Ultimate Guide to Urban Gardening

Ultimate Guide to Urban Gardening

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Tyler C Rich
August 12, 2021
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Gardening isn’t limited to only those in the suburbs.

Just because you live in a city doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t enjoy gardening.

You don’t need vast space to establish a garden either.

In fact, growing your favorite fruits or veggies in the city adds an exciting challenge to this type of project.

Whether you have a small balcony, an extra room, or an accessible rooftop, urban gardening is possible! Urban gardening is rewarding, along with many other benefits.

City gardening is possible if you’re new to gardening in any form or have loads of experience.

Or, if you’ve just moved to the city and already miss your home garden, this ultimate guide to urban gardening is for you.

What is urban gardening?

Before we go further, let’s define urban gardening. I’m going to use the simplest terms possible to describe this practice.

In anyone’s language, urban gardening means growing plants in the city. So whether hanging small colorful pots out the windows, small containers in the corner of an apartment, or on the balcony, you’re an urban gardener.

Now let’s dig deeper. If it’s your first time in the city, you might be surprised to see that urban gardening is happening all around you. People are growing vegetables, herbs, and fruits in the smallest spaces.

Urban people continue to practice their gardening skills using the most innovative ways possible. For example, did you know that if you have a two-bedroomed apartment, you can even convert one bedroom into an indoor garden?

That is urban gardening.

In some apartments, you’ll find that rooftops have been segmented into several garden beds. Such scenarios occur when more than one person in the building wants to practice their skills by creating a small urban garden.

So, when you see those colorful pots hanging out the windows of your neighbor’s apartment, they are not only decorations but serious gardening. City people want to leverage the myriad benefits of this satisfying hobby.

Importance of urban gardening in the modern world

Why are many city people into urban gardening? What are the benefits? Do I need to practice urban gardening?

These are all relevant questions, and the answers might surprise you.

First, it’s not a must for you to practice urban gardening if you don’t have an interest. Nonetheless, maybe after hearing the importance of urban gardening in the modern world, you will change your perception.

Urban gardening has many benefits that attract people to practice it wholeheartedly.

One major importance is food security. People around the world have food security concerns. Unfortunately, urban people are viewed as consumers and not producers of food. While this is true, things are changing for the better.

Growing populations demand more food. If people aren’t working to produce more food, the looming crisis of food shortages is imminent.

Now, imagine if 5 out of 10 people in an apartment have small gardens in their apartments or balconies. These gardens produce vegetables or fruits for consumption. Such people will not need to visit the grocery store regularly.

Another essential element of urban gardening is the health benefits. Plants emit oxygen during the day and take in carbon dioxide.

However, they also consume oxygen at night and release carbon dioxide. However, some plants produce carbon dioxide day and night.

Planting on your balcony or inside the house increases the levels of oxygen in the air. Conversely, overpopulation in urban areas increases the levels of CO² in the atmosphere.

You will enjoy more fresh air with plants in your house because plants improve air quality.

When half the people have gardens in their houses, the levels of oxygen will increase. The same applies to rooftop gardens as they supply the atmosphere with much-needed oxygen.

When several apartments within the same block have rooftop gardens, then plant growth significantly reduces carbon dioxide levels in the air.

The bottom line is that urban gardening may be the answer to the global crisis of climate change! 

Besides, the existing demand for organic food such as fresh kale, spinach, other vegetables, and fruits can be met with urban gardening.

Planting vegetables, fruits, and other plants will provide you with an ongoing supply of organic food. In addition, you’ll save money by growing your own food rather than spending it on expensive store-bought organic produce.

Pros and cons of urban gardening

Pros and cons of urban gardening

Apart from the benefits mentioned, urban gardening is a game-changer thanks to its immense advantages. Now we look at the various pros and cons of urban gardening in detail.

Pros

Practicing urban gardening has underlying benefits to individuals and the community at large:

  • Education: If you are an adult who has raised children in the city, don’t be surprised if they have no clue where food comes from. Some children are clueless regarding their source of food other than believing it comes from the supermarket. Urban gardening can teach them the truth about food sources and even how to plant vegetables for self-sustenance.
  • Supplements the local food supply: If your garden produces plenty of vegetables and fruits, you can sell them to your neighbors to supplement the local food supply. When several people have urban gardens, it ultimately improves the overall food supply in the city.
  • Air and rain filtration: Overpopulation cause high levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Plants utilize these gases for photosynthesis and other processes. When it rains, those plants filter rainwater by releasing oxygen and absorbing carbon dioxide.
  • Enhances green spaces in the city.
  • Mitigates island heat effects in urban areas.
  • Improves the economy: Selling vegetables and fruits earns you money.
  • Brings people together: Rooftop gardening is a good way of bringing people together.

Cons

  • Inadequate space.
  • High cost of purchasing soil for urban gardens.
  • Water shortage.
  • The use of agricultural chemicals in urban gardens may be harmful.
  • Discouragement due to pest invasions.

Common approaches to urban gardening

Common approaches to urban gardening

You might be thinking about how to go about urban gardening with an already congested apartment.

But, unfortunately, agriculture may seem impossible for urban dwellers when it comes to exploring gardening options. Especially considering the mind-boggling challenge of managing a small space to include a garden area.

However, you should get excited about space as many urban dwellers exercise their green fingers all around you.

From hanging picturesque baskets to lush rooftops, the possibilities are limited only by creativity. So let’s look deeper into some of the simplest and most ordinary urban gardening methods.

1. Indoor Gardening

Indoor gardening is straightforward. It involves setting up a garden inside your apartment or house. You can adequately manage the indoor space to meet your growing goals.

There are various indoor gardening and grow kits that you can use to grow fresh vegetables and fruits. They include the use of containers such as planters and colorful hanging baskets. Container gardening is convenient if you have a small balcony or patio.

You can also use window boxes and pods designed for indoor gardening. In case your windows do not allow adequate amounts of light to filter indoors, you’re still in luck. 

Contemporary technology allows for kitting out your indoor garden with artificial lighting and self-watering mechanisms. You can now take advantage of spaces in your apartment to create a garden.

2. Rooftop Gardening

Rooftop gardening simply means using the space on your roof for planting. This is much easier for those with an accessible rooftop.

Urban gardeners have been creating lush gardens on apartment roofs for as long as there have been roofs in cities. They are really a simple but creative way of expanding your gardening space.

Activate your rooftop garden today easily by adding soil and garden beds to these neglected spaces.

The advantage of rooftop gardening is that you can more easily expand your plant variety and grow larger plants because you have more space.

3. Green Walls

What is meant by green walls when thinking about urban gardening?

Green walls are simply the process of covering your walls with greenery with a hanging plant method.  You have probably seen walls that have plants growing on them in various areas by now.

Likewise, you can explore the external or internal walls where you live to see where it would be viable to create a green wall to grow vegetables.

Green walls are advantageous because they do not need much maintenance.

Green walls or hanging gardens can also save you time and resources as plants use rainwater to survive when you plant them outside. Obviously, you will still need to water your green wall, but this planting technique is low maintenance.

4. Backyard Gardening

This is yet another excellent way of utilizing the small space you have to practice urban gardening. As the name suggests, this activity is for those people who have backyards.

Backyard gardening involves using the backyard or balcony to cultivate a lush garden of vegetables, herbs, fruits, flowers, etc.

If you share the neighborhood, you can also share each other’s backyards. Segmenting shared backyards is one way of ensuring everybody has the space they need for their gardening projects.

What to plant in your urban garden?

There are many options for urban gardening. While many people think that you can only grow vegetables in containers, there are many more options that you can explore.

Choosing appropriate plants is another issue you should think about when planting an urban garden.

Of course, you’re never sure if they’ll do well between the environmental conditions and your experience, so it is always a risk. But making your own urban garden is a risk worth taking.

Although it might be expensive, the trial-and-error method can give you an idea of which plants will work well in your circumstances.

Here are three options you can try when building your urban garden:      

1. Vegetables

Vegetables are the most common plants grown in almost every garden. Vegetables make up an essential part of every diet, so they are popular among most gardeners.

Besides, they are easy to grow and require less effort in maintenance than other plants. 

The best vegetables for containers are:

Lettuce, peppers, eggplants, cilantro, radishes, garlic, peas, tomatoes, summer squash, salad greens, green onions, bush beans, and Asian greens. You can plant spinach, kale, cucumber, broccoli, and lemongrass for the backyard and green walls.

I recommend growing only a few plants and see the results before going all the way.

2. Herbs

Like vegetables, herbs depend on your preferences and the size of the species you choose to grow in your garden. They are simple to grow but demand your time, especially for some herb species.

Cannabis is one of the most common plants grown in indoor gardens. This plant requires less of your time, as many gardeners say they just plant their cannabis and leave it alone. 

Other common herbs for urban gardens include basil, thyme, mint, chives, marjoram, oregano, parsley, sage, rosemary.

3. Flowers

Surprisingly, flowers do pretty well in many indoor gardens.

Besides them being a rewarding hobby, they also improve the oxygen levels and quality in your apartment. The fresh scent of roses, for example, is refreshing after a long day at work.

However, flowers are delicate and demand constant attention and monitoring. You cannot leave flowers unattended for too long because they are pretty high-maintenance plants if you want to see healthy growth.

Some of the best flowers you can consider growing in your urban garden include Astrantia, Allium, ferns, Rainbow Chard, and Dahlia ‘Bishop of Llandaff.’

If you want to ramp up your growing skills, then plant Topiary, Acer Palmatum (great for pots), Erysimum Bowles’s Mauve, and Polystichum Setiferum (soft shield fern) indoors.

How to find nutrient-rich soils

How to find nutrient-rich soils

Besides worrying about the type of plants you want to grow, there is also the question of finding nutrient-rich soil.

The success of your gardening is primarily dependent on soil fertility. Therefore, a strong foundation is essential to produce juicy, nutritious veggies and vibrant flowers.

Organic soil is recommended for gardens because of its high humus content that provides plenty of essential minerals.

In addition, you can improve the quality of your soil by adding organic matter, which mainly includes dead plant matter. First, however, it is necessary to understand complex components of soils, including pH and texture, if you’ll be sourcing the earth yourself.

Good nutritious organic soil is blackish, loose and fluffy, and is alive with earthworms. However, most city-dwellers don’t have a clue about how or where to find nutrient-rich soil.

Lucky for them, they can find nutrient-rich, ready-made gardening soil from plant nurseries or farm markets where the soil is already mixed.

Buying ready mixed organic soil for your urban garden is convenient to obtain the best possible dirt for your plants. Speaking to local experts is also an excellent way to get advice on developing your urban garden paradise.

However, filling your garden with soil can be a bit costly. Some soils are pricey, so you need to learn the best ways to fill your indoor garden without breaking the bank.

Check out the article on how to fill a raised garden cheaply. You’ll know the best things to put in the garden and how to go cheaper. 

What tools will I need?

What tools will I need?

By now, you should realize that you need specific resources and equipment to set up your urban garden.

However, when it comes to equipment for the job, think simplistically. Urban gardens are small and do not require a plethora of items.

Let’s look at the essential tools you’ll need to have for tending your garden.

The urban gardener’s toolkit should include:

1. Digging Tools

Hand tools are the most common digging tools for turning soil, making small ridges, and planting holes. Check the eight best garden hand tools to help kickstart your new hobby.

Standard digging tools include hand trowels, garden shovels, and cultivators, perfect for gardening in containers and beds. Digging tools are handy for scooping soil, weeding, and transplanting.

2. Cutting Tools

Your herbs will need shearing, and some vegetables require regular pruning. You also need a cutting tool to control foliage overgrowth, especially indoors.

For these jobs, you must have shears, loppers, hand pruners, or clippers.

You may also need a saw for branches that are too thick for loppers and pruners. Flower shears help snip herbs or cut stems when trimming potted plants.

3. Watering Equipment

As a gardener, you must constantly give your plants a gentle, refreshing, and nourishing water shower for healthy, vibrant growth. After all, water is essential for the development and sustenance of your urban garden.

Standard watering tools you can purchase for your urban garden include a watering wand, a watering can, and a spray bottle.

Apart from watering small plants, you can also use a spray bottle to apply natural pesticides to your plants.

4. Protective Gear

While gardening can be a beautiful, fulfilling experience, accidents occur when dealing with sharp tools and thorny or sturdy plant stems.

Buying a pair of suitable old farming gloves is necessary to protect your hands from injuries. Besides, pest control requires protective masks to prevent you from inhaling those fumes.

How to deal with a lack of sunlight

How to deal with a lack of sunlight

Most city apartments do not receive the right amount of sunshine to support gardening.

Nonetheless, this doesn’t mean city dwellers can’t own flourishing gardens. Let’s look at various ways to overcome limited sunlight for a vibrant garden of flowers, veggies, and herbs.

Most urban gardeners overcome poor lighting by hanging their plants on the balcony and placing them strategically near windows.

This way, plants can receive adequate sunlight all day long. However, this method can be unreliable and tedious, even inapplicable to some city dwellers.

Leveraging technology is the modern gardener’s way of introducing light indoors for plant growth using artificial light. The development of LED light technology and fluorescent lights has transformed urban gardening by enabling plants to flourish indoors.

Deciding on the appropriate artificial lighting choices for your garden can be quite confusing.

First, however, you should consider the type of plants you’ll be growing, how big they can grow, and the amount of light they need. Also, consider other issues like the size of the garden and the number of plants you can grow in available space.

Luckily, full-spectrum LED grow lights are designed to imitate the sun’s natural glow, making them an excellent option for indoor gardens. The full spectrum light bathes your plants in all the light they need for photosynthesis and healthy growth.

Check out our buying guide for the five best full spectrum LED grow lights if you have an indoor garden.

You can literally grow anything and use these lights to enhance photosynthesis. In addition, they actually speed up the growth of your plants due to a constant source of light.

However, be cautious not to buy just any LED lights. Poor grow lights will cause your electricity bills to shoot up while generating excess heat that may cause plants to wither.          

Pest control

It is best to prevent a pest infestation by planting healthy plants and using healthy soil. Pests prefer weak, stressed plants, which they can overcome quickly.

For rooftop gardening, erecting a physical barrier such as anti-insect greenhouse netting can help keep insects at bay.

However, having a spray can for regular pesticide spraying is a good option.

Beware of applicable pest control policies in your city or town before using specific products. Also, consider that insects like bees and others need to access your plants for pollination.

You might also want to consider organic methods of integrated pest management to reduce the effect on people and the ecosystem.

Pesticides and fungicides can be harmful, mainly when you apply these products indoors. It is always better to use preventive measures instead of treating pests to help people avoid pesticides.

One more tip to counter pest harm is to plant companion plants to attract beneficial pests or ward off harmful pests naturally.

Will my pet ruin my urban garden?

Will my pet ruin my urban garden?

Pets can be quite destructive to a garden, ruining hours, days, and even months of dedicated work.

Your worries of whether pets can ruin your urban garden are justified. The good news is, there are several DIY techniques you can employ to keep animals out of your garden.

Pushing protruding twigs into the soil and erecting thorn fences around pots and gardens have been known to deter cats. You can also sprinkle spices around your plants, such as cayenne paper and other odor deterrents.

Cayenne pepper is a common deterrent for most pets, including dogs and cats. The various methods will significantly reduce pets ruining your urban garden.

Conclusion

Urban gardening has irresistible benefits not only for the gardener but also for the entire environment. Therefore, city dwellers should seriously consider embracing this activity because of its multiple financial, emotional, and health benefits.

Before leaving you to your own devices, you can explore some links for further help in making an urban garden.

Consider ordering your garden soil online or explore your LED grow light options for indoor gardens. If you have a small indoor garden, this grow light is extremely popular.    

Urban gardening is not as complex as many people think. A simple container and soil can start you off on your new rewarding urban gardening journey. So take that brave step because you have more available space for indoor gardening than you realize. 

Sources:

https://www.onupkeep.com/answers/farming/methods_urban_farming
https://www.ambius.com/blog/urban-gardening-tips/
https://www.capitalareafoodbank.org/blog/2019/05/10/what-to-plant-in-your-urban-garden/
https://www.hobbyfarms.com/must-have-tools-for-your-urban-garden/
http://albopepper.com/pests.php

Tyler C Rich

Tyler C Rich is the founder and chief editor at TopsyGardening.com. An experienced gardener and a professionally trained agriculture development expert, Rich has worked in the gardening and landscaping industry for more than a few decades. Although he has retired, his spark for developing the best urban and indoor gardens has not faded a bit. He uses TopsyGardening.com as a platform to come across enthusiastic gardeners and share the unique insights he has acquired through years of experience. Rich is interested in aquaponics and technology apart from conventional gardening techniques.