Urban Gardening – Accomplish More in Small Spaces

Urban Gardening – Accomplish More in Small Spaces

Urban gardening is a creative outlet that rewards you with fresh food even though you may be living in a city. To grow food in a small space, you have to be creative and innovative. If you don’t have a backyard or available outdoor green space that can be used for gardening, no problem. After all, urban gardening is still gardening, albeit done in a city environment.

You can still plant and grow a productive garden in a small space on any balcony, deck, or porch overhang. In such times of rising food prices, anything helps, no matter how small. Even if your strategy is to store food, growing some food plants yourself will slow down how fast you consume your stored food.

house rooftop terrace gardening
House rooftop terrace gardening. A fine example of urban gardening with a luxurious touch.

Check out some of these urban gardening ideas that help you work with small spaces and grow produce. Basically, the types of urban gardening available to you are:

  • Outdoor gardening
  • Container gardening
  • Vertical space gardening
  • Hydroponic/aquaponic gardening

Outdoor Gardening

What type of outdoor space do you have? Whatever the space is, there is a way to grow food on it. A private walkway can be lined with pots to create a container garden. A sunny stoop, front porch, balcony, deck, terrace, or small backyard can all be used as an urban garden space. The garden can be made attractive and add to the curb appeal of your home. Plants can also be used to create a living privacy screen.

outdoor gardening
Outdoor gardening.

One of the most common types of urban gardening for those with houses is a plot garden. You basically grow something in the land provided by your yard/backyard; sometimes the community garden works too, where people in the neighborhood collectively work on the garden. A good type of plot gardening is the square foot garden which maximizes outdoor space.

Container Gardening

This is the main option if you are constrained by space and lack a yard/backyard. Plants can grow in any container that is large enough to support it, so don’t fret about the type of container. Container gardening can also be combined with other types of gardening, so you are never short of options when it comes to growing plants. If you can afford to, get the largest containers you can find; a planter box which allows you to grow many plants all at once works good.

container gardening using old bathub
Container gardening using an old bathtub! As a rule of thumb, use the largest containers you can get.

Think about the depth of the plant roots that you will grow vs the container you will use. The deeper the container, the longer it will remain moist, reducing your watering frequency. There are self-watering planters too, which will help you reduce your watering. 

Vertical Space Gardening

Look up to find unused space that can be transformed into an urban garden. A fence or wall that is in the sun most of the day can have planters attached to it. Look for places to suspend hanging baskets that are ideal for growing herbs, trailing tomato vines, and cucumbers.

vertical gardening with trellis
Vertical gardening utilizing a trellis aids climbing plants to flourish and increases your growing space.

Window boxes, planters that fit on the balcony rails, and shelving will increase the gardening area for your small space. Additionally, you can affix trellises to your planter for climbing plants, plus this should increase your growing space.

Hydroponic/Aquaponic Gardening

Hydroponic gardening is a method of growing plants without soil, and using only nutrient rich water of which the nutrients are supplied by the grower. Aquaponic gardening is similar to hydroponics, but utilizes waste material from reared fishes and other aquatic life to provide the nutrients for the plants in a self-contained system. Both hydroponics and aquaponics are quite ideal for city dwellers as they can be done fully indoors all year round.

hydroponics farming
Hydroponic farming.

The downside to them is the same for growing any plants indoors, namely you need to provide sufficient artificial lighting for the plants to grow, as well as provide adequate power for the electrical components of your system, and all this is dependent on the electrical grid. Unless you are able to generate your own electricity, you will have to be dependent on the electrical grid of your location, which may not be an option for those who are aiming for more self-sufficiency. 

Plant Choices

Select plants that are compact so they will take up less space. Dwarf varieties of your favorite garden vegetables and fruits are perfect for growing in containers. A partial list of space-friendly vegetables/plants is shown below:

  • Beans
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Peas
  • Radishes
  • Chives
  • Lettuce
  • Microgreens

Even if you don’t have a location that will provide plants with full sun, many plants will grow and produce in partial shade. Root vegetables, like beets, radishes, carrots, and potatoes thrive in partial shade. Flowers like begonias, impatiens, hostas, and ferns will also add to the beauty of a shady small space garden.

Soil and Feeding

For gardening methods besides outdoor gardening, it’s best to use soilless potting mix if you need to use any “soil” at all. Such potting mix work better than traditional soil in retaining moisture, and won’t clay up or interfere with root propagation. Mix in some granular organic fertilizer and/or compost when planting, and then some water-soluble fertilizer from time to time, and you are good to go.

urban gardening
A good example of urban gardening, with every available patch of soil used to grow something.

Just Grow Something!

While much has been said of gardening in a rural setting, urban gardening also has its pros as well. For one, you don’t need to share your food produce with animals and pests that plague rural farms. You can grow something in a small space urban environment. One cherry tomato plant and tray of microgreens are so easy to grow and take up almost no space. And when they’re ready to harvest, you will have the basics for a delicious, fresh, home grown salad!

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