We like to joke that our first “farm” was on the rooftop of our NYC apartment building. It was there that we grew our first heirloom tomatoes (along with peppers, shallots, squash, cucumbers, and every herb imaginable). Here Beekman 1802 guest blogger Tracy Linden gives some tips on starting your own vegetable garden no matter how much space you have.
Let’s face it. Finding good produce isn’t always the easiest task in a busy city, and it certainly isn’t becoming any cheaper as food prices continue to rise. A lot of people who live in the city still want the opportunity to eat fresh produce from their own garden- yet feel they lack the space, knowledge and time. Attending college full-time, or having a full-time job, can make it difficult to make time to dedicate to a garden. However, once you get all of your plants and produce going, the amount of time you spend not having to go to the store all of the time will make up for all the efforts.
So you’ve decided to take on the challenge of growing your garden but where should you start? There are many options out there for city-folk who crave independence from their chain supermarket or overpriced grocery store and want to grow their own garden. If you have a window that gets a lot of sun, you could try your hand at windowsill gardening. Windowsill gardening won’t yield as much as some of the other options listed below, but several small pots in a window could grow some herbs, chili peppers or spinach. One great thing about windowsill gardening is that the work is minimal, as one won’t have as much weeding or watering to manage.
Container gardens are good for those who live in a condominium, high-rise or small housing development with limited space. In order to successfully grow your produce, all you need is a balcony or porch that receives at least six hours a day of sunlight. When container gardening, it’s important to ensure that the pots are the right size. Vegetables that stay small, like lettuce, spinach, small tomatoes and peppers can be grown in small containers. However if you grow bigger tomatoes, cucumbers or squash, you’ll want a large pot, one that is 12 or more inches across. Making sure that your pots have adequate drainage is very important too. After you have your containers and plants, you’ll need to consider what type of soil to use. Commercial potting soil is a good choice, as is compost. You won’t want to use just any old dirt that you can find. For instance, top soil and garden dirt are generally heavier than potting soil and will compact in the pots, meaning your plant’s roots won’t get enough air or water. When the July sun hits your plants, they will suffer.
If you have access to a rooftop, you have even more options. This typically unused space would make a fabulous spot for a small garden. Small garden beds on rooftops can help absorb run-off from rainwater, and heat from the sun. Square foot gardening is perfect for this kind of location. In square foot gardening, the gardener plants in raised beds that are four square feet. The idea is that the plants are rotated out of the box throughout the season, allowing the gardener to raise more than he ever imagined in such a small plot.
Can’t find enough space or don’t have enough light to successfully grown in your own place? Don’t let that keep you away from your goal. In many areas, community gardens help city dwellers grow their own food. A community garden is a piece of land that is divided into many small plots. Each plot is “rented” out to a family or person so that they can grow their vegetables in it. Many times these plots were once vacant lots, but through the work of the community, these formerly wasted spaces are now blooming and growing. One of the biggest obstacles when it comes to community gardening is that the slots are competitive to get. A lot of people wait months, if not years, to get a slot. The American Community Gardeners Association keeps a list of many of the available community gardens in the North America.
It’s time for city folk to stop making excuses for growing their own produce. Overall people who grow their own food tend to save money and feel healthier. Like most things that don’t come naturally, practice makes perfect – so get growing!
About Tracy: Tracy has always had a deep passion in ensuring quality education is available for all who want to attend college. Tracy understands all online colleges aren’t created equal and for the past few years has helped spread the message of the level of education, convenience and opportunity Online University can provide students. And she still finds the time to garden!