Urban Gardening for Beginners

As Austin continues to transform from a sleepy college town into a booming concrete jungle, there seems to be less and less room for anything– let alone plots of land to call your own. The average city-dwelling Austinite definitely doesn’t own a greenhouse, so what do you do when you want a productive garden in a teeny tiny space? Simply merge the two, of course!

What Are the Benefits?

A backyard, a rooftop, a porch, a balcony…you can grow a variety of flora, fauna, and food within the confines of these deceptively limiting spaces!  Urban gardening can yield blossoming flowers, zesty herbs, and bountiful veggies and fruits. Need more convincing as to why urban gardening is beneficial to you and your environment? Just keep scrolling!

  • It’s an organic and sustainable practice
  • It can reduce grocery bills (just step into the garden for flavorful foods!)
  • It produces healthy, local food
  • If in the backyard, it improves the quality of yard soil
  • It harbors a powerful knowledge of food and gardening that can positively impact dietary choices
  • It’s a form of exercise, an excuse to be outdoors, and it’s tranquil

For a more detailed explanation of the benefits, click here.

How Do I Start?

Firstly, you need to decide what container to use. You want your plants and/or food to flourish, and there are so many varieties of containers that one could easily get overwhelmed. Urban Gardening 101 states that so long as the container is 8-12 inches deep and has holes in its bottom (used for adequate water drainage), then your requirements for food growing are met.

Don’t forget that size matters! For herbs and foods like smaller leaf lettuce plants, small containers (3-6 inches across) will do; for medium-sized foods like peppers, a medium container (8-10 inches across) is recommended– and you can plant more of a variety of seeds; for large foods like tomatoes and eggplant, large containers (12+ inches) are best.

Literally anything can be used as a container for urban gardening, making the task of choosing one not only creative, but a method of recycling! Buckets, recycled pots, wooden crates, coffee cans, and luggage trunks are just a handful of examples of what can be repurposed for urban gardening.

Biodegradable pots are also a great option for beginners, as well as a multitude of cleverly recycled materials, Grow Pillow, Woolly Pockets, and GrowBottle (for herbs).

Where Do I Put Them?

In terms of nourishment, 8 hours of direct sunlight is considered full sun for plants, 4-6 hours is considered partial shade, and less than 4 hours is considered shade. Choose plants that thrive in each particular condition; for apartment dwellers, place plants strategically near windows that get the best sunlight.

Another factor to keep in mind is seasonal: not only does it affect the amount of sunlight and its duration, but it impacts the surrounding foliage too. For instance, trees provide more shade in the summer than in the winter. Don’t forget seasonal weather conditions, either!

How Do I Maximize my Space?

Whether you can only manage an indoor garden or have a small yard of your own, choosing plants that naturally grow up rather than out makes an urban garden significantly more space efficient. Certain vegetables and fruits are inclined (no pun intended!) to grow vertically, and many devices have been invented to complement these particular foods: 

Where Can I Learn More?

This article covers the bare bones basics of urban gardening, but a plethora of resources is at your disposal in order to feed your curiosity. Always remember that you don’t have to own a 5 acre farm in order to become a “real” gardener and eat fantastic food! Just check out these titles, and don’t be afraid to plant that first seed.

-“How to Grow More Vegetables” by John Jeavons

-“The Heirloom Life Gardener” by Jere and Emilee Gettle

-“Apartment Gardening: Plants, Projects and Recipes for Growing Food in Your Urban Home” by Amy Pennington

-“A Little Piece of Earth: How to Grow Your Own Food in Small Spaces” by Maria Finn

And many more!