It’s well documented that gardening is beneficial for both mental and physical health. Which is great news for those with ample lawn space, but not so great news for those living in cramped urban landscapes. Urban Gardening—essentially, just gardening in urban spaces like apartments—is a way for those without yard space to enjoy the rewarding and therapeutic qualities of gardening. Because of the decreased sunlight and limited square footage associated with urban environments, an urban garden can be an intimidating and difficult project to start. But with a little know-how, some careful planning, and several visits to your local garden center, you can have a flourishing urban garden in no time. Here’s some tips to get you started.
Survey Your Space
How much space do you have—just room for containers like pots, or enough sq. footage for a garden bed or box? How much sunlight does your growing space receive each day? Do you want flowers, or something you’ll actually eat, like vegetables and herbs? These are the questions that will determine what type of garden you can grow, and how best to do it. Taking careful notes on sun exposure, physical space, and the types of plants you’re hoping to grow are important initial steps to planning your first urban garden. If you decide to consult a gardening professional (which we recommend), these notes will be essential in helping you both determine what growing methods are right for you and your space.
Pick A Growing Method
There are three main approaches to urban gardening: raised bed gardening, square foot gardening, and container gardening. Sunlight availability and the physical limitations of your growing space will determine which method is best for you. Here’s a short outline of each approach:
Raised Bed Gardening—If you have adequate space, this method affords the closest experience to traditional gardening. Raised bed gardening consists of isolating your plants using a large, raised container made from wood or brick. This approach offers additional protection from pests and elements like wind due to its elevated exterior. Raised bed gardening also allows for dense planting, and is a great choice for heat-loving plants like tomatoes and peppers.
Square Foot Gardening—If you’re looking togrow as many plants/vegetables as possible in your small space, square foot gardening might be the option for you. While not entirely different from raised bed gardening, this popular approach uses strict guidelines, specific soil mixtures, and a carefully measured spacing grid to make the most efficient use of your limited growing space. For specifics, visit squarefootgardening.com.
Container Gardening—If space is your biggest concern, container gardening—which requires the least effort, space, and setup—is likely your best bet. Using containers like small pots, this method allows you to grow various sorts of low maintenance plants within a limited amount of physical space. However, because you’re planting in a pot and not the earth, this approach will require that you water and fertilize your plants more often. For more info on these growing methods, click here.
Choose the Right Soil
Because urban soils are typically filled with debris like rocks and sand, and tend to lack the required nutrients, organic potting mix is generally your best option. As far as fertilizer, organic is also the way to go. In addition to the known health risks associated with chemical-based growing practices, synthetic blends like Miracle Grow tend to overfill your garden with nitrogen, which can in turn attract more pests and reduce fruit and vegetable output. We recommend consulting your local garden center or nursery to determine exactly which organic growing mediums and fertilizers are right for you.
Choose Your Plants Wisely
The unique combination of your growing space’s size and exposure to sunlight will determine what plants can flourish in your urban garden. While choosing the exact right plants is best left to you and your local garden center, the following are low-maintenance plants that tend to do well in urban conditions, where sunlight and space are in short supply:
- Cherry tomatoes
- Hot peppers
For more info on growing vegetables in your urban garden, click here.
Go Natural With Your Pest Control
Synthetic, chemical-based pesticides are dangerous to pets, people and the environment. Choosing natural methods for killing and repelling insects is not only more environmentally sustainable, but healthier for your garden, too. Healthier plants are more resistant to disease and the effects of garden pests, so consistent watering and organic fertilizers are the first step to safeguarding your urban garden against damaging bugs like mites and moths.
While there are many effective approaches to natural pest control, an eco-friendly, outdoor pesticide is the easiest and most hassle-free option. (Tip: when choosing a ready-to-use all natural pesticide, be sure that it’s both plant-safe and water-soluble).
Looking for an outdoor pest control solution?
We offer two: PCO Choice and Yardsafe. Click here to learn the difference.
It’s the most wonderful time of the year for most people, however, it’s not always a wonderful time of the year for our planet. With all of the buzz around the holidays, it can be easy to forget about sustainability and put recycling on the back burner. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to easily start making recycling part of your holiday plans, starting with your Christmas tree! If you choose to use a real tree, that is.
Christmas trees are an excellent source of renewable resources that can benefit many, such as local wildlife, the soil, or local organizations. Just remember to remove all lights, ornaments, and hooks before donating or using it for any other purposes.
Donate your tree somewhere they can reuse it.
Many local non-profits take Christmas tree donations and then reuse them for projects in the community. If you can’t drop it off at one these, check with your city and see if they have a program in place for removal. Some cities have a tree pickup services available for two weeks following Christmas.
Make a natural fish habitat.
Have you thought about dropping your tree in a lake or pond? Christmas trees are perfect for fish because they promote algae growth (food) as well as provides them protection. Just make sure all hooks, lights, and decorations have been removed. Also, if your tree has any preservatives or chemicals on it, then it’s best not to use it for this purpose, as a safety precaution. Save the fishies!
Make a bird feeder
Are you a nature enthusiast? You might be a bird watcher in the making if you re-purpose your tree appropriately. Once you’ve removed all of the decorations you can then string out bird friendly food such as unsweetened popcorn, fruit, nuts and seeds. Birds and potentially other small critters will certainly be grateful for the extra food and shelter during the colder months.
Use it as Mulch
One of the easiest ways to reuse your Christmas tree is in the garden. The tree branches make an excellent mulch because they dry out quickly and decompose slowly. Their needlelike shape also allows them to bond together, making them less likely to wash away like other mulches. The needles is not all you can use of your tree, you can also take the stump and have it ground up into chips and spread it across your lawn for the same purpose.
Christmas trees make excellent firewood, but only for outdoor burning. Because the branches are highly flammable, it’s unsafe to burn them indoors. A mere spark sent across your home could quickly turn into a blaze. Also, remember to let the tree completely dry out before you burn it. Lastly, always be aware if your tree has been chemically treated it’s best not to use it for this purpose.
Make Wooden Coasters
It may sound odd, but why not use the stump of your tree to make coasters? If your tree is large enough, you can make several and even give them out as DIY gifts. There are many great tutorials online such as this one that take you through step by step how to make them yourself. Since they will be exposed to moisture from beverages, it’s a good idea to use a natural wood preserver to keep the water from damaging the wood over time.
Make wreaths and decorations
Ready to get crafty? Making a wreath or household decorations is also a simple way to extend the life and use of your tree.
Buy live, potted Christmas trees
Did you know that you can buy potted Christmas trees that can be replanted in your yard? I know, why are more people not doing this? Not only will it benefit your soil and provide safety for animals, it’s ads more natural beauty to your landscape. This could also be a great new tradition to start with your family, instead of cutting down a tree every year, you plant one. Everybody, including the environment wins that way.