A Starter Guide to Urban Gardening

A Starter Guide To Urban Gardening

Who says you need a wide-open yard to grow a garden with your favorite herbs, fruits and vegetables?

If you are a city dweller, living in an apartment or any other area with limited outdoor space, let this not deter you from having your dream garden.

With urban gardening, you can grow the vegetables and herbs you want and enjoy your fantastic produce while saving on your groceries!

And the best part is you can do it even if you have very limited space with sunshine.

To get started, all you need are some containers, the right mix of soil, a few seeds, and a small area with sunshine.

And voila! Your garden is ready to thrive. While it may seem like a simple idea, urban gardening can be quite intimidating, especially if you are a beginner.

So here is a post that can help you clarify all the easy and not-so-easy-mysterious processes involved in urban gardening.

Using this guide, you can find out all you need to know about urban gardening including the best plants to grow in your urban garden, how much time and effort your urban garden needs and how much you can produce in your own little garden.

But before we get into details, it is important to know what exactly urban gardening is. So let’s get started.

What Exactly Is Considered Urban Gardening?

Urban Garden

If you look at the simple definition of urban gardening, it is all about producing and growing your own food while living in a densely populated city.

Since people living in an urban setting have limited access to wide, open cultivation spaces, the techniques involved in urban gardening are a slight modification of the traditional techniques and approaches used to grow food in large farms.

However, since each garden is different in an urban setting, there is no one-size-fits-all gardening approach.

Instead, there is a collection of solutions and practices that individuals undertake, and enjoy their own produce of fruits, herbs, and vegetables.

Let’s take a detailed look at what exactly is considered as urban gardening.

Urban Gardening is Beyond Meeting Your Own Needs

Urban gardening is not just about individuals trying to produce their food. It is also widely used by communities, corporations, and businesses alike for the very same purpose.

For example, it is only common for a restaurant to grow their own herbs. Similarly, an organization may use the space on their roof to grow beehives and sell honey.

So urban gardening is all about looking for and capitalizing on opportunities for producing food not just for consumption but also for sale.

Urban Gardening Is All About Maximizing Space

The most important consideration when it comes to an urban garden should always be the space and sunlight you have.

Always remember that most plants need 6-8 hours of sunlight to grow and thrive.

If you are an individual living in an apartment and do not have access to outdoor space, you can have a hanging or vertical urban garden.

Garden On Balcony

Simply by growing plants in a wire cage or hanging baskets, you can produce a lot of greens in your hanging garden.

And if you want to grow herbs, you can do so by placing small bowls or containers along your windowsill, and with little sunshine, you can see your cilantro, basil, and mint thriving.

So urban gardening may rely on containers but is not limited to container gardening.

And depending upon your outdoor space, you can grow your plants directly in the ground and not in any container.

And even if you are living in an apartment or any other facility and have access to the rooftop, you can utilize the space to create your own garden.

Since a rooftop is bound to get a lot of sunshine, make sure you have extra shade and insulation.

Also, before getting started with your rooftop urban garden, it is best to ensure that you do not violate any other homeowner’s rights.

Urban Garden is Not the Same as Community Garden

While urban gardening is often considered synonymous as community gardening, there is a difference.

Urban gardening is all about growing your own food with the intent of being self-sufficient.

This means lesser resources are invested and it is typically a family affair.

However, community gardens involve a lot more people where they all work together to grow food.

Typically, a single piece of land is collectively used by many people for cultivation.

Urban Gardening is About Getting Fresh Produce Without Damaging the Environment

With your urban garden, you can involve your entire family and get access to fresh herbs and vegetables.

Also, since you don’t need vegetables and herbs to be transported, urban gardening is an environmentally-sustainable solution, which gives you access to fresh produce while avoiding transportation costs.

And by utilizing previously unused resources, all you are doing is making this world a better place to live.

What Is the Difference between Regular Gardening and Urban Gardening?

Collecting Veggies

Now that you already know what urban gardening is, it is easier to differentiate between regular/conventional gardening and urban gardening.

Some of the features that make urban gardening different from regular gardening include.

Access to Fresh Produce

Since urban gardening is done in an urban setting, you don’t have to wait for your produce to come all the way from the farms where they grow.

Whether it is a tomato, a variety of herbs, or even strawberries, with urban gardening, you can have access to fresh produce right from the garden.

Urban Gardening Needs Limited Space

If you compare the size of an urban garden, it is much smaller compared to a regular garden.

While a regular garden is horizontally widespread, an urban garden can grow literally anywhere.

Whether it is your windowsills, small patio outside the house, or your staircase, any place is good for your urban garden and this is typically not the case when it comes to regular gardens.

Urban Gardening is More Sustainable

With an urban garden, you grow and you consume without depending on transportation. This is generally not the case in regular gardening.

What is produced in the garden needs to be transported to people in order to get utilized. Therefore, urban gardening is more sustainable as it saves on transportation costs.

Urban Gardening Is Simple

For those who feel overwhelmed by the idea of managing a garden, the good news is urban gardening is far more simple than regular gardening.

Unlike traditional gardens, you don’t have to dig, mow, or clean your garden all the time.

Instead, you can continue to produce your favorite fruits, vegetables, and herbs throughout the year without getting dirty. 

So if you are interested in growing your own produce but not sure how to get started, in the next section, you can find out about the kinds of plants and trees that grow best in an urban garden.

What Kind of Plants and Trees are Best for Urban Gardens?

Holding Veggie Plant

Urban gardens often have a limitation of size so the choice of plants may be difficult.

One key consideration when planting trees in your urban garden is the ultimate height of the tree and how long does it take to reach that size.

Fortunately, there are many plants and trees that are compact and do not outgrow their habitat.

Also, you can use the walls and fences in or around your urban garden as a great opportunity to grow climbers.

Some of the plants and trees that are best for urban gardens include.

Loquat

Loquats are often spotted in urban gardens and there are good reasons for it.

This plant with evergreen, glossy leaves may thrive well in an urban setting and is widely cultivated for its scented flowers, glossy, green leaves, and fruits.

And one of the last reasons why loquat is a common sight in an urban garden is because it can reach a maximum height of 8 meters.

If your space restricts you from planting a tree this tall, you can go for some varieties of loquat that are shorter and reach a maximum height of 5 meters.

Topiary

For a perfectly shaped small, urban garden go for plants like holly, laurel, and boxwood.

By clipping their leaves you can form shapes and structures of your choice and give a tidy look to your garden.

You can go for square, round or oval shape and if space allows, you can even create structures of your choice.

These plants grow well both in the ground and in containers so even if you have limited space, try having some topiary in your urban garden.

Ornamental Cherries

Urban Garden Ornamental Cherries

Looking for a perfect tree for small gardens?

Go for ornamental cherries. With a maximum height of 8 meters, ornamental cherries can be a great addition to your urban garden.

When the flowers blossom during spring, it is not just a lovely sight that you can enjoy but is also likely to benefit pollinators.

While the fruit from this tree may be too tart for your table, the flowers can add much to the look of your urban garden.

Rainbow Chard

If vegetables are an integral part of your urban garden, wouldn’t it be a bonus if they look great as well?

If you are looking for a vegetable plant that adds color and look to your urban garden then rainbow chard should be your choice.

With brightly colored stems, this can be a great addition to your urban garden.

This plant grows well in a container or the ground so depending upon the space you have and the current look of your garden, choose between hanging baskets or clay containers or any other type of container that add to the color pallet in your urban garden and enjoy the salad produce of this space-saving plant.  

Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff’

Typically, urban areas are less prone to frosts and this means you can have a lot more planting options for your urban garden.

One of the old favorite plants with a contemporary look is Dahlia. With dark purple, almost black leaves, this plant gives a striking contrast with its crimson flowers.

And the best part is you can dahlia does as well in a container as it does in the ground.

Trained Fruit Trees

Urban Garden Fruit Tree

Trained fruit trees can climb and grow along the walls or fence and are one of the best ways to save space.

So plant step over apples and allow them to grow on the edge of your fence or the border wall of your patio.

And along with the added green look to your garden, you can also enjoy fruits including apples, pears, peaches, and even pomegranates.

All you need is picking up the right fruit tree and provide adequate support so that the plant can grow large enough to yield fruits.

Rowans

Rowans are shrub trees that can be an excellent addition to your urban garden.

With this tree, you don’t only get the pretty, pinnate leaves but you also get to see the flowers that blossom in spring and berries that are produced in the autumn.

Rowan berries are edible and are rich in nutrients including vitamin C. Their sour taste makes them ideal for making tart jam.

And while you might not enjoy these berries on their own, garden birds including blackbirds, thrushes, and robins, love these nutrient-rich berries.

Depending upon your space, you can choose between the shorter and taller varieties of this tree.

Strawberry Tree

If you want an evergreen tree in your urban garden that can yield plump red fruits and white bell-shaped flowers in autumn, then you need a strawberry tree in your garden.

While strawberry trees thrive best in coastal areas, you can give it a try in cities that are far away from the coast.

Zucchini

Urban Garden Zucchini

Another small but high yielding plant that is an excellent choice for an urban garden is zucchini.

The plant is relatively smaller compared to its cousins such as cucumbers and pumpkins. 

So it can be easily grown in a container. When you get the fruit, you can eat it fresh or grill and bake it.

You can also freeze it for later use. Zucchini plants are one of the highest yielding plants and produce large amounts of fruit for several months.

An average zucchini plant can produce as much as 10 pounds of zucchini during one growing season.

Onions

Onions are a versatile plant that you can grow in your urban garden.

You can easily grow this plant in your urban garden and enjoy the yield to prepare different stir fry, soups, and a variety of cuisines.

However, for a decent yield of onion, you need to plant several onion plants.

And if you are doing it in a container, make sure you choose wide pots for optimal yield. Onions grown in a small container may be cumbersome and your yield is bound to suffer.

Carrots

Looking for another space-saving vegetable plant? Go for planting carrots in your urban garden.

With these simple to grow vegetables, all you have to do is to plant seeds 2 inches apart in the ground or aim for planting 32 seeds per square foot area in the raised bed. 

And while growing carrots in the ground is an option, they can be grown effectively in a container as well.

And one thing is for sure; the taste of the carrots grown in your urban garden is bound to be different from the taste of any other carrot that you purchase from the store.

Potatoes

Growing Potato On Balcony

Potatoes, a dietary staple, can be easily grown in your urban garden.

Though potato cultivation was originally thought to be quite challenging, with modern techniques, it is now easy to grow potatoes anywhere.

All you have to do is to tale a few potato seeds, which are just small potatoes also known as chitting potatoes, and plant them in the ground or a bucket.

If you are planning to grow potatoes in a container, make sure you go for some wide and deep containers for a decent potato yield.

Tomatoes

One of the most widely grown plants in an urban garden is typically classified as a fruit and is one of the most popular kitchen ingredients.

You guessed it right; tomatoes. From sauces to ketchup and salsa, there is literally no meal that is complete without tomatoes.

And there are many varieties of tomatoes that you can grow in your urban garden.

Whether you want to grow it in a container, in the ground, in a hanging basket, or a raised bed, you can easily do it anywhere.

What Do You Need for an Urban Garden?

What Do You Need For An Urban Garden?

Are you planning to start an urban garden?

You already know about the types of plants and trees that do well in an urban garden so now is the time to find out how to get started with an urban garden.

Your journey to your urban garden starts with deciding on a location for your urban garden.

Once you identify the space where you want to grow your garden, next you have to decide on the plants that you want to grow in your garden.

And obviously, you can’t grow any plant without seeds. Once you have the seeds, all you need are a few gardening tools and you are ready to get started with your urban garden.

Let’s take a detailed look at the step by step guide to your urban garden.

Step 1 – Identify Your Location

Whether you have a small alleyway, an entire rooftop, or a large garden plot, space is typically the most primary consideration for your urban garden.

However, even if you have a small space, don’t let this deter you from setting up your garden.

Even with the smallest spaces, you can grow an urban garden because this type of gardening is all about maximizing space.

Some of the possible space options that are available to you to grow your urban garden include,

Garden Plots

Garden Plots

If you live in an apartment and don’t have access to the roof or any outdoor space, you can still go on with your idea of urban gardening by setting up your garden on a garden plot.

A garden plot is a designated area for growing a garden and is a typical feature of community gardening.

However, if you want to work on a garden plot as an individual, you can still set up your garden.

You can easily find smaller garden plots (as small as 4 by 4 feet) that are easier to maintain and grow.

If you want to set up your garden on a smaller garden plot on your own, start by setting up a boundary wall, and then you are free to use your premises to grow your dream garden.

Container Gardens

If you have a smaller outdoor space or if your outdoor space is not suitable for plantation, you can still go for your garden and plant it in containers.

So instead of planting plants and trees in the ground, you do so in a container.

So whether you go for pots, empty water or milk bottles, or hanging baskets, anything can be used as a container.

You can use a variety of containers of different sizes and materials. Your choice of size often depends upon the type of plants you want to grow in your container garden.

If you intend to plant herbs, then a smaller container would be great but if you want to grow potatoes, then you would need a wide and deep container.

You can also find containers of different materials and colors. You can go for clay pots or plastic pots.

Wooden containers are also an option and if you want to go for more expensive pots, then there is nothing better than fiberglass containers.

Plants in a container have more frequent watering needs so when setting up your garden in a container, make sure you know all the details of the special needs of container gardens.

Mini-Greenhouses

Mini-Greenhouses

If you only have a small outdoor space, a balcony, or a section of your rooftop, you can use mini-greenhouses to grow your urban garden.

A mini greenhouse allows you to grow plants vertically.

You can find mini-greenhouses in different shapes and sizes so based on your space, you can pick the one that is ideal for you.

You can either go for a greenhouse that is made up of a wooden or metallic frame.

You can also choose between a portable, mini-greenhouse as opposed to a slightly bigger greenhouse that can be fixed in your backyard.

So make a choice based on the space available.  

Step 2 – Decide On the Plants and Trees

Once you know where you want to set up your urban garden, you can choose the types of trees and plants that you want in your garden.

If you want flowering plants that do not yield fruits, you can choose them.

But if you intend to grow fruits, vegetables, and herbs for your own use, you can choose a variety of plants and trees.

You can refer to the earlier section to find out about 13 plants and trees that are best for an urban garden.  

Step 3 – Get the Seeds

Once you decide on the plants and trees you want to grow in your urban garden, next is the time to get the seeds.

You can get the seeds of the plants you want to grow or you can also go and cheat a little by investing in a seedling.

By bringing in a semi grown plant, you don’t get to start from scratch and you can get one step closer to a thriving garden.

But if you want to start from zero, start by bringing seeds and then planting them in your container or on your garden plot.

While seeds are an important part of your urban garden, they are not the only thing you need in your garden.

You will need the right type of soil, enough water, and a decent fertilizer to get your get started with your urban garden.  

Step 4 – Gardening Tools

GARDENING TOOLS

When it comes to urban gardening, you have to think logically. More importantly, you have to think simplistically.

Start by investing in a few, basic gardening tools because it is likely that your urban garden is not too huge.

Some of the must-have gardening tools for your urban garden include:

Hand Trowels

You will need a few digging tools in your urban garden and there is nothing better than hand trowels.

You can choose from a plastic, wooden or metal handled trowel but we recommend you invest in a metal handled trowel as it is durable and more efficient.

Shovels

For digging and scooping, you will need tools such as a shovel or a spade. While a spade is square-shaped, shovels are round and are best for digging holes.

You can choose from different types of handles and the length of the tool. For urban gardens, it is best to invest in a shorter shovel with a D-shaped handle.  

Hand Pruners

Hand Pruners

You need a cutting tool like pruners to get rid of small stems and branches, and give your garden a neat look.

When you go out to buy hand pruners, make sure you check a few to find out the one that best fits your hands. 

Loopers 

Similar to hand pruners, loopers are a cutting tool that works when you fail to get a clean, nice cut using a pruner.

They are used to cut branches, which are up to 1 inch thick in diameter. With longer handles, loopers can make your cutting job easier. 

Bucket

With buckets handy, you can use them to transport anything. From tools to soil, plants, and compost, you can literally carry anything in a bucket.

Choose a bucket made up of durable material that lasts longer as you use it to transport different things in your urban garden.

Along with these tools, you will need one or two long-sleeved t-shirts to keep you clean as you work in your garden.

You will also need a pair of gloves to keep your hands safe from any kind of injury as you are busy taking care of your urban garden.

You can continue to invest in other gardening tools as you expand your garden but to get started, the above-mentioned tools would suffice.

How Much Time Does an Urban Garden Take Per Week?

How Much Time Does An Urban Garden Take Per Week?

Though urban gardens are typically smaller in size and are easier to plant, this does not mean that you don’t have to invest time and effort in your garden.

After all, you will have to take care of your plants so you can enjoy your garden and you can’t do that without investing adequate time.

When getting started with your urban garden, make sure you set aside 6 to 8 hours every week.

But again, the exact amount of time you need to give to your urban garden depends upon its size.

As a general rule of thumb, you will need to invest more time in a larger garden that yields more compared to a smaller urban garden with lesser produce.

How Much Food You Can Expect from Your Typical Urban Garden?

According to research by the Food and Agriculture Organization, of the United Nations, urban gardens are as productive as a conventional garden.

However, they are far more efficient and it is estimated that an urban vegetable garden can produce as much as 20 kg yield per square feet every year.

So if your urban garden is spread over an area of 20 square feet, you can enjoy an annual yield of 400 kg.

And you don’t necessarily need to use it in your kitchen. You can make money by simply selling it. 

Conclusion

Urban gardening is increasingly becoming common in many parts of the world and there are good reasons for it.

Urban gardening is easier, far more efficient and you can do it anywhere; on a plot, in a container, or a greenhouse.

And once you are clear about your space, pick up the plants and trees of your choice, invest a decent amount of time, and enjoy the produce.

Just like with conventional gardening, you can produce fruits, vegetables, and herbs in your urban garden that can easily meet your grocery needs (and in case you have some extra, you can always use it for your benefit).

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