Issue: November 10, 2007

Small apartment garden possible in winter

I have been wanting to garden, but I live in an apartment and thought it was not possible. However, your gardening articles inspire me and I wondered if you have any ideas for me. My apartment is a second floor apartment with windows to the east and south. I also have a spacious balcony that faces east. What do you think? Can I grow some vegetables and flowers? I know this is the wrong season to start, but I want to begin planning.

Tommie K.


This is actually a great season to be thinking about gardening, and you can actually begin your gardening now. Indoor gardening allows gardeners to enjoy their hobby during the winter. Many people with outdoor gardens have winter gardens on their windowsills and sunrooms.

The plant breeders have not forgotten apartment dwellers. They have bred dwarf or miniature varieties of many garden crops that grow and produce in windowsill or potted gardens. As I described last week, NMSU's chile breeder, Dr. Paul Bosland, has developed ornamental and edible chile plants that work well on windowsills. There are also dwarf varieties of lettuce, kale, snow peas, Chinese cabbage, tomatoes, even okra and eggplants. There are even dwarf corn plants that you can grow on your balcony next summer.

For the winter, you can start your indoor garden with chives and basil. Chives are naturally small and there are dwarf basil varieties. Imagine that bowl of steaming hot tomato soup that you can be enjoying this winter with fresh chives and basil. If you start the plants now, you will be enjoying them soon. Add in some New Mexico compact chile plants to brighten a room and spice up your meals.

Some plants such as kale, snow peas, carrots, and even lettuce can be grown this winter in pots on your balcony. If you plant in large pots, place the pots on platforms with casters so that you can roll them indoors on the coldest nights. These plants will survive many of our winter nights outside, but may need protection when the temperature drops to the low 20 degree range. If the pots remain on the wheeled platforms you can just roll them in at night and back outside after the day begins to warm up. When the weather becomes too hot for these winter crops, you can plant your summer crops in the same pots. Dwarf corn, tomatoes, dwarf okra, dwarf eggplants, and chiles will produce abundant crops in these large pots on your balcony.

You can also grow many flowering plants in pots on your balcony. Plant some smaller flowering plants in the large pots with the vegetables. You will have an attractive balcony that produces fresh food to enhance your meals.

If you are intrigued with this type of gardening, there are dwarf orange and avocado trees that you can grow in the larger containers on your balcony. They will definitely need the wheeled bases because they will freeze if left out on cold nights, but can roll them easily in at night and out on warm days. They will provide you with fresh fruit from your balcony garden.

Check your local nursery and major seed companies on the internet for plants and seeds for your productive balcony garden. Living in an apartment is not an excuse not to garden, if you enjoy gardening.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

Send gardening questions to Southwest Yard and Garden - Attn: Dr. Marisa Thompson at, or at the Desert Blooms Facebook.

Please copy your County Extension Agent and indicate your county of residence when you submit your question!