When we talk about urban gardening, it can broadly mean one of two things. The first might be a community garden. Many nonprofits and neighborhood organizations will launch community gardens in urban areas where people can work and share in the produce that grows there.
For our purposes, we’re talking about something more like container gardening. If you live in an urban area, such as in an apartment, you can still benefit from having a garden, even if it’s on a smaller scale. You can grow vegetables, herbs and more, and enjoy getting fresh air. Container gardening is also good for your mental health and can give you a sense of accomplishment.
The following are some of the general things to know as you get started.
If you’re in an urban area, you’ll need some space for a container garden.
You have some different options.
If you have a townhouse or condo, you might have some outdoor space that’s in-ground. You’ll need to check with your board or HOA to make sure you can plant a small garden.
Flower pots or hanging baskets are another option, and they’re portable, so you can put them on a balcony or patio, and if you need, move them inside, at least temporarily.
There’s also something trendy right now for urban dwellers, which is hydroponic gardening.
Some creative companies offer self-fertilizing stands so you can grow food, and they’re self-watering, so it’s the ultimate convenience.
If you go with this option, you’ll need to add water to the reservoir weekly and add nutrients. You’ll also need to make sure the pH stays appropriately adjusted.
Since these gardens go upward instead of out, you’re saving valuable floor space, which in an apartment or condo can be crucial.
Decide What You’ll Grow
Some things are better suited to container and urban gardening than others. For example, herbs are great, like mint, basil and sage.
Different types of lettuce and tomatoes can also be well-suited to containers.
If you buy a hydroponic gardening kit, some companies offer hundreds of pre-sprouted seedlings, so you might find that you can grow cucumbers, eggplants and even strawberries.
Peppers grow well in limited spaces, including bell peppers, jalapenos and habaneros. Zucchini and squash are suitable for a balcony garden but don’t overplant because they can end up producing pounds of vegetables. Cumbers spread, and the vines will grow around your balcony, which you might like the look of.
If you’re not using a hydroponic kit, be careful about how much you plant in any one container. If you plant too much, then it may stunt the growth of your plants.
A pot that’s anywhere from 10-12 inches can usually hold three to four plants. A pot that’s 14 to 16 inches can hold five to seven, and a 16-to-20-inch pot can hold six to nine plants.
When you’re choosing what to grow, you want to make sure each of the plants you choose will be a good neighbor with the others. For example, if you combine plants that have different sunlight needs in the same pot, then some will suffer.
Make Sure Your Containers Have Drainage
If you’re growing plants in pots, make sure you drill holes for drainage if they don’t already have that. You’ll also have to put something below the container to catch the excess drainage water.
Finally, when you’re planning your urban or container garden, you’ll have to think about sunlight. Most plants need anywhere from 7 to 12 hours of sun a day and that’s especially true of herbs and fruiting vegetables. If you don’t think you’re going to be able to get that much light, then you might want to grow something like chard or spinach, both of which tolerate shade well.
Carefully read your seed packets or tags, and save them if you forget and need to refer back.
If the label says a plant needs full sun, that means between 6 and 8 hours of sun a day.
Partial sun is between 4 and 6 hours of sun a day, and shade usually means less than four hours of direct sunlight a day and filtered sun the rest of the time.
If you’re going to move your containers inside during the winter, you can use plant grow lights, which simulate the effects of the sun and are excellent in an urban environment.