What Is An Urban Garden: Learn About Urban Garden Design

What Is An Urban Garden: Learn About Urban Garden Design

By: Liz Baessler

It’s the age-old cry of the city dweller: “I’d love to grow my own food, but I don’t have the space!” While gardening in the city may not be as easy as stepping outside into a fertile backyard, it’s far from impossible and in some ways even preferable! Keep reading to learn more about creating an urban garden.

What is an Urban Garden?

What is an urban garden? At its heart, it’s a garden that has to conform to a small or specific space. Beyond that, it can take all kinds of forms, depending upon what your site calls for.

If you have a rooftop, a patio, or a small patch of ground, you could install a raised bed. As it’s all above ground, even a slab of concrete is a perfect spot.

If you have access to a front porch or any kind of overhang, all kinds of things can be planted in hanging baskets. Flowers are popular, of course, but salad greens, tomatoes, and strawberries can also thrive in baskets.

If you have any south-facing windows, window boxes are a great option for creating a green extension of your apartment that doesn’t take up any of your living space.

Urban Garden Ideas

The most common urban garden design centers around containers. Available in all shapes and sizes and completely mobile, containers are the definition of versatility. Any outdoor space you may have, like a rooftop or balcony, can be covered with containers.

Since they’re moveable, you can switch them out with the seasons, starting warm weather seedlings inside and replacing cool weather crops when summer arrives, taking full advantage of your prized outdoor space.

If you truly have no outdoor access, line your windows, particularly the south-facing ones, with containers. Just make sure to place saucers underneath to catch the draining water. Even indoor plants need drainage.

If none of your windows receive full sun, plants in containers can be grown virtually anywhere in your apartment under grow lights. Just make sure they get good air circulation to prevent disease.

If you really want a patch of land of your own, look around to see if your city has a community garden. It’ll greatly expand your growing space and get you in contact with fellow gardeners who are sure to have their own urban garden ideas to share.

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A Starter Guide To Urban Gardening


For all those city dwellers who have been dreaming about luscious summer gardens to come during the long winter, it’s time to start your own urban garden! For those with budding green thumbs, urban gardening can be an intimidating prospect. To clarify the sometimes-mysterious process, we’ve put together a very brief how-to guide on starting a flourishing container garden replete with herbs, veggies, and flowers so that you can get a jump start on spring gardening.

What you’ll need: Container(s), Seeds, Potting soil

Container gardens can be planted in anything deep enough to support root growth (8-12 inches ideally), as long as you put some holes in the bottom for drainage (think pots, buckets, recycled kiddie pools).

When choosing seeds, consider growing a bunch of herbs in a pot together. As for vegetables, almost everything will grow in a container. Leafy greens (chard, kale, collards) are one of the healthiest options with the most nutrients for your buck, but you can also try out tomatoes, lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, carrots and onions. For a little color, calendula and johnny jump-ups (violas) can be planted next to the vegetables and their petals are delicious sprinkled over a salad.

Fill your container with lightly-packed potting soil to about an inch below the rim and plant your seeds another half inch below the surface. Alternatively, buy baby plants from a nursery and re-pot into your containers. Water your garden and place it on a rooftop or sunny windowsill. Lettuce, peas, greens and the salad flowers can be placed outside mid-April everything else should wait until mid-May. Remember that over-watering is the fastest and most common way to kill a plant – always let the soil dry out and then fill it up.

You can find affordable, 100% recycled garden pots at Seeds of Change

Green Fortune Stream Garden

1) Start with the view from the house

‘All my gardens start off the house,’ says Charlotte. With our climate, you’ll be looking at your garden more than you’ll be in it.

We’re sitting in her own garden, which was one of the first gardens she designed. The main focal point is a smart, white fireplace and chimney breast which you can glimpse through the house when you come in the front door.

Charlotte believes that straight lines are best in rectangular gardens, but they don’t look boxy because her gardens are assymetrical. Photo by Charlotte Rowe Garden Design.

Turn Your Balcony into a Garden

Thanks to space-saving items like container pots, hanging and vertical planters, and pallet walls, making an urban garden on your balcony is an easy way to grow in the city! A balcony garden is ideal because of access to sunshine and protection from wind. Annuals and perennials do well in balcony gardens, as do tomatoes, lettuce, and cucumbers. Make sure to place saucers below containers to prevent water from draining off your balcony onto someone else’s balcony.

3) Break up the space.

‘Everyone thinks that having as much lawn as possible will make the garden look larger,’ says Charlotte. ‘It doesn’t. If you take the lawn right up to the edges of the garden, you’ll actually make the garden look smaller. Break up the space with planting and paths.

Sometimes people don’t want to “waste space” by having big beds, but a few big beds, breaking up the space look better than narrow beds down the sides or along the edges.’

Two beds across the garden, just outside the back door ‘break up the space’ and frame the focal fireplace. The planting is lush and generous.

4 Tips for Starting Your Own Urban Garden

by guest blogger Julie Malone, assistant buyer at Rodale's and urban garden & food blogger

One day, I'll have my dream garden. It will be lush with edible flowers, a tea garden, perfectly staked tomatoes flanked by hearty-stemmed peppers, endless grids of greens, berry bushes tucked in the peripheries, and an orchard in the background (after all, if we're dreaming here, let's dream big). I have no idea where this frame of reference came from, as I grew up with just a modest (but plentiful) veggie garden in the suburbs of Atlanta.

I have lived in Philadelphia for almost nine years now, with varying amounts of outdoor space. An earlier attempt at a container garden was short-lived, as my neighbors informed me that I was not, in fact, planting on my deck but on the roof of their house. Another year was a disaster as I tried (and failed) to grow peppers and tomatoes in small containers on a shady front stoop. These small disappointments made me abandon all efforts for several seasons, thinking I would never garden again until I moved out of the city. For a long time, I let the idea of my dream garden keep me from having a real garden, succumbing to a "go big or go home" mentality.

Fortunately, about four years ago, I moved into a house with a yard that is in reality limited yet by south Philly standards "HUGE" in terms of green space. It was around this time that I stumbled upon square-foot gardening, Mel Bartholomew's method for getting the highest yields out of small spaces. His ideas were an epiphany for me, and I couldn't wait to try it.

I soon built a raised garden bed, subscribed to a variety of wonderful non-GMO, heirloom, and USDA-certified organic seed catalogs and bought enough seeds to start a modest-size farm. Did I mention I only had a 4-by-8-foot bed to work with? That's 32 square feet, or 32 potential varieties of plants (if you're feeling especially adventurous!).

Square-foot gardening, or SFG, breaks your growing area into squares, with suggested max plantings per square foot (e.g. 1 tomato per square, 9 carrots per square). This method is extremely effective, as it's bio-intensive in maximizing active growing space, holds in moisture, naturally reduces weeds, and mimics natural ecosystems (messy clusters rather than fixed rows).

Over the past four growing seasons, using the SFG method, I've made mistakes that in the past would have made me rip everything up and give up. However, with SFG, mistakes are contained to a single square. Better yet, the intensive-but-staggered planting techniques ensure you'll always have something yielding enough to keep you feeling successful.

Around the same time, a friend with only a cement patio used similar theories to plant in containers around the front of her property. Her efforts have been just as successful, and we've both helped our friends set up gardens of their own in whatever space they have available. This past season, my fourth summer with the garden, I thought myself an expert and planted my trusty favorites (tomatoes, lots of garlic, plentiful greens and herbs, and great climbing beans), but was taught by Mother Nature not to get TOO cocky when my new crops of Malabar spinach overtook half of the garden and my teeny okra sprouts didn't produce more than two pods.

Despite these blunders, I've learned from my mistakes, and I've grown braver and more efficient with each season. I might not have my dream garden yet, but I've continued to have success with SFG and have learned that anyone can have a beautiful, fruitful garden, no matter where he or she lives.

Tips for beginning small-space or urban gardeners:

1. Familiarize yourself with the square-foot gardening method. There's Mel's book, of course, but also many helpful books on container gardening for urban areas. Books can be basically life changing in helping you visualize and execute the most "profitable" garden. Which brings me to.

2. Embrace staking methods. A more compact, full garden means everything must be trained to stay in its place. Try the "Florida weave" trellis method for keeping up larger top-heavy plants, such as tomatoes. Smaller stakes and twine will work for eggplant and peppers, which tend to tilt toward their fruits. Vertically strung jute is great for climbing beans.

3. Embrace mistakes. You'll learn a lot more this way, and it's more fun to laugh off failed efforts than to get frustrated. Plus, it's rare that even the worst blunders will yield absolutely nothing (so munch while you laugh!).

4. Embrace your favorites. Keep planting these year after year so that while you may or may not have success with experimental new plants, you'll always have your efforts rewarded.

Care for it

An urban garden needs constant care and attention. Make sure that you are watering your plants to the recommendations on the seed packets and plant care guides. Sadly, you cannot rely on unpredictable English weather to do the job for you. Invest in good compost with nutritional minerals for the plants you want to grow too, so they get the best start.

All in all, how you present your urban garden is entirely up to you and so is what you grow. So have fun with it and enjoy learning something new.

Watch the video: Tour A Stunning Secret Garden In The City!