How to plan a city garden

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urban bottle garden
Make use of vertical space and plastic bottles
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Learn how to plan a city garden designed to flourish and reap a harvest

You don’t have to live on a large plot of land to grow your own plants and vegetables. In fact, urban gardening is more popular than ever before as city dwellers look for earth-friendly ways to make living spaces seem larger, greener and altogether healthier. 

If you want to plan a city garden there’s never a better time than the present. Though most of the dirty work won’t happen until late winter into early spring, preparing in advance allows you to order a delicious array of vegetable seed varieties and take time to think about both logistical challenges and your aesthetic vision.

The first trick to urban gardening is to stop thinking about the back yard you don’t have. Take a fresh look at your living space and consider all the different conditions at hand. Whether you have a sunny window, balcony, back porch or even a roof, if the area gets at least six hours of sun you should be able to grow most vegetables and other types of plants.

Say ‘hello’ to container planting

Growing your plants in containers gives you maximum versatility. If you find that you underestimated the amount of light one side of the apartment gets, you can simply move them to the other side or bring them in when there’s an unseasonable cold spell. Another advantage is that all you really need to buy are basic gardener's tools, a cheap container, a few seeds and soil to get started.

For a few years now, city dwellers with green thumbs have grown fond of using drainage gutters to plant herbs, greens and other small plants. Gutters can attach to the side of a building or a fence to keep plants away from many pests. Paint the sides white and once the greenery comes in the area will look playful in a modern way.

Traditional containers come in many shapes and sizes. If you intend to grow tomatoes, peppers and other larger plants, choose a few deep containers so there’s room for the roots to thrive. Veggies with shallow roots like spinach, lettuce, radishes and many herbs need only about 7 inches of depth to grow.

Choose pots with a drainage hole in the bottom and plan to fill the bottom third with irregularly shaped objects – rocks, packing peanuts and pieces of broken clay – to help excess water drain without taking soil with it.

Choosing your plants

You can’t plan a city garden without knowing a thing or two about how to give plants the best shot at thriving. Organic Gardening offers several pretreatments so you can germinate seeds indoors before planting them in spring. When shopping for seedlings, choose only those that look healthy and green without any spots.

By all means, select the vegetables or flowers that inspired you to start a garden in the first place, but be sure to scale down the quantity to fit the space you’re working with. While most vegetables grow great in containers, some varieties grow better. For instance, the Miniature White cucumber, Roma tomato and heirloom Oxheart carrot all stay compact.

An important thing to remember as you plan a city garden is to leave plenty of room for each plant to get the food and sunlight it needs to live. Some gardeners tend to clump many seeds or seedlings together, figuring that at least some are bound to survive. You’ll have a higher rate of success if you give them a little room to breathe.

Over time gardening will become more intuitive, but until then it doesn’t hurt to create a simple sketch of the garden. Note which plants are where and which ones thrive. Come next year you can adjust locations and varieties as needed. 

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