Gardening as a family cannot only help you reduce your carbon footprint, pass along the ideals of sustainable living to your children, and save money at the grocery store, it can also help you forge even stronger bonds with your family through your shared goals.
When you live in an urban setting, however, starting a family garden requires a bit more creativity than it would in a rural area. Though you will have to work with what you have available and consider the best ways to customize your garden to your family’s specific situation, it’s absolutely possible to bring the seasonal bounty from your garden to your table, even in the city.
Container Gardening – If you’re lucky enough to have a patio or balcony, you can start a family gardening project by growing food in containers arranged around the available space. Limited or a complete lack of lawn space doesn’t have to hold you back, especially if your patio, porch or balcony receives an adequate amount of sunlight each day. Provided that they have proper drainage holes, almost any container you can think of can be used to grow edible plants, so don’t be hemmed in by the traditional planters available at your local home and garden store.
Raised Beds – Small urban lawns often have poor soil, making them a less-than-ideal growing environment. If you’re plagued with moles, low-quality soil or other woes and still have available lawn space, consider investing in raised beds. They’ll allow you an enormous amount of control over the soil because you’ll be filling them yourself with purchased topsoil and fertilizing agents. Don’t let weak soil deter you from growing food and establishing a collective family hobby, just purchase or build your own raised beds!
Community Gardening Programs – In many major metropolitan areas, city-dwellers with green thumbs come together and share a plot of land for a community gardening plan. Do a bit of research on the local level to determine what, if any, programs exist in your area. If you have trouble finding one it may even be worth your time to establish one yourself.
Rooftop Gardens – Rooftop gardening is a popular option for those who have access to their own roofs and have obtained permission to plant there. Depending on the type of roof you have, there are several options for establishing a thriving ecosystem of edible plants right on your rooftop. If you’re lucky enough to have access to a flat, enclosed portion of a condo or apartment building rooftop, the area should even be safe enough for young children to come help, provided that you’re vigilant about supervision.
Companion Planting – Some plants can have symbiotic relationships that allow them to flourish more when they’re sharing a container or planted close to one another than they would separately. Because companion planting allows you to place your plants closer together than you would otherwise, it’s a great way to make the most out of your available container, raised bed or small urban plot space. After you’ve decided what items you’d like to grow, it’s easy to determine which plants do better when they’re together.
Square Foot Gardening – Square foot gardening is one of the single most effective ways to get the most from a small vegetable garden. You’ll need to use raised beds that are densely planted, well-composted and carefully maintained. The practice is especially well-suited to small, urban gardens where space is at a premium.
Think Vertically – While the word “garden” may initially bring images of carefully plotted, well-spaced, horizontal rows to mind, this doesn’t always have to be the case. Consider inverted planters hung on hooks, rows of greenhouse-style shelving and other vertical planting methods to make the most of your space. For instance, canvas closet organizers designed for hanging over doors and holding shoes can make excellent compartmentalized, vertical herb gardens, as the porosity of the fabric allows for adequate drainage without being too flimsy to support the weight of soil and plants. Remember, you’re only limited by your imagination!
It’s wise to join an urban gardening co-op in your area, an online community or other gardening group for great space-saving, city-gardening techniques. These groups can be especially valuable for beginning gardeners, who are facing the challenge of urban gardening while also battling their lack of experience. When your children help to cultivate and maintain the family vegetable plot they’re more likely to be eager about eating the fruits of their labor, which can be a serious bonus for parents that struggle to get their children interested in healthy eating habits.