There is no life quite like the city life. The fast pace, bright lights, and loud sounds are cacophony and harmony at the same time to any city dweller. However, as more and more people are moving away from the calm country, cities are becoming more and more dense, turning the modern frontier into a real estate nightmare that can barely fit the people living in it. The cost of living in large, prosperous cities like New York and Tokyo have never been higher, with most ‘affordable’ apartments barely containing basic home amenities like personal kitchens and walled bedrooms.
Reading the title of this article, you might think, “I already live in a cramped studio apartment where my bedroom, living room and kitchen are all in the same place. How would I be able to grow and care for a garden like this?” Many green thumbs have asked the same question, and their answer is the growing trend of urban gardening. Find out how it works, and how you can do it yourself in this article.
So you’ve decided to start working on a little farm on your little home. Where would you even start? Well, the urban garden is not that much different from the traditional lush, green, large gardens on the front or back yard of a large house; all of the basics of plant care remain basically the same whether the plants are in a pot or in the ground. The only real difference here is size – as city dwellings don’t have the luxury of space, the urban garden has morphed into a variety of form factors designed to work very efficiently despite the space limits.
Like starting the larger kind, getting an urban garden going requires quite a bit of preparation. In the four common urban gardening setups we will be talking about, we will break down the basics into three sections – the plants, planter, and place. With that said, let’s go into your options.
Option 1: Planter Garden
Place: The planter garden has your plants set in pots, planter boxes, or some other container, and as such is one of the most flexible setups in terms of finding a place to put it. Most prefer to have it on a balcony or patio.
Planter: You can use a variety of containers to house your plants, each with its own benefits and drawbacks. The typical choices for pots are plastic and clay (typically terracotta), while larger planter boxes are often built out of plastic or wood. Clay pots and wooden planter boxes achieve a more ‘natural’ look but are vulnerable to environmental damage (cracking in terracotta and rotting in wood). Plastic containers are strong, light, and cheap – practically free if you recycle old plastic containers in your home – but hold heat and water a bit too well, which will require a bit more effort on your part to make sure your plants grow nice and healthy.
Plants: Unless you are looking to grow a lemon tree out of your balcony, you have countless options in terms of what plants to put in your pot and planter garden. If you are looking to plant flowers and beautify your balcony, there are many varieties that prefer quick-draining soils – perfect for pots and planters. A few great examples are the lily of the Nile (Agapanthus), lavender, and petunia. If you want to grow your own little farm, culinary herbs such as sage, thyme, basil, and oregano all grow nicely in little pots, giving you a source of fresh spices within reach of your kitchen.
Option 2: Vertical Garden
Place: If you don’t have that much outward space on your patio or balcony, extending your garden upward should be the next best thing. The vertical garden allows you to have a lot of plants growing without taking up precious foot area, making it great for small yards and small homes.
Planter: The most common kinds of vertical gardens are based around racks or trellises. Vertical rack gardens are, simply put, a vertically-mounted set of pots and planters. Trellises, on the other hand, are wall-mounted lattices typically made out of wood, plastic, or bamboo, serving as an area on which creeping vines can grow.
Plants: If you are going with the rack setup, your selection shouldn’t be that much different from a horizontal garden with pots and planters. The trellis, however, will open you up to creeping vine plants that add an extra dash of nature’s beauty (and maybe even grapes!) on your wall.
Option 3: Raised Bed Garden
Place: A raised bed, typically made out of composite materials including concrete and liquid limestone, allows you to have a decently-sized garden just about anywhere you can find space for them. Unlike the previous two options, however, raised beds take up a lot more room than normal, which is why urban gardeners prefer to have them set up on larger spaces such as shared roof areas. It is definitely worth asking your landlord about getting a raised bed installed.
Planter: In a raised bed garden, the raised bed is the planting area itself, essentially serving as a very large planter box.
Plants: With the increase in size and volume means an increase in the number of options for planting. A full-blown vegetable garden is a lot more feasible in a raised bed garden, allowing you to grow lettuce, tomatoes, berries, and many, many more.
Option 4: Little Greenhouse
Place: Along with raised bed gardens, tiny greenhouses are growing in popularity as a great urban gardening option for apartment roof spaces that can accommodate their size.
Planter: Of all the options we have here, the little greenhouse is certainly the biggest, with its transparent or translucent canopy creating a controlled, sheltered environment for the optimal growth of your flowers and vegetables.
Plants: Given its sheer size, the only thing keeping you from planting whatever you want is the size of your greenhouse. That being said, some of the more space-efficient options could allow you to make better use of your greenhouse. The possibilities are up to you and your ingenuity.
The rise of urban gardening has proven to the world that nature can, indeed, find a way. Even within the concrete confines of the urban jungle, having a little patch of nature for yourself is not that hard anymore. Even if you have a suburban home these lessons can still be applied to help provide a modern feel to any home. With the options we’ve discussed above, you too can add Mother Nature’s touch to your life as well.