Want to create your own urban garden, but don’t know where to start? Read on!
By Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi
There’s so little green in cities these days. And food – especially organic – is increasingly expensive.
Consequently, finally, citizens are taking matters into their own hands. Guerilla Gardening is now a growing a thing – figuratively and literally. In case you’re not familiar with the term, that’s when people just sneak out in the middle of the night and plant beautiful greenery all around the city. Why in the middle of the night, you may ask? Well, because doing so is actually considered vandalism! Yes, seriously – of public property!
But for the more timid of us who want to be surrounded by greenery but don’t have a garden or any ideas for a small garden design beyond the odd window box here and there, there are other solutions.
Sure, window boxes are a great way to get started. But you can also grow your ‘garden’ indoors, too (like these). It’s actually way easier than you think, and there are loads of reasons to create your own urban garden!
- You’ll get a great sense of achievement watching your plant babies grow.
- It’s a better way to use of your free time than, say, being stuck in front of a laptop or smartphone all day.
- Depending on what you plant, you’ll reap the rewards in the form of fresher air around your home, beautiful flowers to display or maybe even some organic veggies for dinner!
Ready to learn how to create your own urban garden? Read on!
5 Steps To Make A Wonderful Urban Garden
1. Get The Basics You’ll Need
First, to create your own urban garden, you’ll need to do a bit of shopping. You really don’t need all that much. Basically:
- a planter of some kind – be it a pottery or wood container, if you’re doing this indoors
- some potting soil for pots or containers
- depending on what you want to plant, some seedlings, plants or seeds and possibly some fertiliser
- if you’re planting outside, you might want to get some gloves, a spade and a pick
Be sure you have a source of water nearby to wet your plants as required. Talk to your local plant nursery specialist and tell them your goals. They’ll help you select what you need. Or, check useful sites like this for extra tips.
2. Learn Beginner’s Gardening Terms
First, you need to know a wee bit about different kinds of plants to buy. These terms are the most basic ones to familiarise yourself with:
These plants complete their lifespan in a single season, then may need to be replanted. A “Hardy Annual” is set outdoors in spring, for example, and may lie dormant during winter, then revive in the springtime.
These plants thrive over two seasons. If outside, they’re planted in summer and will produce stems and leaves in season one before flowering the following season.
These are plants like ivy or roses that can attach to an upright structure, such as a trellis, wall, or fence. These are great for balconies.
A hardy plant is one which is not affected by frosts or cold weather.
A perennial is a non-wood plant that flowers every year, retreating over winter and re-growing the following spring. Geraniums are a good example. These will live for years in a garden or window box.
3. Select What To Plant
Before you create your own urban garden, decide what your goals are. Do you just want a bit more greenery in your house? Would you like a splash of colour from flowers? Would you like to grow your own food?
Where you’re planting will determine what you can plant.
For example, these plants can grow with little light, in cool areas:
snapdragons * daisies * parsley * lemon balm * hosta * impatiens * wax begonia
Whereas these plants do well in warm, sunny areas:
marigolds * lavender * peppers * rosemary * thyme * jasmine * honeysuckle * tomatoes
The best plants to grow for food in an urban garden are:
herbs of all kinds * cherry tomatoes * peppers * strawberries * chard * spinach * lettuce
Not all plants are the same size, so they won’t all be planted at the same depth.
General rule? Plant a bulb or seedling three times as deep as its height – but note that this guideline will vary depending on your soil type and the plant in question.
It’s always a good idea to check the guidelines on the plant packaging (if there is any).
Also be aware of the watering schedule your selected plants need. If you’re frequently away, you’ll have to get someone to help you keep the plants moist while you’re gone.
4. Make The Window Box of Your Dreams
When learning to create your own urban garden, you can follow these tips for an outdoor garden of any kind. Even the teeniest ‘garden’, the window box!
To make a gorgeous box, first ensure it’s safely fastened to something, or is on a ledge that it definitely won’t fall off – it could literally kill someone below it! Also be sure to buy a window box with holes drilled at the bottom for drainage. Determine whether your window is shady or sunny, then:
- Add enough compost and good potting soil around the plants so they sit firmly.
- Pack in the plant seedlings that are appropriate for the light you have. Don’t be afraid to pack them in! More plants look lusher and prettier than a bunch of stragglers. You can always pull a few out if they get too crowded and replant them elsewhere.
- Some great choices that can bloom for ages in windows or on balconies are geraniums, lavender, mini cedar trees and ivy.
- For herbs, try growing: sage, chives, thyme, and mint. These are quite hardy. Cilantro, parsley and basil can be more delicate and prone to pests.
- Make sure to water and fertilize often – but never, ever overwater! Plants can be saved from under watering, but once they’re over watered, roots rot and the plant dies, even if there are drainage holes.
- Just check the soil every other day or so. If you stick your finger in 1 knuckle and it’s dry, it’s time to add a bit of water.
- Don’t be afraid to replace plants that have finished blooming with others. Plants do indeed have a lifespan, you know.
- If you leave the box out in winter, fill it with evergreens, flowering cabbage, pansies or violas.
5. If You Love It, Expand It
If you create your own urban garden and live in an apartment or condo, great! But if you really enjoyed it and have common gardens or roof space, why not check around with management and see if there’s any chance of getting a communal garden going? You could even create a little coop that grows its own food on the roof.
Or, if you live in a terraced house, you could ask the ground floor owner if you can create a garden together and share the benefits.
Or finally, if you’ve had success on your balcony or in your window box, why not see how much more you can grow indoors? The potential for planting is always greater than you think!