From sun exposure to raised beds, tips on how to create a little garden oasis right in your own backyard.
As national lockdowns created economic chaos, several garden centres and urban farming organizations reports spikes in sales and website traffic due to overwhelming demand. Canadians are turning to their own yards to grow their own food: a budget-friendly way to have access to their own fresh fruit and vegetables.
The idea of an urban garden is gaining popularity, and it’s easy to start your own garden with the right space and materials. Here’s some starter tips!
Where to set up your urban garden
This may come as a surprise, but building an urban garden can be done anywhere. If you’re fortunate enough to have a backyard, you can designate a section solely for building your garden, but if you happen to live in a condo or apartment, you can still enjoy gardening at home! A small balcony could serve as a garden using pots and small planters. What matters most is sunlight and living in a climate that can support plant growth. Then, go online and look up lists of plants based on how many hours of sunlight you have. For example, leafier plants (like spinach, lettuce and kale) don’t need much sunlight to grow and produce, and they can be placed in shadier spots. When it comes to peppers, tomatoes, squashes or eggplants, they typically need at least five hours of direct sun daily.
Build your tool “shed”
Once you’ve set up the location for your urban garden, you then need to acquire all the gardening tools you will need to maintain it. Any local gardening store in your neightbourhood will have all that you need:
Pots, large containers, or materials to build a garden bed
Pruning shears, a trowel, and some good quality gardening gloves
Plant markers so you can label your fruits and vegetables
If you have the room, a composting bin. Great for the environment!
Build a raised garden bed if you don’t have a backyard
Raised beds work well for condo’s and rooftop gardens, and you can easily assemble one yourself with the right materials and a green thumb. Raised garden beds can be any size you like, and they require less tilling (and, frankly, less work) than in-ground beds. Instead of digging up a compacted bed every year, many gardeners just add compost to the top of their elevated beds in the fall an then nature do the rest over the dormant season. Also, because all plants like different soil, you can create custom garden beds for each that will ensure successful growth and volume.
How to plant your vegetables
You want your plants to be healthy and productive, so there are a few tricks to make sure you plant your vegetables correctly. First, keep seeds and small plants separated by variety so you can prevent the spread of disease and overcrowding. Next, ensure you plant your seeds at the appropriate time based on the specific species.
Always use a good quality garden soil and fill your garden bed (or container) about halfway full, then cover the seed or roots with soil until it reaches the top. Water your plants regularly, but don’t drown them! You don’t want the roots to rot. Lastly, make sure you cut away the dead parts of your veggies—that will encourage new growth.
If you’re just starting out, you want to be able to pick the right variety of vegetables for your skill level. You can always grow your garden with more experience. For me, I love growing vegetables that are easy and don’t require a lot of fuss. Herbs, lettuce, cucumbers are super-easy to maintain.
Turn your balcony into a garden
Thanks to container pots, hanging and vertical planters, and pallet walls, making an urban garden on your balcony is super-easy. Because of access to sunshine and protection from the wind, your vegetables are in a great environment for growth. Annuals and perennials also do really well, if you’re looking for some beautiful flowers to add. Just make sure to place some kind of saucers below your containers to prevent water from draining off your balcony onto someone else’s.
Build a pallet wall
With a pallet wall, you can hang plants to free up space on the ground. They’re inexpensive to build, and you can also paint them in any colour you choose to match your décor. Pallets are everywhere, so take the time to find one in good condition that is no made from pressure-treated wood. They come in different shapes and sizes, and make sure it’s cleaned off and you have inspected it for any stray nails or splinters in wood. This is a great step-by-step guide.