Urban gardening

Urban gardening and micro gardening have their share of challenges. Shade from trees and buildings, space limitations, and lead contamination (in older neighborhoods) require ingenuity and creativity to overcome. Use the following strategies for a vibrant and productive micro garden on a small urban plot.

Consider All Desired Uses

What do you want to achieve in your garden? Do you have children or pets that need space to wander? Do you like to entertain groups? Is food production or wildlife habitat your main goal?

Looking at the big picture helps maximize the utility of your space, so no needs are left unmet. You can get a lot of ideas by taking a peek at your neighbors’ gardens, especially if they have a similar layout.

Use Containers To Expand Your Options

Containers expand the possibilities on balconies, terraces, patios, and paved spaces, or in yards with contaminated soil. Get creative when selecting containers by repurposing or upcycling cooking pots, buckets, or even a wheelbarrow.  If adequate sunlight is an issue, pots can be moved once or twice a day to capture as much sunlight as possible.

When there is enough space, raised beds are a good choice because they provide space for the roots to grow down, while avoiding drainage issues on compacted soils. Raised beds contain elevated soil above the ground surface, often containing it within a wood, stone, or brick frame. When building raised beds on compacted soils, use 12 inches of soil or more if built on a paved surface. Raised beds can then be densely planted, helping to crowd out weeds and boosting moisture retention.

Vintage Container Garden
Vintage Container Garden. Image courtesy of Cindi Albright.

Plant High-Yield Food Crops

If food production is a goal, select plants that have high yields in small spaces. Unfortunately, this rules out corn, cabbage, and melons for example. Kale, tomatoes, swiss chard, and peppers however are all good choices.

Maintain Healthy Soils

Plants are always more productive when their basic needs are met. Add organic matter, such as compost, leaf mulch, or manure to boost the water content in soils. Add a few inches of mulch around your plants to prohibit weed growth and decrease the need to water your garden.

Feature image courtesy of Jorge Luis Zapico

By Sarah Lozanova

Sarah Lozanova is an environmental journalist and copywriter and has worked as a consultant to help large corporations become more sustainable. She is the author of Humane Home: Easy Steps for Sustainable & Green Living, and her renewable energy experience includes residential and commercial solar energy installations. She teaches green business classes to graduate students at Unity College and holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio Graduate School.