How to Maximize Your Urban Garden for Ultimate … Benefits by Marian Cannon
Photo Credit: stux, Pixabay
Having an urban garden means learning to successfully grow in containers and making the most of your limited space. From picking the soil to the containers to the plants, each decision will help increase the likelihood of success. Not only will growing an urban garden spruce up your balcony, but you’ll also enjoy the many health benefits gardening has to offer.
Benefits of Gardening
Gardening has many health benefits, whether you grow vegetables, succulents, shrubs, or flowers. Even if your urban gardening is restricted exclusively to growing in containers, it can provide benefits. Gardening has been shown to lower cortisol levels. High levels of cortisol have been linked to increase in obesity, heart disease, and stress, as well as a decrease in immune function and memory.
Most experts suggest people achieve 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity exercise each week, which can be achieved through gardening. Gardening can also reduce stroke and heart attack risks by up to 30 percent and reduce the risk for dementia by 36 to 47 percent. It increases dexterity and strength in the hands, provides your daily dose of Vitamin D, boosts immune function, and helps fight depression and other mental illnesses.
Before You Start
Before deciding what to plant in your urban garden, study how sunlight moves across your balcony over the course of a day. You’ll then be able to cluster your containers in areas where they will thrive. For example, hydrangeas prefer shadier spots, while peppers love the sun.
The key to successfully growing in containers is using a high-quality organic potting soil that’s augmented with compost and fertilized once a month. An added benefit of using organic potting soil is that it’s better for your health, since foods grown in organic soil have higher levels of nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants. Research the pros and cons of different potting soil types, or you can make your own. Be aware that containers dry out more quickly than traditional gardens, so they need watering every day. During high temperatures, water twice a day.
Vines and other climbers can be grown on a privacy wall or trellis. For a pop of color, choose flowering vines. Compact climbers, such as clematis and jasmine, are a good option for containers. When growing shrubs in a container, choose smaller and slow-growing plants, such as Japanese pieris. Asparagus ferns require little maintenance and filter polluted air. Succulents grow well in containers and are generally low-maintenance.
If you’re looking to grow an edible garden, herbs are the easiest edibles to grow in containers. That’s not to say you can’t grow fresh, nutritious fruits and vegetables in your urban garden. Some edible plants are surprisingly easy to grow in containers. Bush beans and lettuce are easy to grow and provide vitamins A, C, and K. Carrots are also low maintenance and give you plenty of vitamin A. Cilantro, parsley, and basil are easily grown herbs that pack a healthy punch.
Small trees can be grown in urban gardens as well. Dwarf variety citrus trees – including lemons, limes, and oranges – are beautiful to look at and produce plentiful food. Flowering fruit trees do well in terra cotta pots. You can also grow apples and peaches, but be sure you choose varieties that do well in pots or that have been grafted to do so.
You can use orange terra cotta pots for almost all plants. Paint them a solid color or paint a fun design. Other options include galvanized buckets, wooden boxes, and even tins. Clustering pots together is aesthetically pleasing and makes watering a breeze. It also creates a more humid climate for plants, which reduces moisture loss from leaves and potting mix.
Since space is limited, look for ways to use every inch of your space. Use the railing to hang window boxes, place hanging baskets on the overhang of the door, and grow climbing plants on walls. Many plants can be grown in a vertical garden. Build your own vertical container, use pallets or shelves, hang small pots from a trellis, or stack pots of different sizes. Creating tiered, raised beds helps the garden to warm up sooner in the spring and stay warmer later into fall, which is important in an urban garden.
Tiered, raised beds are also easier to maintain than a traditional garden because plants are at a more comfortable level. This is a great option for the elderly or those with a disability. Likewise, any items that are mounted on the wall, like hanging pots from a trellis will be easier to manage, too. Windowboxes are also at an advantageous level.
Although growing an urban garden seems restrictive, you can successfully grow almost anything from your apartment’s balcony. With the right preparation and care, you can grow vegetables, fruit, herbs, succulents, flowers, trees, and shrubs. All of your hard work will pay off with a beautiful and lush terrace, as well as a happier and healthier mind and body.