Tiny windowsill? No problem.

By Lauren Wellbank
June 16, 2021
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Seed germination on a window sill
Credit: lucentius / Getty Images

Starting your plants from seed is a fun, economical way to add a few unique varieties to your garden. However, if you live in an apartment or condominium complex and have limited window space, you might have to get a little creative in order to grow everything you want to. Fortunately, there are a few easy (and inexpensive) ways you can use to start your seeds indoors, even if you're short on square footage.

You don't need much light to start.

According to Blythe Yost, the CEO and co-founder of Tilly, a landscaping company, you don't need much light to get your seeds started indoors. "It's all about moisture and temperature," she says. So long as you have a warm spot to begin, you can move seeds somewhere sunny once they begin to sprout, which can save you valuable windowsill space upfront. However, you will need a bright place to put your seeds eventually. To get ahead of this dilemma, place seeds in compact vessels, which can be made from items you already have. "We love reclaimed recycling for starting seeds," Yost notes. "Half an orange juice carton or milk jug with a few inches of potting soil can be an easy vessel for a few seeds and will still fit on a windowsill once they begin to poke through." Ultimately, these holders have a smaller footprint than larger pre-fab trays-just don't forget to add holes to the bottom for drainage or else you run the risk of flooding your seeds.

Take advantage of vertical areas.

If you're short on window space, but have at least three feet of room elsewhere in a well-lit part of your apartment or condo-and are open to a suspended, mid-air solution-you can convert that area into a grow station, notes Kari Warberg Block, a master gardener, pest prevention expert, and the CEO and founder of EarthKind. All you need to do is place grow lights into your overhead fixtures. "Then, hang a pallet underneath, securing it to the ceiling rafters with large hooks and wire," she says. "There should be a one-foot gap between the two so you can slide seed trays in and out." Warberg Block explains that she was able to get all of her plants started this way and notes that it is an inexpensive option if you have a tight budget and limited space. This a particularly great alternative if you have access to an open basement or garage.

Maximize the windowsill you do have.

Don't discount the space above your windowsill, either. Yost says you can elevate your seedlings easily to take advantage of the entire window. "This can be done quickly with a small hook and some twine or more decoratively with hanging planters and pots," she says. Additionally, you can increase window space by hanging shelving units. "Measure the length of your window, then purchase a floating shelf and install the brackets on either side. Then, slide the shelf in," explains Warberg Block.

Get creative with light sources.

There are plenty of ways to introduce grow lights into your space without having to spring for huge bulbs or complex contraptions. Yost notes that adding a special light to your existing fixtures may be enough for baby buds. "A grow-light bulb can even be added to a clip-on reading light to provide a little extra boost for young seedlings," she says. This will allow for targeted light in smaller areas.

Opt for smaller plants from the start.

If you live in an apartment that is already tight on space, Warberg Block suggests sticking to plants that won't grow too large as they mature; varieties like mint, rosemary, and thyme stay small. "It is helpful to purchase compact varieties of herbs so they don't take up even more room," she affirms.

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