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 microgarden 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. Taking a peek at your neighbor’s gardens, especially if they have a similar layout, can give you lots of ideas.
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.
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