Beginner’s Guide to Urban Gardening
If you live in a small apartment in the city, the idea of growing your own vegetables and herbs might sound ludicrous. Or is it? Believe it or not, becoming self sufficient in a small space is far easier than you may think, and (container) urban gardening is a very useful method for those who want to grow edible plants within the small confines of their homes.
Urban container gardening allows you to grow seasonal fruits, vegetables and herbs in traditional pots, planters, hanging baskets and window boxes. Whether you have a large balcony, a small backyard, space around the deck or just a spacious window sill, it is possible to grow your own food crops with the help of a few simple tips.
Decide on Location
The first consideration for urban gardening is the location, as that will decide which plants you can and cannot grow. Always bear in mind that plants grown in containers wilt a lot quicker than plants grown directly into the ground. Based on the amount of space and the strength of sunlight in the space, you will be able to decide on which plants to grow, what size containers to pick, and how to make the best use of the area to grow food crop. The amount of shade in the area is also important, as many plant varieties require full-sun, while some thrive in shady spots.
Our Tip: Large pots can be used along the length and breadth of a balcony. If your space is limited, utilize vertical space by installing a ladder against the wall and use hanging planters to grow your plants.
Select Your Plants with Care
The next step is to select what plants you can grow as a beginner, keeping in mind the space available, the position for the plants and the amount of sunlight available. The most basic rule for urban gardening – chose plants that grow upwards instead of those that grow sideways for a confined space. Next, choose plants based on the amount of sun/shade your location gets as many ‘full sun’ plants need at least 6 hours of strong sunlight every day. Don’t forget to consider what size containers you can fit into the space as many plants have a complex root system, requiring very large and deep containers.
Our Tip: Plants like carrots, salad greens, cooking herbs, cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes and beans are all easy to grow and perfect for beginners.
Pick Suitable Containers
As discussed above, many food plants grown into containers will have specific requirements. For example, the complex root system of carrots requires them to be grown in a wide, deep pot, whereas lettuce will thrive even in a traditional pot. Most food plants will do well in long, wide trays that allow you to grow 2-3 varieties of plants together. Also termed as ‘companion planting’, this method enriches the soil as different plants take and give different nutrients from and to the soil, and also means that taller plants will offer natural shade to shorter plants. For example, tomatoes grow well alongside peppers and herbs, and cucumbers, beets and beans thrive together.
Our Tip: Do not over water your plants, as that is the number one reason for container gardening failure. Some materials, like terracotta, will heat up more when compared to plastic containers. Hence, plants grown in these might require extra watering.
Water your plants when needed and add organic fertilizer from time to time, and your urban garden will surely thrive!