Gardening in the Big City Yes, It’s Possible + How You Can Do It

city gardening with plants and vegetables

Yes, gardening in the city is not only possible, it can also be very productive! All you need is a little bit of space, the right lighting, and some creativity. Sure, anyone can find space to grow a few herbs on a sunny windowsill… but don’t stop there!

From vertical indoor gardening with hydroponics to planting in vacant lots or on rooftops, the possibilities are virtually endless- as long as you’re willing to think outside the box. Here’s how you can have a garden in the big city- even if you live in a tiny apartment!

Learn from Modern Urban Farmers

Things like vertical indoor growing, hydroponics, and artificial intelligence in agriculture are making it possible for modern urban farmers to grow tremendous amounts of food in both large and small cities across the globe. 

Urban gardeners can use many of the same strategies to grow a lot of plants in a small space using fewer resources with fantastic results. The beauty of growing indoors with hydroponics is that it allows you to mimic each plant’s ideal growing conditions. This results in better plant health and better flavor overall.

Of course, you won’t need the extensive AI systems that commercial urban farmers use to grow on such a large scale. But you can still mimic ideal growing conditions in a controlled environment using grow lights, ventilation, timers, temperature and humidity control, and of course, the right fertilizers and nutrients for the plants you want to grow.

City gardeners can maximize space and efficiency in a variety of creative ways. For example, using shelving, trellises, stakes, and other vertical growing systems, allows you to grow an entire salad bar in a very small space.

Here are some potential indoor gardening locations to consider:

  • A spacious closet
  • A hydroponic grow tent tucked into the corner of your living room
  • A spare bedroom
  • A small garage 
  • A climate-controlled storage unit
  • A utility trailer parked in your driveway. 

Since plants grown indoors are sheltered from extreme heat and cold, you can keep your garden going all year round. Just make sure the space you choose is in a convenient location, so you can easily tend the plants each day. 

If you don’t own an ideal space yourself, talk to people you know about renting or borrowing space they aren’t using to start your indoor hydroponic garden. You might even be able to trade some of your hydroponic produce in exchange for the use of a small indoor growing space.

Put a Vacant Lot or Unused Lawn to Good Use

Curtis Stone is an urban farmer who grows enough produce on vacant lots and unused lawns to make a living selling to farmer’s markets, restaurants, and specialty grocery stores. If he can do this on such a large scale, there’s no reason you can’t do it on a smaller scale for your personal use.

Take a stroll through your neighborhood. Chances are, there’s a vacant lot or unused lawn somewhere nearby. Many times, the owners of these types of spaces are all too happy to see that unused space put to good use.

You may be able to work out a deal with the owner to rent the land for garden space. If you can’t afford to rent it by yourself, maybe you could split the space with a friend or neighbor who also wants to start a city garden. Or, maybe you could use the space in exchange for fresh produce from your garden. You never know until you ask!

Grow in Containers on Your Porch or Balcony

Most vegetables can be grown in containers, so why not take advantage of the space on your porch or balcony to grow some of your own food? Salad greens and herbs will even grow well on porches that are shaded for a good part of the day.

To maximize your small space, grow your plants vertically, and utilize hanging baskets for things like cherry tomatoes that have a natural vining tendency. When choosing your plants, look for patio, miniature, and container varieties for the most efficient use of your limited space.

Create and Maintain an Urban “Parklet”

What is a parklet? Well, basically a parklet is an extension of the sidewalk over one or two curbside parking spaces. It serves as a small park for pedestrians. These spaces are becoming wildly popular in many cities as gathering places to relax and socialize.

Most parklets consist of deck spaces with seating areas accompanied by greenspaces such as planter boxes or planting beds. If you maintain the space, you can usually plant whatever you like in the greenspaces. Edible flowers, colorful salad greens, herbs, and berry bushes would all be great choices.

As long as the space is accessible to the public, it can be privately created and maintained. You may even be able to create one in front of your apartment building or a nearby business, as long as the neighbors are in favor of the idea. 

If you’re interested in creating a parklet in your neighborhood, contact your local city hall to find out how to apply. But, if you don’t have the resources to create a parklet yourself, you can also contact your local city hall or neighborhood association to see if you can volunteer to maintain one in exchange for use of the planting space.

Grow on Your Building’s Rooftop

Rooftops in the city often go completely unused, and it really is a shame. If your building management allows it, rooftops are a wonderful resource for those who want to garden in the city using containers or even hydroponics. 

You could create a beautiful green space full of flowers, veggies, and herbs on your building’s roof without having to spend any extra money to rent the space. In fact, some of your neighbors might even be willing to pitch in and help out, too. Don’t forget to add a seating area where you can relax and enjoy all your hard work!

Find or Start a Community Garden

Community gardens usually have several plots available on a first-come, first-served basis. They provide an excellent opportunity to garden in the city if you can’t find a space of your own. You’ll probably have to pay a small fee to use the space, but it’s usually quite reasonable.

If there isn’t already a community garden in your city, talk to your local government about starting one. Schools, recreation centers, community buildings, and vacant lots owned by the city can all be fantastic locations for community gardens, and it’s a great way to meet like-minded people in your city.

Final Thoughts

There are lots of places to have a garden in the big city, even if you live in a tiny apartment. If modern urban farmers can grow large amounts of produce indoors and on vacant lots in the city, there’s no reason you can’t do the same thing on a smaller scale. You just have to be willing to think outside the box to find the right space for you!

Photo by Pegli Zhu from Pexels

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