Alternative Vegetable Gardens. Urban Gardening – Growing Vegetables in the City and Suburbs.
With the warm weather just around the corner and summer produce season fast approaching, you might be thinking about planting your own garden. But if you’re a city dweller or live in the suburbs without a lot of land, gardening might prove to be a challenge.
Don’t worry. Times are definitely changing and there are several different ways to garden that can fit right in with almost any space. If you live in an apartment, condo, or townhouse, you can plant a patio garden or porch garden. And if you have a little bit of land, a straw bale garden or raised vegetable garden may be perfect for you.
With so many vegetable garden types, gardening doesn’t have to be limited to large pieces of land. A few great, space-saving, gardening ideas include:
- Patio, balcony, or porch garden
- Container garden
- Window herb garden
- Straw bale garden
- Raised garden beds
- Vertical garden
- Trellis garden
- Indoor garden
Let’s take a look at some of these different ways to urban garden and break them down a bit more.
Urban Gardening -Growing Vegetables in the City
Patio Garden/Porch Garden/Balcony Garden
These types of gardens are perfect for apartment, condo, and townhouse dwellers. You don’t need a lot of space and you can plant a variety of vegetables, fruits, and herbs by combining a variety of containers. You can plant in pots, window boxes, a trellis, or design a vertical garden.
There are special planters for veggies that grow underground, like potatoes and carrots, that allow you to harvest even though you don’t have a yard. Simply fill them with soil, plant, and use the “door” opening on the side of the container to harvest.
Window boxes that hang on the side of a balcony railing are perfect for a variety of veggies, like lettuces, and herbs. These don’t need a lot of space to grow and the roots don’t need more than a few inches of depth. Window boxes are also great for edible flowers that can be grown to place in salads or used to decorate desserts.
In fact, most flowers and plants will do well in these types of gardens as they don’t need deep roots.
Hanging baskets can be used for tomatoes and strawberries as well as other fruits and veggies. You may be able to hang them from above or place a metal grid against a wall to hang baskets and even window boxes.
Your space will need plenty of light, at least 6-8 hours a day, and a source for water. While a watering can will work, a small garden hose is best. During the growing season and on excessively hot days, your plants will need to be watered twice to keep them healthy and make sure they produce a quality harvest.
Before planting, be sure that your balcony or porch can handle the weight of several heavy pots filled with soil. And check the guidelines of your building management to make sure you’re allowed to plant.
Urban Gardening – Containers and Raised Beds
Containers and raised beds are great options for people who have knee or back problems. Since they’re not as low to the ground, they require less straining. And containers can be placed on stands or benches so that you can avoid bending and kneeling altogether.
Planting in any kind of container or raised bed allows you to plant earlier as well. Since there is less soil, it warms up faster than an in-ground garden.
Containers come in various shapes and sizes so they’re easily adaptable to the amount of space you have and the types of vegetables you want to grow.
Raised vegetable gardens can be placed in almost any space on any type of lawn, or even on a concrete patio. The size of your raised garden bed will not only depend on the size of the space you have, but also your arm length. You’ll want to make sure you can reach the middle from at least two sides so that you don’t have to trample your vegetables to harvest what you’ve grown in the middle.
Container and raised vegetable urban gardens are less susceptible to weed growth as well. And although they can still attract pests, they’re easier to control. Pests won’t be able to reach your garden from below ground, and you can use specialty fabrics, caging, or fencing to protect them above ground.
Again, you’ll want to choose a spot that gets good light for most of the day and has easy access to water. Since these types of gardens are usually a little bigger, they’ll require more water which can be hard to accomplish with a watering can. Hose access is best.
Urban Gardening – Window Herb Garden
If you don’t have enough space outside but you’d still like to grow some fresh herbs to cook with, all you need is a windowsill that gets good sunlight. First, you’ll need to decide how many herbs you want to grow, or how many will fit in the window where you’ll place them. Three to five pots is usually the right size for a window herb garden.
Next, you’ll need some pots and a drainage system. You can purchase individual pots that sit in a bowl or plate, a potting set that includes pots and a drainage tray they all fit into, or you can make your own with old soup cans. Hammer a nail through the bottom of each can a few times to create drainage holes, paint or decorate the cans if you’d like, and place them on a tray or in dishes.
You can start with plants that will just need to be repotted in your planters, or start with seeds. Keep in mind that seeds will require more attention.
Place your herb garden in a window that receives at least 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight every day, water regularly, and remove any dead or dying leaves so the nutrients reroute to healthy parts of the plant. With proper maintenance, your window herb garden will provide you plenty of herbs in no time.
Urban Gardening – Straw Bale Garden
Straw Bales can be used in a yard or on a patio area like raised bed gardens. Be aware though, straw and hay are not the same thing and the garden will not flourish in a hay bale. You will want to use a straw bale. Straw bales will need to be conditioned so that they can be used as a growing medium, but once you do that, you’re good to grow.
Unlike hay, straw is weed-free. It’s 100% natural and composts over time so it’s perfect for organic gardening as long as you purchase “organic” straw bales. Some farms use pesticides, which you’ll want to avoid. And. just like any other gardening method, the bales will need to be placed in a bright, sunny area and they’ll need regular watering.
You’ll need a few other things too to get your garden growing. Newspaper, a tarp, or cardboard to place under the bales, organic fertilizer, soil or compost, and gardening tools like a hand trowel.
Once properly conditioned, you can grow almost any kind of vegetable or fruit in a straw bale garden.
Vertical Garden and Trellis Garden
Vertical gardens can be grown against the side of a wall or fence using a simple wall hanging pocket planter or a variety of other planters that you can purchase or make yourself. They can even be grown inside. And the DIY planter options are endless; anything from a well-built wooden planter system to a recycled wooden pallet to upcycling plastic soda bottles.
A trellis garden is another vertical solution for gardening. It’s both cost-effective and efficient. A trellis can be attached to a wall or planted in a 12” wide planter for stability.
A vertical garden is not only a great space-saver, it can be used to create a privacy screen from your neighbors. It’s also a great option for people with back or knee problems as you won’t need to spend time on the ground to plant, maintain, or harvest.
Vertical gardens are perfect for fruits, vegetables, herbs, and flowers so you’re not limited by what you can grow; if you want to grow it, you can.
Urban Gardening – Indoor Garden
If you’re not looking for a large harvest or don’t have an outdoor space, an indoor garden may be a good option for you as long as you have quality lighting. Sunlight can be challenging for an indoor garden, so you may want to consider choosing an out of the way area to set up your garden and add some grow lights. Beets, carrots, lettuces, herbs, and spinach can all be easily grown indoors.
In addition to lights, you’ll need your containers, at least 4 inches deep (6 inches for carrots), organic, all-purpose potting soil, and seeds or seedlings.
Indoor gardens may need a little more planning than outdoor gardens due to the space constraints. Think about what you want to grow, what space you’ll use, and the size of the pots you’ll need before getting started. And if you need grow lights, take those into account when planning the size of your space.
The nice thing about indoor gardens is that you don’t have to worry about any of the outdoor elements like pests, extreme hot or cold weather, or too much or too little rain. You can grow a bountiful garden all year long regardless of the outdoor conditions.
Questions to Ask Yourself Before Planting Your Urban Garden
How big is your space?
Even a small space can accommodate a garden if you think about it from all sides. Do you have space for containers and window boxes? If not, you may want to consider a vertical garden or a window garden.
How much sun does the area get?
Your garden area will need at least 6 to 8 hours of sun to grow a fruitful garden. Many people tend to overestimate how much sun their area gets. To properly measure this, calculate the sun on a day when you’ll be home all day. Check the space hourly to see if it’s getting full sun, partial sun, or no sun at all. Then determine how many hours your proposed garden area was in full sun.
How hot or cold does the area get?
Extreme heat means more watering so you’ll want to think about how hot it gets, specifically in the area of your proposed garden, on any given day. The same can be said for cold weather. A frosty night can kill your plants. If your area experiences a lot of these, you may want to plan a container garden that can be brought inside on a frosty night.
Does it get windy?
Balconies of high-rise buildings can experience a lot of wind which can be damaging to plants and cause them to dry out faster. This is something to consider when planning a garden if you live in an apartment or condo and you’re planning a balcony garden.
Do you have water access?
This is important because during the growing season, many of your plants will need to be watered twice a day. This can be a hassle if you’re planning for lots of pots or raised beds and you’re only using a watering can. Hose access is best if possible.
With so many different ways to garden, you should be able to find one that works well for you regardless of the amount of space and sunlight you have available. Even with so many vegetable garden types, as long as they’re well maintained, get plenty of water and sunlight, they should grow well in almost any area.
Gardening is not only a great way to enjoy healthy, organic produce, it’s also a great hobby that provides relaxation and calm. And, it allows you to ensure that your favorite produce is available all year long.
With a little planning, you can grow a nice garden in almost any small or large area around your home. It doesn’t matter if you only have a small balcony or windowsill, or a large patio, a healthy garden can grow almost anywhere.
Do you have questions on urban gardening options? Please leave a comment below, we would love to hear from. you!