Small Space Gardening: Growing Organic Vegetables in a City

Earlier we discussed 10 Reasons why you should consider growing organic vegetables in your backyard. Organic gardening is becoming more popular now as people try to live a healthier greener life and spend less money in the process. For those who live in a city or in an apartment or a condo setting with very limited outdoor space or backyards, it has always been difficult to grow their own vegetables. Small space gardening is possible at your own home or in your community so you can eat healthier and tastier veggies without spending a bundle at the supermarket.

Container Garden
Container Garden By: thomaspix

Container Gardening

Container gardening can be done by anyone with limited space. If you have a small patio or a balcony or even a small yard, you can do container gardening. Growing vegetables need 6 hours or more of sunlight, sufficient watering and good drainage so keep this in mind when planning your container garden.

You can be creative in selecting a container. You can always buy pots (either on the ground or hanging pots) but it is not necessary to spend lot of money. You can reuse discarded milk containers, hanging baskets, trash cans, barrels, wooden crates (with plastic lining), etc. Make sure that you drill holes at the bottom or on the sides for drainage and it is a good idea to prop up the container above ground using slats or bricks to allow for free drainage.

Different plants require different sizes of containers. Smaller containers such as milk jugs can be used to grow herbs, lettuce, spinach, peppers, green onions, dwarf tomatoes, etc. You can use larger containers (10 gallons or more) to grow cabbage, larger tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, etc. Refer to your seed packet or starter plant instructions for more information. A great benefit of container gardening is the ability to move the containers around to maximize sunlight if your primary location does not get enough.

It is a good idea to use the potting soil mix available at most garden stores to use in the containers. Look for organic. Typical garden soil may not drain too well in containers. If you compost, you will have ready made organic fertilizer to use, otherwise you can buy pre-packaged compost in any garden store.

Window Sill Gardening

If you do not have a patio or a balcony to do container gardening, you can still grow organic veggies on your window sill. Same principles apply, although your options in the kind of vegetables you can grow will be limited to smaller plants. Still, you should be able to grow salad greens and some tomatoes.

One of the less mentioned facts on gardening indoors (like on a window sill) is that it also helps in improving the air quality inside the house or the apartment by using up CO2, generating Oxygen and possibly reducing the chances of Carbon Monoxide build up. In addition, indoor plants also add moisture to the environment which is important as the the sealed environment inside a house can become too dry.

If the above two small space gardening methods still do not work for you, or you need some other options, than you may consider looking into the next two tips. These are available to most city residents in US and Canada as well as many communities in UK, Australia and New Zealand.

A Community Garden By: vicki moore
A Community Garden By: vicki moore

Community Gardens

Think of these as Victory Gardens of the yore. Many cities and townships now offer community gardening plots to their residents (or it could be a shared community plot) to allow them to grow their own produce and edible plants. Most follow organic growing principles. Community gardens can also be organized by a group of individuals and many such gardens are now springing up in vacant lots in urban settings that have seen the worst of the mortgage crisis. They could also be found on roof tops or even truck beds. Community gardens are a way for the residents of the community to grow their own food as well as volunteer to produce vegetables for the needy and the elderly in the community. I love the concept as it is a way to fight urban blight, build stronger communities, bring urban dwellers close to the nature, promote work ethic and healthy eating habits and also forms a support system for the needy. One unintended consequence of community gardens is a reduction in the crime in the community.

For more information on Community Gardens if you want to start one, or find one that is already in your community, you should visit the American Community Gardening Association website.

Community Supported Agriculture

Community Supported Agriculture or CSA is gaining in popularity in recent times. A CSA is a relationship between a local farm and a local community where the farm produces and provides regular locally grown and typically organic produce to the participating members of the community. A member of the community participates by buying a ‘share’ of the growing season’s crop and in return the member receives weekly bounty of produce (his share) that is locally grown, free of pesticides, generally organic or close to organic, seasonal and at the height of freshness and ripeness. A CSA farm is typically a small family owned farm that is making a transition to using organic methods of farming. Many CSA farms provide discounts to members who are willing to contribute time and help out on the farm. Some CSA farms also include flowers, eggs, baked goods and meat in addition to vegetables.

A CSA helps in promoting organic and sustainable farming for small farmers that may not otherwise survive. Additionally, it helps the local community by keeping local dollars in the community. Buying local also helps in reducing pollution and cutting down on oil use as no long distance refrigeration and transportation is needed. Although the farms may be located outside of a city, many farms do offer memberships to residents of nearby cities and therefore can be an attractive option for some city dwellers. More information is available.

Please note, that if you are keen on using organic vegetables, all the four options listed above will save you money and deliver better/fresher produce than buying it from organic grocery stores. Many of these options also deliver additional social benefits that you may want to consider. There are many options available today for a city dweller to grow organic vegetables and all it needs is a commitment and time to make use of them. Why not give it a go?

If you do use some of these methods or are planning to dip your toes in growing organic vegetables, please share with us your thoughts and stories.

Photo Credit

Container Garden: Source: Flickr, By: thomas pix

A Community Garden: Source: Flickr, By: vicki moore

12 Responses to Small Space Gardening: Growing Organic Vegetables in a City

  1. This is a great post. The ultimate control over knowing what you eat – growing it yourself! Your readers might also be interested in heirloom seeds. Here’s a link. A tomato tastes like a real tomato with these seeds.

  2. Container Gardening and Window Sill Gardening are both an excellent choice for the home gardeners. Because there are no weeds, no digging, nor the need to rotate crops. These advantages are appealing to the gardener who hates to weed or is limited in any physical activity and for gardeners with limited time to dedicate to their hobby or indeed limited space in which to practice it. Great, informative post!

  3. So very true! With so many of us living in apartments/condos or on tiny postage stamp lots with very little space, keeping a garden is a creative endeavor. We need to consider unconventional methods of growing food, whether it be vertical, indoors, or soilless. Please see our blog on Small Space Gardening topics and becoming more self-reliant using sustainable living practices. Urban Garden Solutions Blog


  4. I love how there’s so many options now in regards to planting when you’re in the city or urban environment. Whether it’s CSA’s, window sills, rooftops, small backyard plots, we now have options!

  5. I have a vegetable garden, but I grow some vegetables in containers also – they’re easier, more accessible from the kitchen and when I started container gardening I was amazed how much vegetables one can grow from just a few containers! I always thought containers are good just for herbs and small plants, but it isn’t so.

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