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DIY Urban Container Garden | Growing Vegetables Without a Yard

Updated on April 26, 2013
Container garden
Container garden | Source

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.

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.

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!

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Source
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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.

Bucket gardening
Bucket gardening | Source

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.

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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!

Zucchini blossom
Zucchini blossom | Source

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.

Comments

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    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      6 years ago from Hawaii

      Glad you also get to garden a little in spite of your surroundings!

    • Christine Ballano profile image

      Christine 

      6 years ago from New Port Richey, Florida

      I Love your ideas..I have done some of these things to pot my flowers so I share thoughts. Happy Gardening

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      6 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you, Rajan jolly. It is pretty amazing what you can grow in a tight space, if you're dedicated! I've actually moved to an apartment with no yard or personal driveway, but my plants keep on keeping on in their buckets on a metal shelf on the second story walkway. Good luck!

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 

      6 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA.

      Natashalh, really innovative gardening. We do a lot of pot plants; need to try planting some vegetables. Thanks for this hub and these wonderful pictures. We are short on backyard space, so reading your hub is a great motivation.

      Voted up, useful and sharing. Pinned too.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      7 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you! I appreciate the link, too. And thanks, also, for voting and sharing!

    • Suzie HQ profile image

      Suzanne Ridgeway 

      7 years ago from Dublin, Ireland

      Hi natashalh,

      Thanks very much for the link!! much appreciated and I have added this one into mine and it will be in the next hub on containers. I have also done a link to you container planting books hub. Congrats on a great article, wow you did a great job transforming this using what you had and working with it! Thanks again! :-) voted up ++ shared on

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      7 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you! I thought they were pretty cute, too. I just moved to an apartment building the plants are still with me!

    • profile image

      Liz Walmoth 

      7 years ago

      This is such a great hub showing how anyone can grow a garden. Such creativity, too. I love the pails with the shovels still attached!

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      7 years ago from Hawaii

      Awesome - thank you! Yes, plants can be difficult. I've found it's frequently easier to grow many of them from seed, tomatoes excepted. When I plant basil, it always dies. But I grew it from seed and now I'm overflowing with it!

    • KarenCreftor profile image

      Karen Creftor 

      7 years ago from Kent, UK

      I love this!

      I don't have a garden but have always wanted to grow my own food...I just need to learn how not to kill plants hehe.

      I shall have to give this a try :D

      *voted up, useful and pinned*

      ~Kaz x

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      7 years ago from Hawaii

      Thank you for stopping by, voting, and sharing!

      I have more fresh herbs than I know to do with, but my girl dog discovered the zucchini and larger tomatoes and has been stealing them! I've tried to elevate them, but since they're sort of vines, it is difficult to keep them away from her greedy self. German Shepherd are weird dogs, but I never expected them to thieve produce.

    • ishwaryaa22 profile image

      Ishwaryaa Dhandapani 

      7 years ago from Chennai, India

      A unique and helpful idea to grow vegetables, fruits or herbs in buckets, following the instructions clearly explained by you! You found good success with growing tomatoes and zucchini in your urban container garden due to your sustainable wisdom and hardwork! Well-done!

      Thanks for SHARING. Useful & Awesome. Voted up & Socially Shared

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      7 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks so much! My little garden is really thriving. Both tomatoes have blossoms the zucchini has blooms that are ready to open. I need to take more pictures and put them up.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 

      7 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Great ideas. I don't have much of a green thumb, so I am usually reluctant to invest any time or money in a project that usually ends with dead plants.

      But I think I could actually manage what you are describing. I love the little pails. :) Great ideas. :)

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      7 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks so much for reading and sharing! I am glad others like my idea and hope someone can put it to use and have a little garden of their own.

    • BRIAN SLATER profile image

      Brian Slater 

      7 years ago from England

      Great ideas are often based on simple ideas, and you have come up with a very good idea that can easily be replicated with herbs or small growing vegetables. I love the idea of using tubs or containers for everyday vegetables. Voted up and shared :)

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      7 years ago from Hawaii

      I'm jealous that you have a farm, at all! Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 

      7 years ago from Nepal

      I have a farm 250 miles away from the city where I live. And when I'm in the city, I miss gardening.

      Thanks for sharing these wonderful ideas.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      7 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks again for the view, comment and votes! Much appreciated.

    • alocsin profile image

      Aurelio Locsin 

      7 years ago from Orange County, CA

      What an interesting and excellent idea. I have a garden but don't do much with it since all those plants intimidate me. Starting with an easy-to-manage bucket is a good first step. Voting this Up and Useful.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      7 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks. And thank you for bringing my attention to it! My hub feed was not working correctly and I actually had to do some sleuth work to find the page. I have already found some interesting folks through that hub, too, so doubly thanks.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      You might want to check my latest hub!

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      7 years ago from Hawaii

      I had a back yard once. For about a year and a half. It was absolutely amazing! I miss the space to grow everything I want. Luckily, I do also get to plant a garden at work. The raccoons and squirrels get to most of it before any of us doing the work get our share, but I can usually expect some beans, peas and squash. The space to grow lots of beans is what I may miss the most. Beans that were still on the plant that morning are so delicious! Oh, and I also miss my 8 dozen strawberry plants - I had them growing everywhere!

      Good luck with your own garden this year. It is simply amazing how much one can grow with a little space.

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 

      7 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I can't believe I didn't see this when you wrote it. Must have been dozing! Great hub about a subject I enjoy being an avid gardener. We are in the process of making a rather large veggie garden and next year a greenhouse. Luckily we have a large backyard to work with. Nice job on this one young lady.

    • alipuckett profile image

      alipuckett 

      7 years ago

      Way to adapt! Your buckets look happy and fun!

    • profile image

      TatianaH 

      7 years ago

      Great hub, and cute! I've been having difficulty finding a lot of information about urban gardening. Maybe I could plant something like this on our balcony.

    • Natashalh profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha 

      7 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks for reading and commenting. Yes, that was the best garden I've ever had. It was at my grandparents's old farm in West Virginia and it was amazing.

    • RickMc profile image

      RickMc 

      7 years ago from Kentucky

      Excellent advice! You prove we don't need much money or space to garden and have fun with the process. I must admit, though, that former creek bed and six foot tall tomato plants sound really good, too :) I will definitely be looking for beach buckets soon.

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