Urban Gardening

Urban Gardening: Growing Green Where Space is Lean

Ahhhh, the beauty of spring! The fragrance of flowers fills the air. Lush greenery softens the landscape. Too bad the only fragrance you smell is from the taco stand down the street. And greenery? Not so much… unless you count the traffic light outside your window.

Such is springtime in the city. Or is it? Just because your space is limited, doesn’t mean you can’t bond with nature. All you need is a dash of ingenuity, a pinch of creativity and the right information to grow your own little green paradise.

Ok, so you’re ready to bring a little nature into your life. But where to put it? You can barely fit a chair on your balcony, let alone a garden. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. You can find room to grow in even the smallest abodes—with or without outdoor space. Scope out one of these prime spots:

  • Fire Escape: You don’t want to block a quick exit in an emergency, but there’s usually plenty of room for narrow planters. Or you can hang pots, soda bottle planters or window boxes over the rails for optimal sunlight.
  • Balcony or Patio: If you have one of these little luxuries, you can grow anything from small trees to vegetable gardens. All you need are some pots or planters.
  • Walls: Although they may pose an issue with landlords or homeowners associations, outdoor walls are great for pallet gardens, vertical planters or wall-mounted planters.
  • Windows and Windowsills: A sunny spot in a window or on a windowsill is all you need to grow flowering plants or your own herb garden. Even some fruits and vegetables can be grown indoors.
  • Inside: Grow a garden anywhere you find a free corner with an indoor light cart. Or, for a little splash of greenery, you can build your own self-contained terrarium.
  • Rooftop: If your local ordinance, homeowners association or landlord allows it, a rooftop garden is an ideal spot for sun-loving plants. And there’s an extra bonus—a rooftop garden also doubles as a great insulator.

Vertical planting—the fine art of growing up. Vertical planters such as pallets, pockets, steps, hanging planters, shelves and stands allow for more plants in a smaller footprint. Through vertical planting, even a shoe organizer or old gutters can be transformed into vibrant gardens.

Clean freaks have no excuse not to garden. With hydroponic planting, there are no overturned pots or spilled dirt. In fact, there’s no dirt whatsoever. And with easy-to-use hydroponic kits, you can have your own hydroponic system set up in no time. Or, if you’re more ambitious, you can build a complete hydroponic garden using store-bought or recycled materials. With benefits like faster growth rates, greater yields, and less space and water needed for growth, it’s no surprise hydroponic gardening is more popular than ever.

Think of your garden as a party on your patio—you want to invite the right guests so that everyone mixes well and no one gets hurts. This is kind of the idea behind companion planting, the term used for planting multiple, compatible plants in close proximity to one another. By choosing the right plants, you’ll not only be able to plant more plants in a smaller area, but you’ll also reap other benefits, such as increased crop productivity, pest control and pollination.

Eating locally is all the trend, and you can’t get more local than 10 feet from your kitchen. Imagine picking a fresh salad for dinner, complete with tomatoes and herbs. Or mix up a cocktail with a lime from your own citrus tree. Here are some more ideas to turn your small garden into a produce aisle:

  • Grow your own fruit salad. Fruit salad trees are the coolest things since the garden hose! Through a technique called grafting, fruit salad trees allow you to harvest as many as seven different fruits from one tree—all in the space of a single pot or small patio area.
  • Choose wisely—and widely. Select edibles that grow well in the amount of sunlight and space you have available. And choose a variety of your favorite produce for more nutrition and greater recipe possibilities. Some ideal choices for pots and patios are tomatoes, peppers, peas, lettuce, carrots and beans.
  • Plant a one-pot wonder. All you need is a single container and compatible plants to grow all the makings for salsa, pasta sauce, salad and more.

Still think you can’t spare the space? Consider a community garden. For free or for a small fee, you can garden your own individual plot or a shared plot, depending on the garden. Come harvest time, you’ll not only have a full pantry, but also a greater sense of community. Community gardens are now common in many urban areas, so it’s easier than ever to find one near you.