Spring DIY Projects for Broke-Ass Apartment Dwellers

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Guest Post By: Nick Cesare

Spring is in the air, and it’s time to start making some changes. For a lot of folks this means tending the gardens, repainting the house, or redoing their kitchen with granite countertops. If you’re like me though, you live in an apartment, and your spring project options are severely limited.

When you live in an apartment or rent out a room from a landlord, there’s not a whole lot that you can do in the way of renovations. A lot of us will add a painting or two and maybe a cactus for some personality. Tearing out the kitchen because you weren’t happy with its access to the dining area (aka your couch) will probably get you into some trouble, though.

So where’s a broke-ass apartment dweller to turn? Here are three DIY projects for you to undertake this spring, taken from my own repertoire.

Apartment Herb Garden

herb diy

Herb gardens are the new hotness. They seem to be popping up in backyards everywhere as a good way to get a pinch in a pinch; when a recipe calls for a dash of fresh oregano, it is so much easier (and cheaper) to go out and pick a few leaves than to buy a whole package that you’re only going to use once.

The thing is, growing any sort of plant has long been difficult in an apartment. Most obviously, renters of individual units often times don’t have access to a ton usable space. In my case, there’s a strip of dirt with some bushes and small ferns just outside of my window, but I’m pretty sure that I’m not allowed to go digging in that. Smaller problems include getting enough sunlight and water to anything that you might want to grow. Window-filtered light alone isn’t always enough to satisfy growing flora, and it’s hard to water windowsill plants without making a huge mess.

Here are some solutions to these problems:

  • Grow herbs in pots on a porch if you have one. It’s also possible to set them outside your front door if your neighbors aren’t too rowdy.
  • If your porch is non-existent or constantly in the shade, indoor grow lamps are a thing and, despite their reputation, they work fine for everything from thyme to tarragon.

Unlike vegetables, herbs are compact enough to grow without taking up too much space and, with a little planning, any apartment dweller can pull off an incredibly handy herb garden.

Indoor Lemon Tree


Now that I’ve just said that vegetables are too big to be grown in an apartment, here’s how to grow a whole lemon tree in your living room.

I thought I was the subject of a joke when I first heard that this was possible. My girlfriend casually mentioned that her parents were going to bring her lemon tree to her new apartment, and I did a double take. Turns out that this was not a prank; indoor lemon trees are a very real thing.

As with herbs, lemons are another ingredient that a lot of us pause at when we’re shopping. Sure, fresh lemons are great for all our favorite cocktails, but that stuff in the plastic bottle is just so convenient . . . Well there’s nothing more convenient than walking from the kitchen to your living room to pick a fresh lemon. Here’s how to do it:

  • Pick up pre-started dwarf lemon tree from a grower near you.
  • Set it down in a pot with healthy soil in an spot that gets a lot of sunlight.
  • Abide by the basics of good tree maintenance until you’ve got fresh lemon blooms.

Not only does a lemon tree have tons of culinary applications, it also leaves a great freshening aroma in your apartment. Much better than those chemical lemon scents, for sure.

Potatoes in a Sack


One final food-oriented project to top it all off: growing your own potatoes from scratch in a sack of dirt. It sounds weird, but it actually works. Since potatoes are the staple of a cheap diet and 31 percent of Americans cook at home to bring down costs, this is the perfect project for broke-ass home cooks.

This is going to sound underwhelming, but the way to do it is fill a sack with soil, maybe a garbage bag or old fabric pouch, cut up some seed potatoes, and mix those potato chunks into the soil. Drop the sack outside your door, water regularly, and as long as you can convince your landlord that you’re not actually leaving trash outside your door, you’ll end up with homegrown fresh potatoes.

For those not in the know, seed potatoes are just ordinary potatoes that are used for planting. Every potato has the potential to grow a new plant from its eyes (you’ve probably seen this process begin if you’ve left potatoes out for too long), so just grab a few healthy-looking potatoes from the store and voilà.

DIY home projects aren’t just for fancy homeowners. Broke-ass apartment dwellers can take part in the fun (and reap the rewards) as well. If you use your space wisely and making the best of what you’ve got, there are tons of awesome projects available.

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