Start your own garden in the city

Photo credit: Vegetable Garden

Raised beds in town

4 Tips for Starting Your Own Urban Garden

by Julie Malone


Tips for beginning small-space or urban gardeners:

1. Familiarize yourself with the square-foot gardening method. There’s Mel’s book, of course, but also many helpful books on container gardening for urban areas. Books can be basically life changing in helping you visualize and execute the most “profitable” garden… Which brings me to…

2. Embrace staking methods. A more compact, full garden means everything must be trained to stay in its place. Try the “Florida weave” trellis method for keeping up larger top-heavy plants, such as tomatoes. Smaller stakes and twine will work for eggplant and peppers, which tend to tilt toward their fruits. Vertically strung jute is great for climbing beans.

3. Embrace mistakes. You’ll learn a lot more this way, and it’s more fun to laugh off failed efforts than to get frustrated. Plus, it’s rare that even the worst blunders will yield absolutely nothing (so munch while you laugh!).

4. Embrace your favorites. Keep planting these year after year so that while you may or may not have success with experimental new plants, you’ll always have your efforts rewarded.

Read the full article: Huffington Post

A lopt of food in a small space (Care2)

Read at :

You Can Grow $700 of Food in 100 Square Feet!

One way to save an enormous amount of money, engage in soul-enriching work that truly is fun and refreshing, and boost your health (both by being active and eating well) is to grow food in a home garden — which takes less space than you might think. Here’s one perfect example. Long-time gardener and author Rosalind Creasy took a 5-by-20-foot section of garden bed by her tiny lawn to see how much she could grow in just that 100 square feet. The results are astounding.

She planted two tomato plants (‘Better Boy’ and ‘Early Girl’), four bell pepper varieties, four zucchini plants, four basils (expensive in stores but essential in the kitchen), and 18 lettuces (six ‘Crisp Mint’ romaine, six ‘Winter Density’ romaine and six ‘Sylvestra’ butterheads).

Cathy Wilkinson Barash, who worked on the project with Creasy, created spreadsheets for each type of plant, and the two gardeners kept meticulous records each time they harvested. They recorded every amount — both in pounds and ounces, as well as number of fruits (for each cultivar of tomato, zucchini and pepper) or handfuls (for lettuces and basil).

To determine what the harvest would cost in the market, Creasy began checking out equivalent organic produce prices in midsummer. On a single day in late August, she harvested 49 tomatoes, nine peppers, 15 zucchinis of many sizes, and three handfuls of basil — which would have totaled $136 at her market that day.


Ideas for getting kids interested in gardening (Google / Rocky Mountain News)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

Helping kids’ interest in gardening grow

By Jennifer Forker, Associated Press
Thursday, June 5, 2008

The National Gardening Association has lots of ideas for getting kids interested in gardening at its Web site, The site’s editor, Barbara Richardson, dug up these helpful tips:

* Since kids are prone to instant gratification, start with a flat of annual flowers. The rewards are immediate.

* Gravitate toward unusual plants, such as pink potatoes, orange cauliflower or purple beans. Or focus on edible flowers and herbs, such as nasturtium and basil, and fragrant plants, such as lemon basil and orange thyme, to engage multiple senses.

* Kids, even older ones, like hiding places, so grow them one in the garden. Two ideas: Plant tall-growing (such as Mammoth) sunflower seeds in a circle, leaving a space for a “door” that kids can crawl through once the flowers have grown 10 feet high.

Or build a simple tepee out of fallen tree branches or long gardening stakes, and plant bean seeds around the outside.

Beans grow fast, and soon the children will have a secret hiding space.

* A birdbath or, better yet, a small, shallow pond, will encourage critters, such as frogs, to enter your garden, which in turn might draw your children out there, too. Continue reading Ideas for getting kids interested in gardening (Google / Rocky Mountain News)

Gardening industry blossoms in slump (Google / Columbus Dispatch / AP)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

Gardening industry blossoms in slump

Friday,  May 30, 2008


NEW YORK — High prices at the pump and the produce aisle have sent home gardeners into their yards with a mission: Grow-it-yourself dining. Sales of vegetable seeds, tomato transplants and fruit trees are soaring as enterprising planters grow their own food.

W. Atlee Burpee & Co., the nation’s largest seed company, has sold twice as many seeds this year as it did last year, with half the increase from new customers, the company’s president, George Ball, estimates. “When we saw the gas prices go up, we said, ‘Oh, boy,’  ” Ball said. Interest in growing fruits and vegetables picks up during economic downturns, people in the industry say. Seed companies say a dime spent on seeds yields about $1 worth of produce. Bad economic times also can mean more time to garden — people who cancel their summer vacations are around to water their tomatoes. The housing crunch also works in favor of vegetable gardens: If you can’t sell your home, you can replant it.

“Over the past year or two, when my boyfriend and I went shopping and started seeing how little we got out of the grocery store for how much, we figured we might as well give it a shot trying our own veggies and take some of the weight off our pockets,” said Janet Bedell, who works at a lawn and garden center in Venice, Fla.

That kind of thinking is leading to a big year for companies that sell to fruit and vegetable gardeners. Seed Savers Exchange, a nonprofit group dedicated to preserving heirloom vegetables, ran out of potatoes this year and mailed 10,000 tomato and pepper transplants to customers in early May, double its usual amount. The organization, based near Decorah, Iowa, sold 34,000 packets of seeds in the four months of this year, more than it did all last year.


Dispatch reporter Monique Curet contributed to this story.

A Container Veggie Garden (NGA – Moss in the City)

Read at : National Gardening Association <>

Moss in the City – Gardening in Small Spaces

A Container Veggie Garden

Now is the time to plant crops for bountiful harvests this summer and fall. Even small-space gardeners can grow enough nutritious produce to prepare a few meals, supplement your diet, and save some bucks. With a little planning and attention, container gardens can produce like mini farms. Almost any vessel can be used as a container, but it must have drainage holes that allow water to freely flow through the pot. Most veggies only need about 6 inches of soil depth. Trays and smaller containers work fine for lettuce, radishes, spinach, and peppers. Root crops like carrots and onions, and large plants like most tomatoes and squash, require half-barrels, grow bags, or some other large (larger than 16 inches in diameter) container. As a general rule, bigger is better for root growth and overall vigor.

When growing veggies in containers, packaged potting mixes are typically the best choice. Using garden soil in containers is never ideal. In urban areas where there is a potential for contamination, filling a container for edibles with city dirt is out of the question. Packaged potting mixes are lightweight, moisture retentive, and well aerated. Plus they do not harbor any fungi, bacteria, insects, or weed seeds that would cause problems later. Continue reading A Container Veggie Garden (NGA – Moss in the City)

Container gardening on Chicago windowsill (H. HOUGH / Willem)

A nice message from Heidi HOUGH (Chicago) :

I’m delighted to know that our little synopsis was helpful. We continue to enjoy your site and send grateful thanks for including our project, which is just getting underway in year two. In the meantime, I’ve got some cool-weather greens growing in plastic boxes (with drainage holes) up on our second-story window sills. Arugula, spinach, chard, French breakfast radish, and lettuces. I like to eat them right out of the box (like a grazing animal–I am shameless).Chicago windowsillChicago second story windowsill container with fresh vegetables.


 Vegetables in plastic trays high above the street

Young lettuce grown in the city


French breakfast radishes close to the kitchen

red lettuce

Lettuce on a windowsill can be decorative like flowering plants



On May 5th I posted the following message :

Some weeks ago I discovered that people in Chicago were growing plants in buckets. Bruce FIELDS, Heidi HOUGH and their friends developed a very interesting system. I asked them to receive more information on it and to be enabled to publish some of their marvelous pictures. Heide came up with a splendid solution : THEIR FLICKR PAGE. Here is her message :

“I have finally set to order my flickr page. I hope this helps you and others see how we set up our growing buckets. You may freely use any of my pictures at your site.

Here’s the link:

We are excited that it could be useful to people whose water supply is not as bountiful as our own, 20 blocks from Lake Michigan.

Heidi Hough & Associates Inc
1904 W Division
Chicago IL 60622

Text going with the Flickr Page :

Our homemade earthboxes–really earthbuckets–were created from food-grade buckets we had left over from the leaky roof years. We’ve shown a very rudimentary step-by-step series on how to build these buckets. This link is far more comprehensive:

Here’s a good video that shows the process: eurl=http://www.h…

Art built the trellis, which worked beautifully for tying up the climbing cukes and tomatoes. With neighbor Bruce down the street in Wicker Park, Chicago, we had a lot of fun during this first year growing veggies on our rooftops. Go see his pix and descriptive text for more on this Year One of the rooftop garden experiment.

And our supportive friends helped us cook and eat the bounty.


I strongly recommend all the visitors of my blog to have a look at that wonderful series of pictures, explaining how the Chicago team build their bucket system.

My sincere congratulations to Heidi, Bruce and their Chicago team.”


Today, I received Heidi’s magnificent pictures of her “windowsill garden” (above). I believe that just a look at them will convince a lot of people to follow this splendid example, showing how simple and easy it is to produce fresh food in and around the house, even on a windowsill in a city like Chicago.

Did I recently hear food crisis ? Did someone mention high food prices ? Anyone of us, wherever we live, can partly solve that problem. Just grow your own vegetables and herbs (and some fruits) in containers in any location : balconies, terraces, windowsills, patios, platforms, open spaces around the house, flat roofs, etc. Even the cheapest containers, like plastic or PET bottles, yoghurt pots, buckets, sandwich boxes etc. can be transformed in mini-gardens or mini-greenhouses (see former postings on this blog). Give it a try and become a skilled gardener like Heidi HOUGH or Bruce FIELDS (see my former postings on their successes).

Container gardening in bottles (M.M. CROWN / i Village Garden Web)

From a message sent by M. Michael CROWN :

I found a discussion forum illustrated with very nice pictures.

Container gardening in bottles

Posted by georgeiii (My Page) on Mon, Jun 26, 06

How about growing all the veggies you want in just an 2’x4’x6′ space?

You can grow 80 plants in that space. Those beans won’t get lonely if you got 20 to choose from.

The frame holds 48 pods and 32 in trays…all in a 2’x4’x6′ area.

By the way…I used 32 oz cups with my uncut 2 liter bottles. They come with lids. I use a small soderling iron to cut a hole in the lids for outside hydroponic setups. The lid acts just like the curved lip. Keep the media level as close to the top as you can. That will keep your evaporation loss way down.

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Small Spaces / Urban Gardening

This forum is for the discussion of gardening in urban spaces; courtyards, rooftops, small backyards and other places in cities where the urge to garden meets the harsh realities of limited space intrude on greener dreams.Related forum: Balcony Gardening | Container Gardening

Family gardens, school gardens and urban gardening against the actual food crisis (Willem)

Family gardens, school gardens and urban gardening against the actual food crisis

Drought is described as a very important environmental constraint, limiting plant growth and food production. The World Food Program (WFP) has recently indicated drought in Australia as one of the major factors for the difficulty to deliver food aid to millions of people suffering from hunger and malnutrition. Drought is seen as the force driving up wheat and rice prices, which contributes directly to food shortage, social unrest and disturbances at the global level. Therefore, mitigating drought and limiting water consumption seems to be essential factors for resolving the actual food crisis and to find long-term solutions to malnutrition, hunger and famine, particularly in the drylands.

Application of water stocking soil conditioners, keeping the soil moistened with a minimum of irrigation water, and seeding or planting more drought tolerant species and varieties will definitely contribute to solve the food crisis. Scientists in China and the USA have recently discovered important genetic information about drought tolerance of plants. It was thereby shown that drought tolerant mutants of Arabidopsis thaliana have a more extensive root system than the wild types, with deeper roots and more lateral roots, and show a reduced leaf stomatal density. My own research work on the soil conditioning compound TerraCottem has led to similar conclusions : treatment with this soil conditioner induced enhancement of the root system with a higher number of lateral roots. More roots means more root tips and thus a higher number of water absorbing root hairs, sitting close to the root meristem. As a result, plants with more roots can better explore the soil and find the smallest water quantities in a relatively dry soil.

As the world’s population is growing by about 78 million people a year, it affects life on this earth in a very dramatic way. Droughts have caused a rise of food prices many times before, but the present situation is quite different, because it is based on specific trends and facts : the faster growing world population and a definite change in international food consumption trends and habits.

Some experts claim that “major investments to boost world food output will keep shortages down to the malnutrition level in some of the world’s poorer nations“, and that “improving farm infrastructure and technological boosts to farm yields can create a lot of small green revolutions, particularly in Africa”.

It seems quite difficult to believe that “major investments to boost the food output” will be able to “keep the food shortages down to the malnutrition level“, wherever in this world. Indeed, the world’s most famous research institutes have already developed very effective technologies to boost food production in the most adverse conditions of serious drought and salinity. Yet, not one single organization has ever decided, up to now, to use “major investments” to apply such technologies in large-scale programs, which would most certainly change the food situation in the world’s poorest nations.

It seems also difficult to believe that “improving farm infrastructure and technological boosts to farm yields” will be able to create “small green revolutions, particularly in Africa”. It is not by improving a farm’s infrastructure that one will manage drought. Although a number of technological solutions to boost farm yields have already been developed, only those tackling the drought problems are an option to create significant changes.

I do not believe that such changes can be realized at the level of large-scale farms. On the contrary, I am convinced that application of cost-effective, soil conditioning methods to enhance the water retention capacity of the soil and to boost biomass production in the drylands, is the best solution to help the poor rural people to avoid malnutrition and hunger, giving them a “fresh” start with a daily portion of “fresh vegetables”. These rural people, forming the group most affected by the food crisis, do not need to play a role in boosting the world’s food production. They simply need to produce enough food for their own family (“to fill their own hungry stomach“). Application of cost-effective technologies should therefore be programmed at the level of small-scale “family gardens” or “school gardens” and not at the scale of huge (industrial) farms, where return on investment is always the key factor for survival of the business.

Preferentially, major investments to boost the food output in the drylands should be employed to improve food production in family gardens and school gardens, in order to offer all rural people an opportunity to produce more and better food, vegetables and fruits, full of vitamins and mineral elements, mostly for their own family members or kids, partly for the local market.

Splendid examples of long-term combating food shortage with family gardens can be seen since 2006 in the refugee camps in S.W. Algeria (UNICEF project). One can only hope that such a success story will soon be duplicated in many similar situations, where hungry people wait for similar innovative and well-conceived practices, with a remarkable return on investment, laying solid foundations for further sustainable development.

Recently, a number of initiatives have been taken to enhance urban gardening space, not only with allotment gardens, but also with “guerilla gardening” and transformation of open, underused spaces into small-scale garden plots for downtown dwellers, apartment dwellers and even for university students like those at the McGill University in Montreal. Many poor urban people are very keen on harvesting their own crops in such small gardens or applying container gardening on balconies, terraces, rooftops or other unused open spaces. Support for urban agriculture or urban gardening can be seen as a priority for decision-makers to reverse the world’s food crisis.

Food aid, be it with billions of dollars, can only be very effective if priority is given to local food production for the poor rural or urban people, who can not afford to buy the expensive commercial food products in shops or supermarkets. Small-scale family gardens, school gardens, allotment gardens and urban gardens in unused open spaces should be our strategic counter-attack against the actual food crisis.

Container gardening 101 (Google / Canada / Abbotsfordtimes)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

Container gardening 101

Anne Marrison, The Times

Published: Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Small space gardeners love container plantings, but gardeners in larger spaces also have situations where containers are indispensable – they can emphasize bends of a path, flank doorways and make maximum security jails for beautiful but invasive plants. Best of all, each potted mini-garden allows the gardener complete control. You can make your own soil mix, move your pot into sunny or shady conditions as required and know that any pests will be easy to see and remove.

Container plantings of most annual flowers need rich soil because the plants need to be put very closely together. Often people add a slow-release balanced fertilizer [all numbers the same] before planting, though this isn’t necessary where a mix already contains fertilizer. Close clusters of annuals usually need liquid fertilizer also, the frequency depending on solution strength. In order to keep blooms coming and ward off disease, there should be regular dead-heading and picking-off of dead of dying leaves. It is crucial containers don’t dry out. In hot summers, daily watering is needed for potted plantings in full sun. Continue reading Container gardening 101 (Google / Canada / Abbotsfordtimes)

Jamaica : Farming kits and Urban Backyard Garden Programme (Google / Radio Jamaica)

Read at : Google Alert – gardening

Farming kits to be distributed as gov’t pushes backyard gardening

Sunday, 20 April 2008 In a move reminiscent of the People’s National Party government of the 1970’s, the current Jamaica Labour Party administration has announced a drive to encourage Jamaicans to establish backyard gardens. In his recent budget presentation, Agriculture Minister Dr. Chris Tufton said government will urge Jamaicans to go back to basics by implementing an Urban Backyard Garden Programme. The project is aimed at assisting residents of urban centres to grow fruit, vegetables and herbs in their backyards or community spaces. Continue reading Jamaica : Farming kits and Urban Backyard Garden Programme (Google / Radio Jamaica)