Creating a Small Urban Garden
By Elli Davis, September 6, 2013
Urban Garden by Craig Dietrich
People believe you need a suburban-sized backyard to create your very own garden, but this is not necessary. Even with a smaller backyard, only a balcony, or the interior of your home, that dream garden you have always been mulling over in your head can become a reality. There is a certain amount of importance in knowing how to tend to a garden, even in the city. As Toronto's Fresh City Farms founder, Ran Goel, says, "city farming can change the world by re-introducing all of us to how real food is made."
Here are a few helpful tips to help you on that path to create your very own small urban garden:
Where to Make Your Garden
In creating your garden, a little creativity can maximize the urban space you have available. When starting out, here are a few places that will have some free space for your plants:
- Living rooms
- The kitchen
- Window ledges,
- Balcony railings
- Small backyards
- Small gardening spaces around an apartment (ask your landlord for permission)
Cactus by Norio NAKAYAMA
Food writer Signe Langford reckons that in urban gardening, "preparation is paramount". Certain plants thrive in different areas depending on how much sunlight or moisture they receive. For interior rooms like washrooms, ferns are great, as the constant moisture from showers will make sure they always receive enough to thrive. For living rooms that receive direct sunlight, plants that would be best are African violets or ice cascades. In shaded areas of your living room, use plants like moth orchids and Thanksgiving cactus for flowered blooms or snake plant and philodendron for beautiful leafy plants. A helpful tip to remember is that however many plants you plant in your garden, you'll have to water most every day —so depending on how much free time you have, plan accordingly. Balconies, balcony railings, the walls outside your home, and small gardens can create an atmosphere outside your home that's a calming getaway from the urban lifestyle of Toronto.
Picking Your Type of Planter
Once you know where to create your garden, now choose what planters you would like to display and how you would like to display them. For planters on the ground, there are many to choose from:
- Staircase pots
- Multi-tiered planters
Planters on the wall take up less space and maximize the amount of plants you can use:
- Wall gutter planters
- Bamboo and zip ties
- Futon frames
- Trellises and pallets
Swan Planter by su.bo
If you use hanging planters, small animals and crawling bugs can’t damage them. To get your plants off the ground and hanging from ceilings, you have many choices:
- Sky planters
- Wooly pocket planters
- Hanging gutter plants
- Hanging pots
Window boxes and balcony rail planters also get your plants off the ground and take up less space.
Picking Your Plants
Picking the plants for your garden is a fun process that allows you to arrange the shape of your garden and its colour arrangement or function — whether vegetable, flower, shrub, vine, or combination. In creating your garden, lower-maintenance plants are the easiest choice for people with a busy schedule. Low-maintenance plants are native plants that are either vines, shrubs, or wild flowers. Native plants are easy to start your garden off with because they have many benefits.
- Resist most diseases and pests
- Require no fertilization or irrigation
- Require less watering than most plants
- Adapted to the local climate, able to live in winter and summer healthily
For vine and shrub plants that create white blooms in the summer, use dogwood or black elderberry. For wild flowers, the bright red cardinal flower or lilac fringed gentian add splashes of bright colour to your garden. Check out this site to purchase native plants online.
Day Lilies by Jim Landerkin
Flowers that bloom annually offer a vast selection:
For perennial plants, here are some popular selections:
- Day lilies
- Purple coneflowers
- Russian sage
- Lamb’s ear
- Black-eyed Susans
If you want to create a vegetable garden inside your house, the best choices are peppers, tomatoes, and eggplants. For a vegetable garden outside, the vegetables depend on the current season. Cilantro and radishes are best in spring, okra and eggplants are best in summer, and carrots and turnips are best in fall. Go here to purchase vegetables and flowers online.
Balcony Garden by Till Westermayer
Creating your own garden just needs some time to plan.
Here are the three simple steps.
- Choose where on your property you would like to create your garden
- Choose which planters would be best for your garden
- Choose which plants you would like to grow
Now that you have some tips, all you need is some healthy soil, your favourite plants, and a bit of free time to create your ideal garden. Don't be discouraged if it doesn't work your first year, gardening takes practice and patience. Remember Robert Louise Stevenson's words: “Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”