It’s well documented that gardening is beneficial for both mental and physical health. Which is great news for those with ample lawn space, but not so great news for those living in cramped urban landscapes. Urban Gardening—essentially, just gardening in urban spaces like apartments—is a way for those without yard space to enjoy the rewarding and therapeutic qualities of gardening. Because of the decreased sunlight and limited square footage associated with urban environments, an urban garden can be an intimidating and difficult project to start. But with a little know-how, some careful planning, and several visits to your local garden center, you can have a flourishing urban garden in no time. Here’s some tips to get you started.
Survey Your Space
How much space do you have—just room for containers like pots, or enough sq. footage for a garden bed or box? How much sunlight does your growing space receive each day? Do you want flowers, or something you’ll actually eat, like vegetables and herbs? These are the questions that will determine what type of garden you can grow, and how best to do it. Taking careful notes on sun exposure, physical space, and the types of plants you’re hoping to grow are important initial steps to planning your first urban garden. If you decide to consult a gardening professional (which we recommend), these notes will be essential in helping you both determine what growing methods are right for you and your space.
Pick A Growing Method
There are three main approaches to urban gardening: raised bed gardening, square foot gardening, and container gardening. Sunlight availability and the physical limitations of your growing space will determine which method is best for you. Here’s a short outline of each approach:
Raised Bed Gardening—If you have adequate space, this method affords the closest experience to traditional gardening. Raised bed gardening consists of isolating your plants using a large, raised container made from wood or brick. This approach offers additional protection from pests and elements like wind due to its elevated exterior. Raised bed gardening also allows for dense planting, and is a great choice for heat-loving plants like tomatoes and peppers.
Square Foot Gardening—If you’re looking togrow as many plants/vegetables as possible in your small space, square foot gardening might be the option for you. While not entirely different from raised bed gardening, this popular approach uses strict guidelines, specific soil mixtures, and a carefully measured spacing grid to make the most efficient use of your limited growing space. For specifics, visit squarefootgardening.com.
Container Gardening—If space is your biggest concern, container gardening—which requires the least effort, space, and setup—is likely your best bet. Using containers like small pots, this method allows you to grow various sorts of low maintenance plants within a limited amount of physical space. However, because you’re planting in a pot and not the earth, this approach will require that you water and fertilize your plants more often. For more info on these growing methods, click here.
Choose The Right Soil
Because urban soils are typically filled with debris like rocks and sand, and tend to lack the required nutrients, organic potting mix is generally your best option. As far as fertilizer, organic is also the way to go. In addition to the known health risks associated with chemical-based growing practices, synthetic blends like Miracle Grow tend to overfill your garden with nitrogen, which can in turn attract more pests and reduce fruit and vegetable output. We recommend consulting your local garden center or nursery to determine exactly which organic growing mediums and fertilizers are right for you.
Choose Your Plants Wisely
The unique combination of your growing space’s size and exposure to sunlight will determine what plants can flourish in your urban garden. While choosing the exact right plants is best left to you and your local garden center, the following are low-maintenance plants that tend to do well in urban conditions, where sunlight and space are in short supply:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Hot peppers
For more info on growing vegetables in your urban garden, click here.
Go Natural With Your Pest Control
Synthetic, chemical-based pesticides are dangerous to pets, people and the environment. Choosing natural methods for killing and repelling insects is not only more environmentally sustainable, but healthier for your garden, too. Healthier plants are more resistant to disease and the effects of garden pests, so consistent watering and organic fertilizers are the first step to safeguarding your urban garden against damaging bugs like mites and moths.
While there are many effective approaches to natural pest control, an eco-friendly, outdoor pesticide is the easiest and most hassle-free option. (Tip: when choosing a ready-to-use all natural pesticide, be sure that it’s both plant-safe and water-soluble).