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How to Start a Garden

Balconies make ideal gardens

We’re going to walk you through the steps of starting a garden, and show you how we adapted the steps to start a garden in an apartment. We hope you’ll get some ideas and be able to adapt the steps yourself, so you can have a garden, no matter how much space you have!

Shop our Garden Starters 

Apartment balcony with a plant stand vertical garden with container herbs and perennial vegetables

Spring Update!

Balcony Garden in Spring

Tools Needed to Garden


-Containers / Pots

-Soil / Potting Mix



-Plant tags / Labels


-Thermometer / Hygrometer

-Grow Light

-Seedling Heat Mat

-Indoor / Mini Greenhouse

Low light edible container garden with 7 top turnips and mesclun mix 

Where Can I Grow a Garden?

Here are some ideas to get you started:




-Beds / Raised Beds

-Community Garden






Small-space garden with cat-friendly cat grass and oregano

How We Started our Garden:

We knew we wanted to utilize our balcony space for a container garden. Our balcony is high enough that there are no shade obstructions, and it faces southeast, getting full sun through the morning and afternoon, and shading in the evening. This is pretty much an ideal growing environment, especially for the plants we picked out to grow.


Garlic plants growing in a terra cotta pot from regrown grocery store produce

In order to maximize our growing space, we are using a plant shelf, essentially creating a vertical garden.  We placed the shelves right next to the railing so they get the maximum amount of sun. We placed plants that require less sun towards the bottom, and anything our cats might eat on the top. (Including the catnip, until it is mature enough to endure regular chompings!)


Finding Space to Garden

In Seattle, we spent four years on a waitlist for a spot in a community garden, but this year, and after moving, we were able to acquire two beds! If you have a community garden nearby, we strongly recommend looking into signing up.

So, we have our vertical garden on our balcony, and two 4’ x 12’ beds to grow in, which leads us to our next step, planning your garden.

 Starting seeds indoors in a greenhouse using a grow light and heat mat

When to Start Seeds

There are a lot of variables that affect the timing for starting your seeds. The best source for information specific to your area is always through your local university, just search online for their gardening extension. It will take a lot of the guesswork out for planning your garden, since they already have so much data on local weather patterns and plant growth. They can tell you what to plant and when to plant it, at least for all the popular plants.

If you have seeds for something less common, or you can’t find specific information, just look on the back of the seed pack. They will tell you when to sow the seeds, usually in terms of “frost dates” or “freezes.” That information is much easier to find online; for instance, Spokane has a “last frost date” of May 15, which means we need to start the majority of our seeds indoors in late March / early April.

Photo of seed pack sowing instructions with last frost date


Planning your Garden

To plan out the physical layout for our garden, we used dotted paper (graph paper works) to draw the dimensions of our garden, as well as the spacing required for each plant we are growing. For example, tomatoes and peas take up about one square foot, and watermelons take two square feet. Then, it’s basically playing Tetris! Keep in mind anything that grows on a trellis (you’ll usually want them in the back so you can access shorter plants in front) or has any other specific requirements that would necessitate a particular location.

Journal with drawing of vegetable garden layout and balcony container herb garden plan


Next Week... we’re going to talk about planting seeds (so get your supplies ready!). We’ll also show you how to regrow grocery store produce, including ginger, green onions, papaya and more!

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