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Create your perfect urban garden

7 ways to grow up in the big city

If you once enjoyed the fresh produce of a backyard garden and now live in the city, missing the weekend farmer’s market can be a real bummer. You don’t have to be a victim of your hip metropolitan lifestyle, however, if you can figure out a way to grow up. Square footage is limited in the city, so the more you can use vertical space, the more delicious vegetables you’ll get to eat. And best of all, they’ll be schedule independent!

Check out these tips and tools for creating the urban garden of your dreams.

Kiddie pool repurpose
Once your children grow out of it, your veggies can grow in it! A raised bed usually requires some construction, with wood planks and corner reinforcements joined by screws. But they also come “pre-fab” in the form of a plastic kiddie pool. Surprisingly strong and providing adequate depth and square footage to support above-ground and root vegetables alike, the only modification kiddie pools require are slits in the bottom and holes on the sides to provide needed drainage.

Trellis techniques
A “trellis” is anything that supports a plant. It can be as simple as crossing two boards, sticking them in the dirt and tying them at the top. Peas and beans need trellises to support themselves, but you can also grow other veggies vertically if so inclined. Take squash and cucumber, for example. With their broad leaves and big fruits, they tend to take up a lot of ground space. But those rangy vines that like to crawl also like to climb. As the vines grow, move them up and around and over your trellis. Species that produce large fruits like winter squash and butternut are not optimal for vertical growing, but they can be managed if you provide more support directly to the fruits.

Creepy kids
Don’t limit your potential plant containers to plastic and wood. If you can get to a second-hand store or have old clothes your children used to wear, you have a charismatic planter that doubles as a curious conversation piece. A set of overalls is perfect for this little project. Fill the legs and torso with garden soil, prop up into a sitting position, plant your seeds and voila! You are the proud new parent of your urban garden’s first “creepy kid.”

Garden Tower
Perfect for the patio or balcony, this nifty contraption can host 50 plants in 4 square feet, promoting beautiful green growth with its patented vertical design. Founded by a team of inventors and social entrepreneurs in Bloomington, Indiana, the Garden Tower consists of a perforated central cylinder surrounded by layered discs that form openings for plants to grow in. The interior space is filled with soil, and the cylinder is stocked with worms and scraps from your kitchen to provide usable compost after a few months. Visit GardenTowerProject.com to learn more.
Fill the voids
Simple brick structures create an efficient and eye-pleasing method for growing lettuce, herbs and flowers. Build an enclosed formation 1–3 ft. high—any shape will do—leaving a 2” space between each brick and its neighbors. Pack the inside area with soil, letting it fill the empty spaces between the bricks. Plant your seeds, water the top and soon enough, the dark red and brown will be complimented with lush, beautiful greenery.

A foot up
Hanging shoe organizers make for incredibly space-efficient planters. Like the kiddie pool, this approach to urban gardening comes already made, but unlike the pool, it requires zero square footage. Hang the organizer on the porch, balcony or patio, fill each pocket with soil and plant your favorite herbs, spices and greens.

Simple brick structures create an efficient and eye-pleasing method for growing lettuce, herbs and flowers. Build an enclosed formation 1–3 ft. high—any shape will do—leaving a 2” space between each brick and its neighbors. Pack the inside area with soil, letting it fill the empty spaces between the bricks. Plant your seeds, water the top and soon enough, the dark red and brown will be complemented with lush, beautiful greenery.

Magic with PVC

With a PVC pipe and drill, you can create any number of super-cool, space-saving growing solutions. A simple layout consists of a horizontal pipe filled with soil and featuring equally spaced cut-outs where the plants grow. Both ends need a cap to hold in the soil, so drainage holes underneath are essential. With this orientation, each plant needs watering and the cut-outs must face upward, but if you flip the pipe to the vertical position, you can make more cut-outs and simply water from the top. More complex PVC arrangements include staggered towers and hydroponic systems complete with water pumps and specialized growth mediums, but we’ll save those for another article.

Living in the city means living with less space, but with basic materials and a little creativity, you can make a beautiful, productive urban garden without sacrificing square footage!


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