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  • Naomi Stephens | Permaculture Designer

Indoor Apartment Gardening Guide for Beginners

Updated: Apr 5, 2022

A successful indoor apartment garden is one where the plants are flourishing with a great soil base, water and enough light.

Indoor gardening is not as simple as it seems because indoors is not the natural environment for a plant.

But with this help in covering the basics, you will be able to create a suitable environment indoors for your plants to grow well.

a bunch of large plants indoors facing the window

1. Soil Base

Everyone seems to have a golden recipe for soil. What typically adds to the confusion, is that different plants like different kinds of soil.

For my indoor garden, I use the same soil composition and it works for all my many different varieties of plants.

I use coconut coir as the bases of my potting mix because it's cheap and easy to find. But there are other soil bases you can use, so i've listed the pros and cons below.

Breakdown of some of the soil bases:

Coconut Coir

This is the outside husk of a coconut that is dried.

Benefits: It holds a lot of water so your soil will remain damp for longer. It tends to be quite cheap because it is considered a waste product. It can expand up to 10 times its size.

Downsides: There aren’t any nutrients in this. This is an easy fix though. You just buy additional fertiliser or one that comes with added minerals.


This is formed from decomposed matter containing nitrogen (think green like grass clippings) and carbon (think brown like soil or cardboard). You mix those two things together and they decompose to make a nutrient rich growing medium.

Benefits: It’s nutrient rich and you're mimicking what happens in nature as forest leaves fall to the ground to mix with the carbon making compost.

Downsides: It takes months to make. It is not readily available and it tends to be more expensive.


This is straight from the garden soil

Benefits: It has life in it and it's cheap and readily available for most.

Downsides: These soils are not always the best to grow in, especially if you are using it indoors as it can be full of critters that may crawl out of your pot.

It’s also not great because the soil is made up of 3 components that are sand, silt and clay. You’ll need a right balance for your containers and so adjustments will need to be made.

Plus it could have weeds and other seeds nested in it.

2. Aerator

Plants need air to breathe at the roots. They respire just like we do. If you just leave the soil alone, it can quickly become compacted, drowning plants by preventing respiration of CO2 and the intake of oxygen at the roots.

Roots use tiny pockets of air between the soil to breathe. We can help them by adding an aerator to the soil base to create space. I always use vermiculite for this.

Vermiculite is a naturally occurring mineral called aluminum-iron magnesium silicates. Its ph is neutral at 7.0, it's durable because it doesn't rot.

Vermiculite helps the soil to retain water and increases the air pockets in the soil.

I recommend a 70/30 split with growing medium to vermiculite respectively.

3. Fertilizer

A green shovel with soil mixed with vermiculite on the surface

You're going to need fertilizer. Fertilizer is something that contains minerals and nutrients that feeds the plants.

Plants in their natural setting would have this rich source of food built up overtime. For example, in a forest, plants will die and their leaves will litter to the ground, along with trees shedding their leaves, This collection of leaves on the ground releases minerals into the ground. They remain there and are available for the roots of new plants to take them up after they have been decayed, eaten and pooped out by other critters.

picture of a forest floor and trees

There are many different fertilizers you can buy. There are slow-release fertilizers which are little balls of nutrition and minerals that release overtime. However, this method may not release enough to cover the whole season.

Artificial fertilizer has been shown to do more damage than good, as they reduce the availability of other nutrients in your soil.

Keep an eye on your indoor plants as they will tell you when something is wrong. To give an example, if a tomato plant's stem is turning purple, it is lacking nutrition. Also, yellowing leaves can also be a sign of a lack of nutrition.

I add liquid fertilizer when I water, sometimes once a week or once a month depending on the demands of the plant. A bit of research on the plant will indicate how often it needs to be fertilized.

I've managed to build a natural resource of fertilizers now so I don't use store-bought anymore. I've found that my plants grow better with natural fertilizer. I use the bokashi liquid, worm castings tea or aquarium water.

4. Light

A plant in a rainbow colour light

The last thing that you really need is light.

First of all, find out what direction you're facing.

If your window is facing the following:

  • North - you're not going to get any direct sunlight.

  • East - you're going to get the morning sunlight

  • South - you're getting sunlight all day.

  • West - you're going to get the afternoon sunlight.

This affects what you can grow. For example, if you're facing South, you can pretty much grow anything but you should also be careful not to grow plants that can not handle too much direct sunlight like seedlings.

If you're facing north, then you have nothing to fear because there are lots of plants which are shade-loving and will happily grow in the daylight.

5.Grow lights

However, sometimes the light you get inside of the house just isn't enough. Double glazed windows filter sun rays. For the most optimum indoor apartment garden, you will need to purchase grow lights.

Signs that you need grow lights are when your plants are really thin, called leggy plants and are practically falling over

There are different lights that you can use depending on the intensity of your growing operation.

Essentially you can use fluorescent lights, LED and high-pressure sodium lights.

Fluorescent lights and now LED lights are on the cheaper end. High-pressure sodium lights is more expensive.

I use an LED light seen in the picture.

Red focused lights are for fruiting plants like tomatoes while the blue lights are for green vegetation like spinach or kale.


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