Start with a houseplant
Most apartments have pretty low light to offer plants. That’s how succulents caught on, plus the fact that they don’t require much watering. But skip last year’s trend and mix things up with shade-happy ivy, a bonsai tree, or gorgeous green-and-pink calathea. If you’re lucky enough to have lots of light, try little white jasmine. Treat your new best friend with a mini Haws watering can ($16) and Helen Levi ceramic planter ($110). Be sure to use potting soil, which is designed to drain, and don’t over-water.
Spice up your kitchen
There’s nothing better than having basil, mint, and lavender in reach for salads and cocktails, or growing your own sage to burn. Pick up starter plants at your local nursery and put the individual pots in a south-facing window. If you don’t have enough sun, swing by the hardware store and get a cheap clamp light, simple outlet timer, and a full-spectrum fluorescent bulb. For $30 you can make your own damn sun.
Step up to a rooftop garden
Most vegetables can be grown in large containers. Five-gallon paint buckets work on the cheap so long as you drill holes in the bottom for drainage. But consider your available space: cucumbers and squash, for example, like to sprawl. Lettuces, peppers, and tomatoes — always staked for support — work better for tighter spaces. Be sure to use soil designed for veggies, and water pretty much daily. If you have a balcony, try hanging baskets for your own crop of strawberries or hot fuchsias, geraniums, and begonias, which attract pollinating hummingbirds and butterflies.
Join a community garden
With urban farming and the demand for local produce on the rise, chances are there’s a community garden near you with gardeners eager to trade inside secrets for help with weeding and watering. Planting in raised beds lets you experiment with space-hogging plants, like pumpkins and melons, or expand your operation to have enough tomato plants for a year of ragu. Remember to wear sunscreen, bugspray, and gloves — ones made of bamboo keep your hands nice and cool. No time to help but want to show your support? Join a CSA, which offers weekly shares of vegetables from local farmers.
Go full country
Cities have their advantages, but the gardening possibilities ultimately max out. The next logical step is to pack up the pets and set your sights on a nice plot of land with full sun and loose, pH-neutral soil. Build a deer-blocking fence, some south-facing rows, and get to work. Advance to a greenhouse and start sending fan mail to Eliot Coleman.