Living in the city offers numerous perks. While we typically think of gardening as a “backyard” or suburban thing, urban living is no longer an excuse to avoid your green thumb.
Urban gardening has gained popularity over the past few years with the rise of community gardens and more sustainable living. Many people have given over their windowsills, balconies, patios, and rooftops to house both edible and decorative plants. Despite the compact size of urban gardens, they can still be daunting to begin: from finding the right space to selecting the right plants, there is a lot for a beginning gardener to consider. Luckily, with a little research and some experimentation, you can get your oasis up and growing with however much time and effort you want to give.
1. Define your space.
Whether you have an alleyway, an entire rooftop, or a fire escape, measure how much space you’ve got and decide how large you want your garden to be. There is no such thing a garden that’s “too small,” but the area you’ve got determines what kind of plants you can grow and in what layout. It’s also important to note what kind of elemental (sun, wind, rain) exposure your garden space gets everyday, as this will also influence the plants you can successfully grow.
2. Pick your pot.
If gardening beds are not an option, potted plants are the way to go. When picking pots, there are a few things to consider: how many plants do you want in each pot? What type of plant do you want? How many pots do you want? If you want to put multiple plants in one pot, consider formating. Planting a tall plant, like tomatoes, with a shorter plant, like basil, is an efficient use of space that won’t overcrowd plants. Additionally, the more pots you have in an area, the higher the humidity, which will improve plant growth. Be creative with your pot use: take advantage of hanging pots, trellises, and windowsill pots to maximize your space and create visual interest.
3. Choose your plants.
This is the fun part. Your urban garden can be anything you want it to be, so have fun with this part. Do you love peppers? Then grow them! Have you always liked azaleas? Plant them! The world is really your oyster when it comes to what you choose, but there are a few guidelines to follow. First, only plant what you have space for. Don’t overcrowd your plants, and don’t get too ambitious with how much you want to grow. Start small and go from there. Second, plant food you actually want to eat. At the core of most urban gardens are vegetables and herbs. This is a great way to increase sustainability as well as your intake of fresh produce, so don’t waste it on something you’re just going to leave on the plant. Some urban gardeners have themed gardens that have components for their favorite meals like peppers, green beans, snap peas, and thai basil for easy stir-fries. Even though gardens are supposed to be aesthetically pleasing, what matters most is the use you get from your investment.
4. Pot your plant.
When it comes to actually planting your potted garden, there are a few steps to follow. First, ensure that your pots have holes on the bottom to allow for water drainage. This is extremely important because it’s easy to overwater plants, and without a place for excess to escape, you’ll end up with some very dead plants. Not ideal. Second, when potting plants, not just any soil will do. You’ll need to get potting soil that is specifically made to include the right nutrients for plants that aren’t attached to the ground. In addition, you’ll want to get fertilizer, preferably organic, to enrich the pot’s soil. Although pots take a little more effort to set up than bedded plants, they don’t require any additional maintenance (no weeds to pull!) and come with the added bonus of mobility. This is great for beginning gardeners because it allows them to move plants around if they find that their plants are getting too much/too little sunlight in their original location.
5. Seed or seedling?
Depending on how much you trust your green thumb, you can either start from zero or cheat a little. If you choose to go the seed route, know that it will take longer for your plants to grow, and there’s a higher chance that they won’t. While I personally recommend going with a seedling, there is something fun about growing your own plant from scratch, so either decision has its perks.
6. Water’s where it’s at.
Another opportunity for you to test your gardening prowess: manual or automatic watering. There are some pretty advanced watering systems on the market that keep your plants hydrated so you only have to worry about watering a couple times a week (or less). They can be a little pricey, so if you’re looking to cut costs, manual watering is the way to go. Worried about over or under-watering? You can get a water level monitor that will help.
7. Have fun.
Your urban garden should be an oasis. It’s your chance to develop new skills, add some beauty to your living space, and grow some delicious vegetables. You’ll make mistakes, sure, but you can always try again next season.
A 20+ year entrepreneur with a no-B.S.-in-business attitude, Shaun Black has powered over $30 million in annual revenue with his trading and importing company, Diamond Produce, founded numerous successful local businesses, and remained on the cutting edge of national start-up industries for over a decade.
His experience as a grocer taught him the importance of exceeding expectations, one relationship at a time. Through systems, automation, and personal touch, his businesses deliver consistent retail-minded service. His “add value” approach to vendor and teams alike has paid dividends and been the driving force behind growth and profit.