5 top tips for small urban growing spaces

5 top tips for small urban growing spaces

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A year ago we moved house and I found myself faced with the challenge of transforming a typical urban gravel yard into something much more exciting. I wanted to create a little green haven full of flowers, wildlife and of course lots of edibles.

There are lots of challenges that come with growing in small urban gardens; no soil, or poor soil, lack of sunlight, lots of shade from surrounding buildings, urban pests (I include cats in this category!), and obviously a major lack of space!

So here are my 5 top tips for growing in a small urban space:

1. Grow up!


The great thing about urban gardens is that we often have lots of walls or fences which present the perfect opportunity for vertical growing. Whether it’s strawberries or herbs in containers fixed to the wall or climbers like beans and beans making there way up the fence, it’s a great and fun way to start maximising your growing space.

2. Grow exciting things that you can’t find in the supermarket.

Now personally I don’t use my small garden to  grow onions or potatoes – they take up way too much space and are cheap to buy everywhere! I prefer to grow things that are expensive to buy in the supermarket and just a little more exciting than your ordinary veg – for example this year I will be growing yellow pear and wild thai tomatoes, black mangetout and tromba squash (yes it’s shaped like a trombone – almost!)

3. No soil? Grow in containers.


You may find, as I did, that your small urban growing space is just a slab of concrete or gravel and that you have no soil. This means it’s time to get container growing, and a container really can be anything from an old bath tub to a pair of tights! (seriously – good for strawberries!) Some things work better than others but it’s fun to experiment – just remember it’s important to make drainage holes and you will need to keep on top of watering in the summer.

4. No sun? Grow shade loving leafy greens and edible flowers.

This is another common problem but can be turned into an opportunity to grow fancy and tasty salad leaves like rocket and mizuna that don’t like too much direct sunlight.  You might be surprised to find out that lots of shade loving plants produce edible flowers too and they will certainly brighten up your garden and salads. Check out Plants for a future for lists of shade tolerant plants and flowers.

5. Improve your soil by adding organic matter

Whether you are growing in containers or the ground, starting with good fertile soil is going to get all your plants of to a much better start in life and help them resist pests and diseases. My lazy tip to improve your soil is add organic matter – manure, chicken poo, compost (from bins or shop bought), worm compost, even hair and nail clippings are going to help add nutrients. I love this blog from Vertical veg about how to revive your old compost – no need to throw it away.

If you want to find out more about growing in a small urban space then you might like to book onto our City Crops workshop on Wednesday 16th March at Little Man Coffee. This workshop will boost your confidence in planning your garden, placing and choosing your plants so you can create a thriving and productive garden.

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