t get crazy with the depth of this layer; you’ll want plenty of room for other terrarium elements. About an inch is best, depending on the depth of your container. Rocks of different shapes and sizes will allow for proper drainage and aeration. 

Step 3: Bring out the sphagnum! (Sounds gross; isn’t.) If using store-bought moss, be sure to dip it in water and wring it out before placing it in your terrarium. If you’d prefer to go au naturel, snag your sphagnum from Mother Nature and lay it down over the rock layer--no soaking or wringing needed! 

Step 4: Fill the container with a few inches of soil. The type of soil you need will vary based on what you’re planting, so be sure to do your research. Here’s a simple guideline to get you started. 

Step 5: It’s time to get planting! Terrarium planting methodology is very much the same as if you were laying seedlings or plants in a garden. Dig a small hole, place the plant’s roots inside, cover with soil, and pat down to stabilize.

Step 6: After all that work, you must be thirsty. Imagine how your freshly potted plants feel! Once you’re happy with the look of the terrarium, let the inaugural watering ceremony commence! Terrarium plants typically require watering once a month (in closed terrariums) or once every six weeks (in open terrariums). Don’t forget to place it in an area that will get the right amount of sunlight for the plant you’re growing, and enjoy!


Closeup of terrarium sitting on wood table to represent garden option for city dwellers

Living Garden Wall 

The benefits we reap from inviting nature into our homes might likely warrant covering every wall with floral friends, but even just one can enhance mental and physical health. Enter: the very rad living garden wall. 

Also referred to as a vertical garden or green wall, a living garden wall is the result of a significant amount of scientific thinking where fancy phrases like ‘fertigation delivery system’ and ‘hydroculture felt’ are commonplace. For those of us who are not architecture and vegetation experts, a living garden wall is essentially an interconnected system of plants that hangs vertically.  

Given the space (and a few pretty pennies), you can turn an entire wall, or a segment of it, into a living garden. If you don’t have the space or that’s too much of a commitment, check out this tutorial (and this one!) for building your own vertical planter instead. (Missing a tool or two? We’ve got you covered.)

 

Garden wall with neat rows of compartments for plants, representing for gardening in small spaces

Container Garden 

A container garden is exactly what it sounds like: a garden in containers! It’s obvious why this style of gardening works well for city living: minimal space requirements, customizable maintenance, and an opportunity to put beautiful receptacles to good use. (Hello, pretty wine bottle from 3 years ago you can’t bring yourself to throw away.)  

Container gardening works well for those who have patios, balconies, or even sun-drenched windowsills to work with. It’s also a great option for people who move homes regularly. All you need to start your own container garden is potting soil, seeds, and some kind of container. (This is an excellent way to practice upcycling by reusing household items such as empty cans, glass bottles, and sentimental items like mugs and bowls you don’t use but can’t throw away.)Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Plant pots 
  • Mason jars 
  • Clean, empty cans with sharp edges filed down 
  • Barrels 
  • Teacups 
  • Watering cans 
  • Baskets 
  • Tubs    
  • Bottles 
Small living space with white spiral staircase, copious plants scattered everywhere

Indoor Herb Garden 

Those without any outdoor area to speak of aren’t totally without options. Indoor herb gardens not only brighten up the appearance of your home but also improve indoor air quality and can add fresh, self-tended herbal love to your home-cooked meals. (Talk about a multi-tasker!) Plus, there are endless potting options!  

Many herbs can be grown inside, but there are a few that truly thrive: basil*, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme, and cilantro.   

*When tending basil, don’t be discouraged if stems become woody and leaves droopy within several weeks; it’s not you, it’s them! Basil plants do not have a very long lifespan in general, so it’s best to plant new seeds every few weeks to keep fresh basil in rotation.

Basil plant sits on window sill representing indoor herb gardens for small spaces

With a little time and TLC, anyone can build the garden of their dreams--not just country-dwellers and suburbanites! Which of these urban garden ideas will be your next DIY project? Let us know on Twitter @sparetoolzapp.  

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