What do plants need to survive? Okay, you never liked the biology teacher, and forgot all of it right after the final exams. So, make a guess. Water and sunlight, right? They also need air like we animals do, but that is something that is available all around for free. The plants draw water through their roots, and absorb sunlight through their leaves. Combining them with Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere, they make food that we all end up eating.
Too much science already? Okay, this is enough. The point is, the plants need some material that can hold moisture, and allow the roots to grow in. They also need sunlight, at least for a few hours per day. Arrange these, the plants should grow. But too much water, and too much sun can easily kill a plant. Water must therefore be held in a medium that holds the moisture, but drains the excess water that you will definitely end up adding. Normal soil is often not so good in this department. That is why you need to use special potting mixture, and a pot or bag that has perforations at the bottom to drain the excess water.
I hear you. Dampness is the enemy of cleanliness. You can’t allow the water that drains from the pots to creep onto the spotless clean window sill or balcony and cause stains and moulds. Horrors of still, some creepy crawlies like worms and millipedes like the damp stuff, and may make their home among the plants.
The solution is to use a double wall of defense. Place the pots in a shallow tray that can contain the draining water. You can remove the excess water from the tray if needed, but it is a good idea to let a small layer of water to stay in the tray. This will discourage many creepy crawlies from getting to the pots. But it is important not to let this water to go stale. So, you might want to clean the tray once every couple of days. If you are willing to put in the same effort that you put to keep your kitchen counter dry, you should be fine to be a window sill farmer.
It is better to use a location where there is direct sunlight for at least a couple of hours a day. Bright daylight, even though not direct sunshine, also would work to some extent. You may not be able to grow certain plants that need good sunlight, but there are shade lovers in the plant kingdom. However, if the only window or balcony you have faces the adjacent apartment tower, you might be out of luck.
So if you have a place that is six inches wide and a couple of feet long, and if that place gets good daylight, you can definitely bring in some much desired greenery in your life. All it takes is a bit of effort, and yes, a green thumb.
A kind contribution from Dileep Kumar for Housedelic.