With the world changing so drastically in 2020, and with more and more people staying home to work plus social distancing, it’s no wonder urban gardening is becoming a trending hobby! Gardening is good for the soul. Growing food for your family gives you a deep feeling of joy and pride (and gets us out of the house!)
If you’re a first time gardener like I was this year, or if you live in an urban setting with no yard space, starting a garden can seem daunting, if not impossible. But don’t give up on the idea just yet. There are absolutely ways to start a garden of your own.
Start with kitchen scraps – re-grow your food!
Getting started gardening can be as simple as not throwing away your food scraps. No, I’m not talking about composting – though you can do that too – I’m talking about re-growing food using your vegetable odds and ends, or food that has already sprouted.
Bonus: This method lets you get even more out of your produce purchases. Here are some of the best vegetables to re-grow:
Green onion: This is probably the easiest to re-grow. Just make sure to leave 2 inches or so of the stocks above the bulb when you use them for cooking. To start them growing again just set them in a glass with enough water to cover the roots, and set in a sunny place. In about 2-3 days you’ll see more onion start to grow!
If you want to keep your green onions around even longer (I have some that are 3 years old now!) just put them into a small pot, planting the bulbs about two inches apart.
Garlic: Got garlic that sprouted? Don’t throw it away. Just plant your sprouted garlic in a small pot and you’ll have another bunch of garlic in a few months. Pro tip: Garlic likes very sandy, well-aerated soil.
Grow a Good Life has 7 more great tips for growing garlic you should check out!
Onions: Regular onions are actually super easy to re-grow, just like their smaller green cousins. If you have an onion that’s sprouted, remove the exterior white layers (you can still eat them) and put your onion roots-down in a shallow cup of water. Make sure you have just enough water to cover the roots and change the water daily.
After about 5 days you’ll start to see new white roots form, which means they’re ready to put in the ground! Plant your onions in well-aerated soil that drains well, and give it a little water every day. Your onions will be ready to harvest once their green stalks begin to turn brown and fall over.
Potatoes: If your potatoes have sprouted eyes, don’t toss them! You can grow new potatoes in your backyard or even in a bucket. Yes, a bucket!
Bucket potatoes not only take up almost no space, but they’re also a plant that needs minimal work. Usually, a five-gallon bucket will yield a couple of pounds of potatoes per harvest at the end of 12-20 weeks.
Try using a 5-gallon bucket (or even a trash can) and drill several holes in the bottom to let it drain. Take your potato that has sprouted and plant them about 4 inches deep in good soil.
There are wonderful in-depth instructions for bucket potatoes over at Modern Survival Online that you should check out for a full tutorial.
You can use the space you have, even if it’s small
There is no space too small for a garden. I’m serious. Don’t believe me? I’m here to tell you – you can actually even turn your tiny space, indoors or out – into a garden.
Grow herbs on your windowsill
Turn the space under your windows into your personal herb garden. Herbs famously are easy to grow in small pots, even pots small enough to sit in your window or mason jars. They love the sun so choose a window that gets a lot of light, and give them a little water every day.
The best part is having fresh home-grown herbs on hand whenever you want them to cook with or season your dishes!
Here are some herbs that grow really well indoors, in smallish pots:
- Wheatgrass (for your smoothies!)
Pro Tip: Don’t have a windowsill large enough? Try hanging small mason jars from your curtain rod.
Put your plants in pots
This is one of my favorite tricks. Not only are plants in pots decorative, but they also are perfect for renters who might need to move and don’t want to lose their plants. I have a huge raspberry bush that I planted in a giant wine barrel planter. It has gone with me to several different places and I never had to give it up.
Potted vegetables and herbs also let you turn even the smallest patio or even a sunny window into a grow space! Not only that, but pots mean that you can move your plants if they’re getting too much or too little sun, or bring them inside during the cold winter months.
Just make sure you have a big enough pot for the plant you’re growing! I learned this one the hard way. Here’s a general size guide:
- Tomatoes & peppers: Medium-large pots
- Herbs: Smallish pots
- Squash, cucumbers, eggplant etc: Large pots
- Berry bushes, and small fruit trees: Very large pots
A few more tips & tricks
Invest in good dirt: In a lot of cases, your average shovelful of dirt from the yard isn’t going to cut it growing vegetables. If you’re looking to get a good “crop” make sure you buy actual potting soil, for vegetables. The best I’ve found has been organic vegetable garden potting soil.
Fertilize: Weather or not you use manure, organic compost or over-the-counter pesticides, fertilizing your plant’s soil semi-regularly is important for healthy veggies and fruits.
Do your research: It took me four consecutive tries to successfully sprout and grow garlic. Why? Because instead of doing my research before I planted on the kind of soil, water, and sunlight garlic needs, I just threw it in the ground. Make sure you at least google your plant’s needs before you dive in. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
Use natural pesticides: There are a lot of really great natural pesticides on the market, and all of them are good options. But some strategic planning can also help you avoid pests. Try planting some famous bug-repelling plants like rosemary or garlic, onions or citronella around your more tender veggies, or keep them in pots nearby.
And remember, not matter how much space you have, or how you choose to garden, growing your own food is an exercise in mindfulness and patience. Gardening should enhance your overall joy and well-being, and if gardening isn’t for you, it’s perfectly OK to buy your vegetables from your local store, too!
So what are your best urban gardening tips? Come share your ideas with us! Be sure to come and follow Blendtopia on Facebook to stay connected, and follow us on Pinterest to get even more ideas for maintaining our mental, physical, and emotional wellness.
Stay safe and healthy!
Editorial Contributor, Blendtopia