DIY Urban Container Garden | Growing Vegetables Without a Yard
How to Make an Urban Garden
I love gardening. I have planted at least something most years since I was in preschool and my gardens have ranged from a couple of tomatoes in containers to an acre planted on fertile, former creek bed that grew tomato plants six feet tall! This spring found me living in a city with a broken glass filled patch of sand my landlord calls a yard to make the property seem more appealing. It also found me with my seasonal desire to smell fresh earth while preparing the dirt for planting. So, I made the decision to get creative and not let being a grad student with nowhere to garden stop me from raising my own herbs and vegetables.
Does Gardening Sound Like too much Work?
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Taking Stock of the Situation
First, I tried to figure out what I already had and could use to my advantage. One roommate had a large plant on the porch, but it died over the winter. In addition to its basic black plastic container, it also had a bright yellow pot - not to mention a couple gallons of nice-looking potting soil. Then I evaluated the sunlight situation in my 'yard.' There is a low cinder block wall separating my yard from two different neighbor's yards, and it gets sunlight for more than 6 hours a day. So far so good! Then I thought about how much potting soil and planters cost. Remembering a recent hub by The Dirt Farmer, I realized I could use some of the broken bricks, small cement chunks and shards of glass that litter my yard for no apparent reason to cut down on the amount of soil needed for each pot. Resigning myself to having to purchase at least a few more pots and some soil, I set off to the store.
More Low Cost Container Gardening Ideas
Inexpensive Container Garden
While in the car, an idea came to me. My yard is already a sand pit, so why not try to use that to my advantage? By March in South Carolina, kids beach buckets are really easy to find, and usually cost far less than actual planter. Instead of going to Lowes for flower pots, I went to K-Mart for beach toys!
Make a Bucket Garden
Of course, I needed to add some holes for drainage. Using a drill would be best, but I don't have a drill. I just hammered the end of a Phillips-head screwdriver into the bottom of the bucket in a few placed. Then, I added some pieces of rock/brick/cement to further increase drainage and reduce the amount of soil unnecessarily used.
Plant in Buckets
Next, I filled my buckets to an appropriate level for planting. I know that using seeds is more economical, and the only way to plant some types of vegetables, but I really do not have the space to sprout seeds this year. I bought half a dozen little ready to go plants in biodegradable pots. Sadly, with today's fresh vegetable prices at the grocery store, I only have to harvest about two tomatoes and zucchinis from each plant and use the herbs once each and they will have paid for themselves. Since you do not even have to really re-pot these plants, they were easy to get in my new, converted containers. It is an easy process - just remember that tomatoes are the only plant that loves being transplanted. If you transplant tomatoes by placing about 2/3 of the current growth underground, the plant will thrive.
Easy Container Garden
All I had left to do was water my new plants and set them out on the wall. It took a couple of extra minutes of effort to make the drainage holes, but I spent less on a container garden than ever before. The buckets and soil together cost less than $10! Usually you can hardly find a planter for less than that by itself. The the brightly colored pails and shovels are fun and beachy, and they certainly suit my sand-filled driveway and yard.
So there you have it. Even if you are a grad student with no time or money, or live in a city without a real yard, you can container garden!
Success Story - Fresh Vegetables with an Urban Garden
This picture is my zucchini's very first bloom. Since I took this picture, I have enjoyed many tasty zucchinis, lots of fresh herbs, and more than a handful of tomatoes. This garden is proof that you do not need a yard to grow fresh vegetables - you can make an urban container garden for only a few dollars and enjoy the fruits of your labor in a few short weeks.
If you're new to urban and small space gardening, consider buying a guide. To pick the correct guide for your space and expectations, check out my guide to the five best container gardening books. Each of the books addressed, Grow Great Grub, Bountiful Container, Vertical Gardening, Square Food Gardening, and Fresh Food from Small Spaces, has unique strengths and weaknesses that I've tried to lay out in easy-to-read table format. These books can even show you how to garden in a closet in the middle of winter. No, really, I mean it!
No matter what you choose to grow or where you garden I wish you the best of luck and thank you for stopping by.