Just because you love those city lights, that doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate the subtle beauty of a backyard garden.
In fact, small spaces like you might find in an urban garden are perfect for unique growing methods like container gardening and vertical gardening.
The key to being successful as a green-thumbed city slicker? Reading up on some of the best tips for urban gardening - here are 20 tips for urban gardening to help you get started on your metropolitan oasis.
1. Make the Most of Your Space
No space? No problem. You don’t need to have hundreds of acres upon which to garden. You just need to get creative! There are several options you can choose from when it comes to styling and planting your urban garden. You can plant on a rooftop, a balcony, or even in a tiny urban backyard.
Of course, one of the best options for urban gardeners is to plant some seeds in containers. Decorative pots, as long as they have plenty of drainages, can not only serve as a wonderful home for your plants but also look gorgeous. You can also upcycle containers that aren’t currently being used, like old tires, paint cans, or buckets.
2. Grow Up
That’s not meant to be an insult - rather, a suggestion on how you should grow your urban garden. Chances are, if you live in the city, you don’t have a lot of “horizontal” space - but the sky’s the limit when it comes to how far up you can grow!
A smaller space is perfect for growing vertically. Consider planting a few tall plants that can be staked and trellised, like tomatoes, beans, cucumbers, and squash.
3. Choose the Right Plants
While just about any kind of plant can be grown in a container or indoors, there are some that are easier to grow in this kind of environment. Think about planting shallow-rooted vegetables and herbs, like radishes, lettuce, and basil, all of which are well-suited to more confined spaces.
4. Water By Hand
For most indoor-grown container plants, hand watering every morning is the way to go. Of course, this will vary depending on what kind of plant you are growing, but containers tend to dry out more quickly than plants might if they were growing directly in the ground. Depending on where you are growing - and how hot and dry it is - you may need to add an evening watering session, too. Check out our list of diy Irrigation systems if you want to automate watering. We also have a big list of plants that require less watering here.
5. Provide Proper Drainage
Healthy container-grown plants usually need one thing, and one thing in abundance - good drainage. Use a potting soil that is designed for containers, and add some gravel to the bottom to enhance its drainage abilities. Tamp down the soil, leaving an inch at the top for watering.
In addition, make sure the containers you select are well-draining. Consider poking a few holes in the bottom of the container you intend to use. Without good drainage, the soil will become waterlogged and your plants could die.
6. Use Plastic Containers
Whenever Possible, choose containers made out of plastic rather than clay. Plants that are grown in plastic will dry out much more slowly, since the pots aren’t as porous. They won’t retain as much heat, either, helping to reduce water evaporation.
7. Don’t Be Afraid to Migrate
...your pots, that is! The benefit of growing plants in containers in a city environment is that you can move them around whenever you feel like it. Of course, you can do this for stylistic purposes -but you can also do it to get the plants into and out of the sun (as well as to avoid drafts, which can dry out plants).
8. Consider Teaming Up With Some Neighbors
If you have a few other green-thumbed pals, consider teaming up to start a community garden. While it’s great to have a place that you can call your own, planting a community garden is a great way to make fresh food more accessible and sustainable in urban neighborhoods.
9. Don’t Forget the Flowers!
Urban gardening doesn’t have to be purely functional. It can also be quite fun and add a gorgeous aesthetic to your living environment. Consider planting a few resilient plants for low-maintenance gardening, like zinnias, petunias, daylilies, or coneflowers. If you’d rather raise plants that require even less watering, grow some hens and chicks or yucca plants.
10. Hang Out
You can also grow hanging baskets in most urban environments. They don’t take up much space, and they have a built-in ventilation mechanism that will make caring for them a total breeze.
11. Use Plants to Hide Eyesores
If you're growing on a balcony, an urban garden can serve yet another purpose - it can hide the eyesores of your railings or walls. It can also serve as a privacy screen to shield you from your neighbors.
To do this, select climbing plants like jasmine, honeysuckle, ivy, passion flowers, or gourds. You’ll have a beautiful garden that also keeps things concealed.
12. Don’t Be Afraid of a Little Shade
You don’t need eight hours of sunlight per day in order to create a lush urban garden. You can grow a shady urban garden, too! If your balcony or patio is north- or east-facing, choose plants that grow well in limited sunlight, like astilbe, begonia, caladium, and hydrangea. A fern is another good choice.
13. Grow an Herb Garden
If you’d rather start small with your urban garden, consider growing an herb garden on your windowsill. This is perfect for the urban gardener without a lot of space. Your herbs will not only serve as a tasty source of food, but they’ll also give your home a gorgeous appearance.
Consider growing herbs like rosemary, thyme, sage, or basil. All you need is six to eight hours of sunlight per day and you’ll be able to grow enough herbs for you to use in your everyday cooking.
14. Incorporate Shelves
If you have very little outdoor or indoor space to work with, consider installing some shelves along your apps to allow for additional space. The height of your plants will draw eyes upwards, making your room or balcony seem far more spacious than it actually is. Plus, it will free up more growing space for you!
15. Potting Soil - and Nothing But Potting Soil
Whatever you do, don’t use soil that is anything but potting soil designed for containers. Using soil from the ground in your containers is a big no-no - it will be too heavy and poorly draining, plus, it could introduce pathogens and pests to your garden.
16. Give Them Space
It’s easy to feel overcrowded in the city - but that shouldn’t mean you should subject your plants to the same fate! If you’re planting in a container, make sure you choose one that is large enough for your plants to grow comfortably. Research how much space and soil each plant needs, and consider selecting compact varieties of plants when providing more space simply isn’t a possibility.
17.Consider Adding Water Releasing Crystals
Water-releasing crystals are of course not necessary, but they can make your gardening chores much easier. If you are away from your plants a lot, water-releasing crystals will soak up and gradually release water so that your plants can stay hydrated while you’re away. Just make sure you read the instructions carefully so you don’t overdo it while you’re gone.
18. Fertilize Freely
Containers are known to leach water as well as nutrients far more quickly than their in-ground counterparts. Therefore, proper fertilizing is key, and it should be done on a regular basis. Ideally, you should use a slow-release fertilizer that comes in pellet form. This will prevent the fertilizer from being washed out of the soil immediately every time you water. It should last for several months.
19. Whip Up Some Compost Tea
If you’re looking for some organic fertilizer ideas that won’t break the bank, you may want to give compost tea a try. It’s the perfect solution or the urban garden and it’s easy to make when you have your own compost bin at home (hint - vermicomposting, or composting with worms, is easy to do even in an apartment!).
20. Have Fun - and Be Patient!
“Have fun” - sounds like the most cliched gardening tip in the books, right? However, it’s one of the most important. If you aren't having fun while you’re tending your urban garden, it’s not worth it. Start slow and plant just a few species at a time. You can work your way up to adding additional plants as you gain more expertise. Be patient with yourself - you’re probably going to make a few mistakes here and there, but that’s okay. It’s all part of the learning process when it comes to urban gardening.
Why You Should Start an Urban Garden
There are plenty of benefits associated with gardening, and these aren’t lost once you move to a more urban environment.
For starters, growing a garden in the midst of the city can help you feel connected with nature even when you’re surrounded by a concrete jungle. You can grow just about any kind of plant you want, from vegetables to herbs and even fruits, helping to reduce your overall grocery bill as well as your carbon footprint.
Plus, let’s face it - urban gardening is a great way to make the most of your space. And it’s downright fun! Check out this success story on how a family grows 6000 lbs of veggies in a small garden.
Follow these 20 tips for urban gardening, and you’ll be able to reap all of these benefits - and then some. What have you got to lose?
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