Almost anyone can create a productive urban garden with a bit of knowledge and patience. Whether you have a backyard, a small courtyard, a patio or even just a balcony you can grow your own food. Growing fruit and vegetables is easy once you acquire a few basic skills and it needn’t take a lot of time either.
Plants need 4 basic things – sunlight, a good growing medium, regular fertilizing and water. There are even certain vegetables that will grow quite happily in semi-shade as long as they get at least 4 hours of sunlight on a daily basis.
Container Gardening Can Be Fun And Rewarding
If your only outdoor space for your urban garden is a patio or balcony you most certainly will be growing your plants in containers. Garden pots and planters come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors so by grouping them together in interesting ways you can create a lovely oasis as well as having the benefit of being able to harvest your own produce to use in your cooking.
When creating your container urban garden, choose pots that are sturdy and have saucers with them, especially if you are gardening on a balcony, so that you don’t have water runoff. You might even like to consider self-watering planters as these are designed so that the water sits in a reservoir at the bottom of the container away from the roots of the plants and the plant then takes the water up through a wick. This means that you’ll need to water less often.
If you have a backyard or garden and you’re planting into the ground you have to deal with the soil that is already there whether it’s heavy clay that goes hard and can be impenetrable to water if it dries out or a sandy soil which doesn’t hold water at all. If this is the case you need to improve the soil by adding more organic matter in the form of compost or mulch or grow a green manure crop and dig it in. All of this takes time and effort. With container gardening you don’t have any of these problems, just fill your planter with a good quality potting mix and you’re ready to start planting.
One thing to remember though is that containers dry out more quickly. Therefore, they need regular watering. And, because your plants need nutrients to thrive and produce an abundant harvest you also need to add regular fertilizer.
And you don’t have to limit yourself to just one plant per pot. Many plants grow quite happily together. This is called companion planting so you can utilize your available space very effectively by grouping certain plants together.
Raised Vegetable Garden Beds: A Great Alternative To Ground Planting
If you have a reasonable outdoor growing space you may like to consider putting in some raised garden beds as an alternative to planting your vegetables directly into the ground and having to deal with any soil problems that you may have.
You have the choice of either making your own raised beds with materials that you may have lying around or can scrounge from family and friends or you can purchase a myriad of different raised garden bed kits in various sizes and construction material. Mostly these come flat packed. Therefore, it’s very simple to assemble them and place them where you want to grow your veggies.
Correct Placement Is Important
When placing your raised beds take into account environmental factors. These include sunlight, as this will determine what crops to grow in each bed. You’ll also want to make sure that the area is completely weed-free first. You can do this either by manual weeding or by putting down a weed inhibitor such as weed mat, layers of newspaper or cardboard.
The advantages of raised vegetable beds are many. These include being able to control the type of growing medium that you use. They also provide easy access to your vegetables for both tending to and harvesting. Plus if you have back problems it means that you don’t have to bend as far. It also segregates your growing areas into nice neat plots making it easier to rotate your crops between growing seasons.
Filling Your Raised Garden Beds
Once you’re ready to fill your raised garden bed you have 2 options. Either fill the bed completely with a mixture of garden soil and compost or utilize the method of no-till gardening otherwise known as lasagna gardening. What this means is that you’ll be layering various materials in your bed (straw or pea mulch, compost & fertilizer) to create a rich growing medium as the layers eventually break down.
This method of creating vegetable garden beds is becoming increasingly popular as it involves less labor and the end result will be a lush and healthy crop of vegetables with less pest and disease problems. The lasagna gardening method is best suited to green leafy crops or fruiting crops such as tomatoes and peppers. You’ll need to top up the beds with additional materials once the original materials have started to break down.
If you’re also wanting to grow root crops like carrots, garlic and beetroot use the first method of filling your bed with a mixture of garden soil and compost.
Having a raised garden bed also makes it simple to install some kind of watering system. You can either fill this manually or attach it to a timer on your garden tap. There are many forms of irrigation you can use such as drip irrigation, mini spray irrigation or traditional methods like ollas or wet pots. You can even utilize recycled materials such as soda bottles. Drill holes into them so that the water slowly seeps out at the root level of the plants.
Vertical Gardening: A Fantastic Way to Utilize More Growing Space
Vertical gardening is becoming more and more popular as people with small growing spaces are getting involved in growing their own food. This method of creating an urban garden is ideal for people with small spaces, patio gardeners and apartment gardeners.
Commonly it entails growing plants on a wall with the use of various types of structures that are fixed onto the wall or fence. This type of ‘growing up’ was first widely used by hydroponic growers. However, it can be easily utilized for plants growing in a potting mixture.
Once again there are many commercially available kits that you can purchase and assemble yourself to create a vertical garden but some very innovative gardeners have made their own using things like guttering, plastic drink bottles or even hanging shoe racks. Bear in mind though that anything made from fabric will eventually deteriorate due to being exposed to sunlight and water.
Saves On Water
One advantage of vertical gardening is that if you’ve set up your garden correctly and have drainage holes in the bottom of each ‘container’ you only need to water or install some irrigation in the top section as the water will drain down and water the containers below. You still need to make sure though that all your plants are getting enough moisture. They also need regular fertilizer as this will be leached out with the water as it drains out.
Also, make sure that you have some pots under your vertical garden to catch any runoff. This will achieve even more efficient watering.
Another way to make use of vertical gardening is to use hanging planters to grow things like strawberries and cherry tomatoes. In fact, any kind of trailing, climbing or creeping plant like cucumbers, beans, pumpkins and different types of herbs can be quite successfully grown in hanging planters. If you’re growing plants with ‘heavy’ fruit such as pumpkins make sure that you provide support for the developing ‘fruit’ by fashioning a hammock out of fabric or hessian.
If you have a balcony as part of your urban garden, you can even attach planters to the top of the railing utilizing even more available space. When placing your vertical planters make sure you take note of how much sunlight each growing area will receive. This will help you to determine which plants to put where. Remember generally fruiting plants will require more sunlight than green leafy crops or root vegetables.
What Are The Best Gardening Tools For Your Urban Garden?
When it comes to gardening tools the sheer variety available can be very confusing for first-time gardeners. What you absolutely must have depends greatly on what type of urban garden you’re are creating.
If you have a small balcony, patio or courtyard garden you can get away with a smaller selection of tools. The essentials that you’ll need are a good trowel for planting and digging, a dibbler for sowing seeds, a decent watering can and a good pair of pruning shears for trimming and harvesting your crops.
On the other hand, people with a backyard garden or even a front garden will need a few extra essential tools to help with the creation and maintenance of a productive vegetable and fruit garden. You will need a sturdy spade or shovel for digging and spreading mulch, a hand weeding tool to remove those pesky weeds that always seem to pop up, a trowel for planting your seedlings, a dibbler for planting seeds, and of course a good pair of secateurs like the Felco Pruning Shears.
Other Useful Tools
There are of course other tools that you’ll find invaluable in making your garden work easier and more efficient. For me, a garden cart is a must. I received one as a gift last year and have used it absolutely every time I’m out in the garden. I take it around with me when I’m pruning and weeding to put all the refuse into. I’ve also used it to cart two entire truckloads of mulch around the garden to spread on different beds. Plus, I’ve wheeled it up to the boot of the car to unload various garden purchases I’ve made.
If you have an established urban garden with shrubs and trees you’ll also need a good pair of garden loppers or heavy pruners. I especially like the ratchet pruners as they’re very easy to use and make light work of cutting through thick branches. A pair of hedging shears are also useful for trimming and shaping shrubs into neat shapes.
For pest and weed control its also essential to have a decent garden sprayer. Actually I have 3 garden sprayers so that I can keep them all separate for the various applications I use. Make sure you label your sprayers with the type of spray contained in them. That way you won’t mix them up.
And if you have any area of lawn, you’ll also need a lawnmower and trimmer. Then you’ll have to decide whether you want a petrol mower or a more environmentally friendly battery charged mower. For those with small yards, there are also electric mowers or hand push mowers.
So as you can see, with a little knowledge and a few tools, you can turn any outdoor space into a functional, edible fruit and vegetable growing haven. And just imagine the satisfaction that you’ll feel when you serve your family and friends deliciously fresh harvested produce from your own garden.