Urban Gardening Using Pots, Hanging Baskets and More

Urban gardening helps bring freshly harvested produce to big city dwellers.

| June 12, 2012

Tired of genetically modified food? Every day, Americans are moving more toward eating natural, locally grown food that is free of pesticides and preservatives — and there is no better way to ensure this than to grow it yourself. In The Heirloom Life Gardener (Hyperion, 2011), Jere and Emilee Gettle, cofounders of the Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, offer a wealth of knowledge to every kind of gardener — experienced pros and novices alike. In this excerpt about urban gardening from Chapter 7, “City Farmer,” learn why living in a city doesn’t have to mean living without homegrown food. 

Though I’m a country boy at heart, I can’t deny that there is something magical about big cities. I love being in a skyscraper and looking out at the rooftop and backyard gardens dotting the cityscape. People get so creative with small spaces! In the Ozarks, there’s no shortage of arable land to work with. But not everyone lives in a place with so much space. If you live in a gardenless apartment, or you have just a tiny little yard, it is still possible to harvest delicious vegetables and herbs. Through urban gardening, if you have a patio, balcony, sunny windowsill, or even access to a rooftop, you can make your own little garden patch.

Gardening in Pots

Planting vegetables in pots or other containers is a fun way to start a garden in a small space. Most plants like full sun, so place your pots accordingly. If lack of sunlight is an issue on a small patio or in a yard, a dedicated gardener can move the pots once or twice per day, as the sun moves across the sky.

The size of the container is important, and you should choose according to how big the crop will grow.

Small pots (three to six inches across) can grow some plants to maturity, such as smaller lettuce leaf plants and herbs like basil, thyme, chives, rosemary, and lavender. Medium-size pots, which range from eight to ten inches across, can hold a few different plants at a time. Planting similar species together, such as a couple of pepper varieties, makes for easier care and a vibrant mix. Large pots (twelve inches across or larger) are perfect for big plants, such as tomatoes, squash, eggplant, and cucumbers.

Any type of container can work to grow vegetables in, as long as it has a drainage hole. My favorites are terra-cotta, because they’re sturdy and classic-looking. There are also metal, wooden, ceramic, and more modern man-made materials that can withstand a variety of weather conditions and last for a long time. Pretty much anything that holds soil will work, as long as it has a hole to allow for drainage. I used to make little wooden boxes out of lumber in which to grow strawberries. Figure out what works for you, based on what you’re growing and your budget.

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