Think that gardening is impossible in a city? I’m here to tell you it’s not! As long as you have soil, water, and air you can grow a garden in even the smallest of metropolitan apartments.
Through a great deal of trial and error I have cultivated a lovely urban oasis that’s good for the air (yay photosynthesis!) and good for my cooking too. Keep reading for some of my personal tips on how to create the urban garden of your dreams!
1. Assess Your Space
Gardening in the city is an inherently creative task. Wide open spaces aren’t really a thing here.
Many city dwellers are up against obstacles like limited sunlight and space. We’ve got to use that hard-earned city grit and determination to make this whole gardening thing plausible. Luckily there’s no better cliche for urban gardening than, “where there’s a will there’s a way.” There’s a plant and a technique and every space. So, get started by assessing what you’re working with and go from there.
Here are some things to consider:
- Do you have outdoor space or will your garden area be inside?
- How much space do you have to use? Is it well lit or shady?
- How much time are you willing to commit to plant maintenance?
- If your space is outside, what is the climate like in your city? Average rainfall? Sunlight? Humidity?
- Would you prefer to grow something purely decorative, like flowers and succulents, OR something edible like herbs or vegetables?
- How handy are you? Translation: are you comfortable crafting hanging or building fixtures to plant in, or do you want to take a more simple approach?
2. Choose Your Plants
Now that you’ve determined your available space, let’s get started! First thing’s first, choose your plants and planting materials accordingly. If you don’t know much about plants, and the conditions that they prefer, then trust me when I say that Google, the USDA, and the Farmer’s Almanac are your best friends.
If you’re planting outside then use the USDA website to find out what your, “plant hardiness zone” is. This step will give you a specific classification for the climate that you live in. When you have that information, you can search the Farmer’s Almanac to get a quick summary of the plants that grow best in your zone.
Google is there to step in when you need recommendations for plants that don’t really need sunlight, or the great outdoors, etc. Regardless of your specific needs, find plants that do these three things:
- Will be an appropriate size for your space
- Will be healthy in the climate that you have available (be that indoor or outdoor)
- Do not require more maintenance than you’re willing to commit
To give you an idea of how this process works, I’ll tell you about my most recent urban gardening project. I have a decently sized, paved back patio that I’m using to grow my plants. It’s in zone 7a, with good sunlight and lots of humidity. I don’t mind putting time into plant maintenance. I also adore cooking, so I knew that I wanted to incorporate herbs into my space as well as flowers.
These factors all led to my decision to grow rosemary, and marigolds. The two bushy plants serve as wonderful companions, and they require relatively similar growth conditions. Side note: they are also amazing for visual and aromatherapy, as well as insect repellant.
3. Get Planting
Next on the agenda: planting. If you’re like my roommates, you may be wondering how to go about growing a bush on pavement. Luckily, they trusted my judgement and creative vision. Even luckier, my family conveniently had a spare horse trough lying around.
Voila! The perfect plan was born. I upcycled our old horse trough by polishing it up, and prepping it for planting. I drilled holes in the bottom for drainage and then elevated the trough slightly so that the holes would serve their purpose. From there I was ready to plant away.
I don’t expect everyone to have a horse trough sitting around, but I’m a huge fan of upcycling. A product may no longer be needed for one purpose or person, and still work beautifully for another. Here are some ideas for items that can be upcycled in your urban garden space:
- Empty wine crates or barrels
- Old wheelbarrows and/or storage carts
- A rustic bathtub that is no longer needed
- Old wellies and rainboots (this sounds weird, but I promise it’s cute!)
- Large metal tea tins
- Mason jars for small plants – I recommend hanging these with twine, and/or getting creative with the placement and lighting.
There are plenty of ways to use your ingenuity, and green your space. At the end of the day, use your smarts to figure out what’ll work best, and then use available resources, your heart, and a little creativity to make it all work attractively and sustainably.
4. Add the Final Touches
Speaking of creating an attractive garden, I’m a huge advocate for glamming up your space a bit. If all goes according to plan, you’re probably going to want to spend a decent amount of time in your garden.
There are a some easy things that you can do to make your space inviting and functional. Some examples are:
- Adding outdoor seating for guests, and for when you get tired of kneeling by your plants during projects.
- Adding attractive storage containers or outdoor furniture pieces.
- Creating a nice ambiance with lights and decorations that suit your space.
If you’re feeling handy, DIY projects are also a great way to build exactly what you’re looking for without breaking the bank. Blogger and DIY-er, Crystal Allen from Hello Creative Family has plenty of experience with creating DIY projects to complement spaces and suit different needs. One of her favorite project is this awesome rainbow planter that she made together with her daughter.
Crystal also has some great tips for finding creative ways to spruce up your outside space without burning a hole in your wallet. “Think outside of the box and upcycle”, she says. “Pay attention to the items that you’re no longer using inside your house, and think of how they could be repurposed to add to your outdoor space.”
5. Maintain Your Garden
Now you’ve got your lovely garden going! I don’t want to bore you with the details, but I encourage you to do research to ensure that you’re providing the appropriate care. I use the following checklist to make sure that I’m not killing my pretty plants (but I’ve been there, and done that so you’re not alone if it does happen):
- Am I watering my plant(s) the proper amount?
- Are my planting spaces and materials accommodating the plant as it grows?
- How often should I be harvesting and trimming the plant?
- Do I need to change the soil and/or replant periodically? Am I using the right kind of soil?
- What season does this plant grow best in? Does it need to be brought inside for certain seasons?
At the end of the day there’s a lot to consider when it comes to starting your urban garden. But, there’s nothing more rewarding than watching those plants grow! Does anyone in the audience have gardening success stories? Questions, comments, or seeking advice? Leave a comment down below!