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How to Grow an Urban Garden


How to Grow an Urban Garden

City life has a lot of exciting factors that make it so unique. It’s easy to get around with public transportation, great entertainment, and low yard maintenance (most of us have little or no outdoor space)! But what if you want to live an urban lifestyle AND have your own freshly grown produce? You’re in luck! We have a few ways you can show off your green thumb and grow your own gardens regardless of how much space you have.

Grow Vegetables & Plants in Containers

Not all containers are created equal, so make sure you’re choosing the right one. As long as it has good drainage and plenty of depth for roots, you are in good shape. Here are some tips to maximize your success:

1. Selecting a container
A good rule of thumb is to get a container as large as possible. Small containers will dry out more quickly and will need more watering. Make it even easier on yourself and invest in some self-watering planters! Also consider the weight of each planter because once you fill it with rocks, soil, and water, it’s going to be heavy! Set it up where you want to keep it, or set it on a plant stand with wheels.

2. Planter Depth
Different plants root at different depths and therefore will require different style containers to grow to full potential. Here is a great chart of minimum soil depths to grow a healthy herb garden:

3. Combine Plants
Save some space and have some fun combining different plants in the same pots! You can get creative by designing “themed” pots (Asian, Italian, spicy, etc.), but make sure you mark off which plants you plant where. It’s best to match plants that require the same need for water, fertilizer, and container depth. Some plants are more compatible with certain plants. Here’s a helpful chart offering good plant combinations and which plants to keep away from each other.

4. Planter Location
Not all outdoor spaces are created equal. Depending on which direction your space faces, the tree canopy, surrounding buildings, etc., your space will have offer different amounts of light and wind. Most vegetables need about 6 hours of sunlight each day, so if your yard is on the shady side, you may want to choose to put your planters on casters or a rolling cart. This will enable you to move your plants around during the day getting the most sun needed for optimum growth! You will also have to consider wind when planting your veggies. A windy area will dry out soil and foliage faster, thus making your plants unhappy. To protect your seedlings, try using the shelter of a building, or use portable fencing or fabric to block wind. BONUS: Clustering potted plants together helps to raise humidity levels, which great for plant health. Also, make sure to secure your trellis or other standing containers so they don’t get blown over in a storm.


Grow a Rooftop Garden

1. Make sure your roof can handle it
Utilize all of your real estate and plant your garden on the roof! But before we get to sowing, you should evaluate how much weight your roof structure can support. A licensed structural engineer can determine the strength of your roof as well as provide you some preliminary designs for your garden. If you’re a renter, make sure to ask your landlord first!

2. Determine your building’s sun exposure
As explained above, different plants require different amounts of sunlight. Monitor the sunlight during the day to get a sense of how much sun exposure your roof gets and make sure the sunlight isn’t obscured by other buildings.

3. Determine your building’s wind exposure
While you’re up there staring at the sun (please don’t stare directly at the sun – you’ll burn your retinas!), also take into account how much wind your roof gets regularly. (See above section. Wind = dry foliage = bad.)

4. Get to designing
Here comes the fun part! After all of the monitoring and determining, grab a sheet of graph paper and get to drawing out a plan for your roof garden. This will help you stay organized and buy all of the right materials.



Build a Vertical Garden

When you can’t build out, build up!

1. Pallet Garden
There’s an infinite amount of ways you can build a vertical garden, so you can really get creative with this idea. For beginners (and especially those on a budget), we recommend building a pallet garden. Here you don’t need to use any major tools as the pallets are already intact, AND you can usually find them for little to no cost! Click here to get instructions on building a pallet garden.

2. Trellis Garden
A trellis is a classic garden look, but you can also get more creative with it. You can get standard trellis panels in different materials at your local garden center. You can also get handy and build a ladder garden, a obelisk, or an archway! For more trellis garden structure ideas, click here!

3. Cinder Block Garden
Cinder blocks make great garden materials because they are inexpensive, easy to fit together, look great as-is or with paint, and they’re durable in all weather. AND you can build it however you see fit. We found a great how-to video that shows you everything you need to get started on your own cinder block garden today!

4. Hanging Planters
Utilize the space above your head and hang planters instead of putting them on the ground. You can find outdoor macrame-style hangers or DIY your own! Hanging planters also helps to keep rodents out of them so you can enjoy your basil rather than a mouse. For all kinds of ideas of all styles, budgets, and DIY experience, click here!


Community Gardens

If you’re lacking in an outdoor space, but you still have that green thumb begging to dig into some dirt, here’s a great option for you: a community garden! We see these sprouting up all over the city in various neighborhoods (there are currently over 60 community gardens at the public’s disposal). Here’s how and why you should consider utilizing one in your neighborhood:

1. Build a community
Here’s a great chance to meet your neighbors and beautify your neighborhood with greenery! Collaborate with your friends and neighbors to build and tend a thriving community garden for all to share! Swap veggies, fruits, flowers, and friendship. Find a community garden near you.

2. Help feed under-served neighborhoods
The Philadelphia Horticultural Society has a City Harvest program to help make fresh, nutritious produce more widely available to those who need it. Join today!

3. Be a leader
Start a community garden in your neighborhood today and help those around you to learn and enjoy gardening! Here’s how to start a community garden.

If you have any ideas, tips, or organizations for urban gardening, please let us know by emailing!