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So you live in a city and have a small space with nothing in it, and you’ve been thinking about starting an urban garden. Here, we’ve outlined everything you need to know and consider before you get started.

Where do I start Getting started urban gardening

As a general rule, we always recommend that you grow what you like to eat. Start small, and aim to grow that one plant that will inspire you to keep growing.

That being said, herbs are always a great place to start. They are generally easy to grow, attract pollinators, and add great scents to the garden and great flavors to the kitchen.

If you’ve got a balcony, patio, terrace, or even a patch of concrete or rooftop, then containers are the best thing for the job. We say that you can grow almost anything, and if you have a lack of space, then grab yourself a container!

Buckets, tubs, trays, crates, an old boot. You name it! If you can fill it with soil, you can grow in it.

Determining your sunlight hours getting started urban gardening
What you can grow is largely determined by two things: how much space you have, and how much sunlight you get. Most vegetables will need full sun conditions, but many greens, herbs and flowers can be grown in partial shade to full shade.
In the Northern Hemisphere,  east, south, and west facing balconies generally get plenty of sun, while North facing balconies are more shaded. But things are a little more complicated in an urban environment, so it’s best to measure the amount of sunlight hitting your potential garden space to be sure.
This is because tall trees and even taller buildings are more numerous in cities, which may block your sun for a large part of the day leaving you with fewer sunlight hours than initially expected. Mark down the hours when you are getting direct sunlight during the day, and add them up to determine what type of sun environment you’ll be working with.
 

A NOTE ON FAILURE (AKA PLANT MURDER)

Let’s just get this out in the open:

You are going to make a lot of mistakes.

Everybody does, even the pros. You may kill the most easy to grow plant, and have no trouble with a finicky one.

Gardening is trial and error.

Don’t get discouraged, because things are going to wither and die at some point. It’s almost unavoidable.

You just have to roll with the punches and find what you love.

shelter wind protection getting started urban gardening

Most vegetables can’t handle the harsh elements very well so the next big thing to consider is shelter.

Having one side protected by a wall is a big advantage, especially if you’re gardening on a rooftop or a balcony on an upper floor. Generally, the higher up you go, the windier it gets. Wind can both damage your plants and dry up soil much faster than usual, leading to the need for more frequent watering.

If you can, reserve your most sheltered spots for your most delicate plants. If you need extra protection there are several ways to block the wind by putting up wind barriers. Anything from plastic tarps, bamboo screens, wooden fences, etc. can work wonders.

Choosing containers getting started urban gardening
It’s really easy to grow in all sorts of pots and containers but there are a few simple rules to follow in order to avoid disappointment.
Choose containers that are large enough for the eventual size of your plant. Most seed packets will tell you how big the mature plants can be expected to get. If not, check out our Grow Guide Section to see if your plant has a requirement for an unusually large pot or will be content in a smaller one.
In general, it’s a good idea to choose pots between 15-50 cm (6-20 inches) diameter. Most herbs do fantastic in smaller containers. Top heavy veggie plants such as tomatoes or peppers need larger pots, ideally 5 gallon at minimum. However, many will still do well in smaller pots, such as a 3 gallon, but will have reduced yields. Root vegetables like potatoes and carrots require deep pots.
Types of containers for urban gardening

1.Plastic pots

  • Cheap, lightweight, and easiest to move around.

2. Clay pots

  • Have that classic garden look, but are heavier.
  • These pots are porous and so they absorb water from the soil and makes your plants dry out more quickly.
  • May crack when temperatures drop below freezing in the winter.

3. Ceramic Pots

  • Many different designs, colors, and finishes, and looks.
  • Don’t cause as much moisture loss as clay pots.
  • Can be very heavy especially once filled with wet soil

4. Fabric Pots and “Grow Bags”

  • Cheap, lightweight, and may have handles making them easy to move around.
  • Breathable fabric allows air to get at the plant’s roots, a process called “air pruning” which prevents the plant from becoming rootbound.
  • May only last a few growing seasons.
Pots and containers

Now that you’ve analyzed your space, determined what you can grow, and chosen your containers, you’re ready to get growing! We’ve got plenty of resources to get you going, so be sure to check them out.

If you’re planning on starting your garden straight from seed, head on over to our Seed Starting 101 guide to help you get started!