Starting a garden in the city is easy!
Can you start a garden in the city? Yes you can!
My garden is a testimony to you. When I started gardening, I was a bit hesitant. Will my plants grow well in an urban environment? Can they survive? But now, I am enjoying the fresh harvest from my garden every day, and I believe you can also be like me. If you are looking forward to do this, here are some tips on how to do so.
If you want to be successful in starting a garden, you should plan accordingly and decide what plants you want to grow. You should also determine the space where you want your garden to be. How much time do you want to spend on your garden every day? Remember that gardening requires everyday effort and dedication. Nevertheless, it has its own rewards.
If you have a smaller space, consider having a container garden. It is an excellent choice for urban gardeners and can also supplement a traditional garden. Container gardening consists of planting into pots which may be located just outside your kitchen door. Also it is a nice experiment for your kids to grow plants and harvest their own produce. You can easily move your plants when there is a change of season.
You can also consider creating a raised bed if you have enough space for gardening. Do that if you want to do square-foot gardening, a process that allows you to maximize food production in a small amount of space.
To make it easier for you to plan your garden, you can draw a garden plan on paper, preferable on graphing paper. You should consider the instructions in your seed packets for recommended spacing, spread and height. As a rule, place tall plants on the north edge of your garden plot so that they won’t shade the shorter ones.
You should plant in single wider rows or in raised beds; or also plant in blocks or staggered rows. You can also plant a few rows of flowers on the edge of the bed just for bouquet picking or for planting some useful herbs.
Everything big comes from small things and this also applies in starting a garden. You may be driven by a desire to plant a lot, but it is good to start only with a small garden. If you plant too much, you will end up wasting your harvest because you may fail to consume all of it at one time, especially in the case of vegetables. We advise starting a garden small and expand on the next seasons; in that way, you can plan on your harvests. You can experiment with plants and see which of them grows best in your soil type.
Aside from starting a garden even small, you should also pick a nice spot in your target urban space. You can start with a two to three-meter area. Look for a safe area which can catch sunlight for six to eight hours a day. The space should also be close enough to a water supply such as a faucet so that you won’t encounter any problems anytime you want to water those plants.
If you are going to have container gardening, you should find pots to fit your purpose. Consider drainage and porosity of your plant pots. You can ask people from your gardening shop to suggest the best containers that you can use for your plants.
Bear in mind that growing plants on containers is different from growing them on the ground. Container plants are dependent on the type of soil that they grow on because their roots do not have enough space to roam around and find their needed nutrients for their growth. You should use potting soil instead of garden soil or topsoil; the latter are too compacted and may cause your plants to become soggy. They may also suffocate your plants.
There are many vegetables that you can grow in containers. Examples include tomatoes, peppers, lettuce and certain herbs. If you want to plant other plants in containers, consider planting bushes or dwarf varieties.
In starting a garden (backyard), you should choose a spot where you can easily have access to your plants. Do you want it near your back door? Near the gate? Outside your window? Near your window? The choice is yours. What matters is that you have easy access to it, and you can easily see it from a place where you can frequently see it.
Space is not actually a limitation when it comes to urban gardening. You can grow vegetables, herbs and flowers even from containers, decks or balconies. All these can provide plenty of space for your plants. Gardening success actually is not dependent on gardening space; it’s about what plants you have.
Make sure that you pick a spot that has full sun, because plants can’t live well without adequate sunlight. Sunlight is like a vitamin to them that can offer immune resistance against pests and illnesses. You can still have some plant in shady areas; examples of these plants are spinach and lettuce. Peas also do better in the shade.
4 – Design Your Garden
There are two methods in planning and starting a garden layout: row cropping and intensive cropping.
Row cropping is placing some plants on a single file in rows, with a space for walking between each row. This is the best design of you want to have a large vegetable garden. This design usually needs some equipment such as tillers to remove some weeds. The disadvantage of this design is that you will not gain more harvest from a small space because you have to provide a walking space in between.
Intensive cropping, on the other hand, makes use of planting in wide bands that are around 1 to 4 feet across. This reduces the space for paths but the plants have a closer spacing with each other. This design can only allow you to remove weeds by hand. Because you have some hand work to do here, you should bear in mind to keep the bands wide enough so that you can comfortably reach. This design is considered ideal if you want to use your front yard as gardening space. With this design, you can combine vegetable plants with herbs and flowers.
One version of intensive cropping is the “square-foot method”, which divides your garden into smaller beds which are sized at 4 x 4 feet and further into 1-foot squares. In this garden design, it is best to leave some space with no plants at first so that you may be able to plant a second crop for the next season.
Make a list of your favourite vegetables and then add some that are hard to find on markets. You should also bear in mind how much each plant yield per harvest so that you can plan ahead on preserving or storing extra fruits and vegetables so that they will not go to waste.
You should also keep in mind whether these vegetables and fruits that you chose are disease-resistant and are able to yield harvest early. If you have a smaller space, you can plant dwarf or bushy plants.
If you like to have various plants, you can buy from seed companies either online or offline. It is best to buy a mixture of seeds, seedlings and nursery plants to have variety. By that, you can have slow growers and fast growers in your garden at the same time. Also, some plants tend to ward off pests than others, one example of which is basil which can ward off tomato pests.
Also, pick your plants based on your climate and geography. Some plants don’t grow well in warm weather while some don’t grow in the cold.
Another thing you should consider is choosing plants that won’t require much effort, especially because you are in an urban location, and you wouldn’t have time to take care of them most of the time.
Now that you have already planned your urban garden, it’s time to clean up your space. If you have a lawn, you can start removing weeds by mowing and raking. Raking can remove excess debris that is brought over by a change of seasons. Remove weeds and extra debris from your garden beds.
Now that you have cleaned your plot, it’s time to prepare the soil for planting. During spring, soil often ends up getting soggy and it will often get compacted and be hard for the growth of plants. To test for sogginess, squeeze some soil in your hands; if it falls apart, it is dry enough for planting well.
Next, measure and place marks on the garden plot with some sticks and strings. You can then lift a square of soil with a garden fork and shake off the soil to make it softer. To prevent weeds from growing, you should place some metal or plastic tape on the edges of your plot.
Dig on the soil and remove roots using a shovel or a garden fork. Then, place some manure and some compost on the soil and some bone meal if you want it. Mix them well with the soil and rake them into a fine level.
Next, get your seed packets and read the instructions found on them. Follow the given instructions for each plant. Go back to your garden space and water it; keep it moist until you are ready to plant.
Home-grown or nursery plants should be planted during cool days so that there will be no transplant stress on these plants. With transplant stress, your plants will not be able to thrive very well.
Place stakes on tomatoes, beans and peas. You can use twigs, tree branches, metal rods, sticks or poles.
Leave some space in between plants such as lettuce so that you can always have a fresh harvest. You can do alternate planting so that you will have a harvest all year round. Crop rotation is the secret towards a bountiful harvest, so don’t take this for granted. Don’t plant the same crops for two consecutive years.
When you water your plants, don’t just spray water on them in a forceful manner with a hose. You can use a watering can or a soaker hose. This is for you to conserve water while at the same time give plants just adequate moisture to help them grow. Excess water in plants can cause moulds to grow which will destroy your plants.
Weeds around your plants should be pulled by hand or by using a hoe. Remove weeds while they are young; when they are too big, you can hardly remove them and doing so, you may damage the roots of your plants.
Success in gardening involves the use of the right tools. You should invest in gardening tools that are durable enough to last for many years. They should also feel comfortable on your hands and shouldn’t weigh too much to cause fatigue on your part.
Some basic gardening tools that you will need are a square-ended spade, a shovel and a garden fork. We use them for digging. The spade and shovel are used for general digging while the garden fork is used for light digging and harvesting.
For breaking up the soil, you will need a metal rake. For weeding and planting, you will need a hoe. A trowel may be needed for planting and transferring plants from one place to another. A garden hose and a watering can are also needed to water your plants.
After you have done all these things, you should decide to do some work on your garden every day. Your garden needs cleaning and maintenance every day, so you need to prioritize things. If you think that you don’t have the time to take care of plants, you should not start a garden.
It is always a good thing to start things slow and plan carefully. Your primary challenges could be cleaning and maintaining your garden. If you feel a little tired, you can take a break every now and then and take care of it in an easy manner.
Related: planning for next year’s patch
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Featured Image from @coppermoonfarm
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