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Beginner’s Guide to Urban Gardening

July 14, 2014

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Who says you need wide open spaces and top-notch soil to have the garden of your dreams?

If you’re an apartment dweller like me, all you really need is some repurposed containers, dirt and seeds, and a windowsill or small outdoor space.

And voila! You’re on your way to growing some amazing plants and produce (think about the money you’ll save on groceries!).

Here are the easy-to-follow directions to help you get the ball rolling on your very own urban garden.

1. Choose your planters. Go ahead and mix it up by planting in containers you already have at home. Coffee cans, paint buckets, and even milk jugs work as long as they’re big enough to allow for healthy root growth. This means using planters that are around 10 inches deep by 10 inches wide for small herbs and leafy greens and between 5 and 7 gallons for larger vegetables like tomatoes and carrots.

2. Create a drainage system. If you’re using non-traditional planters, you’ll need to drill about three holes in the bases of your containers so that water can escape and not collect around the plant roots, which can rot or even kill your produce. You can also add a shallow layer of small stones or crushed rocks along the bottom of your pots to provide extra space away from the roots for water to gather.

3. Add your potting mix. Once your drainage system is in place, pour in a potting mix that contains compost, peat, perlite, and vermiculite. Make sure the mix comes up to just about 1-inch below the top of your container. Soil isn’t needed for an urban garden because potting mixes absorb more water and provide better aeration for plants and produce grown in pots.

4. Mix in organic fertilizer. Container-grown plants require extra care because they can’t draw nutrients naturally from the ground. So adding a sprinkle of organic fertilizer to the top few inches of the potting mix will provide the macronutrients and micronutrients they need, including nitrogen, phosphorus, calcium, and sulfur.

5. Plant your seeds. Now that the pots are all set, go ahead and plant your seeds about a half-inch below the surface. Keep in mind that leafy greens like spinach, chard, and kale are easy to maintain and super nutritional, and herbs including sage, parsley, and thyme can be grown together in a single container.  

6. Water regularly. Watering your plants and produce on a daily basis is a must – especially if they’re being grown urban garden style in a windowsill or on a balcony or patio in direct sunlight. The dirt should be totally dry before watering and you’ll need to add enough water that the excess trickles out through the drainage holes.

Gardening isn’t just a hobby meant for summertime, so wherever you are in the world get started on your urban garden today!

Do you have any urban gardening tips to share? Leave them in the comments section below!

About the author

Shana Bitterman is a contributing writer to Wellness Today and a 2013 graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. She enjoys traveling and spending time in the kitchen, whipping up wholesome and delicious meals for her friends and family.