By: Paula Hess
If you’d like to have a garden, but think you don’t have the space, think again. Urban gardening techniques are allowing small-space gardening to take root in unlikely places, such as balconies, raised planters, roofs, windowsills, and postage stamp-sized backyards. Condominium dwellers and homeowners alike are getting their fingers dirty and growing their own produce, succulents, and flowers in these tiny slivers of dirt.
According to Texas A&M horticulturalists, nearly every plant that grows in a spacious garden can grow in containers, such as hanging pots, windowsills, or even tubes--bags of potting soil with slits for the plants to protrude. Some plants are ideally suited for container growing, including tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, green onions, beans, lettuce, squash, radishes, and parsley. Texas A&M offers pointers on everything from soil preparation to container selection at http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/container/container.html.
One urban gardening option gaining popularity is germinating plants upside down from hanging containers. That is, the plants dangle upside down from homemade planters, such as five-gallon buckets, or commercially available planters. A recent New York Times article at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/20/garden/20tomato.html spotlighted this technique. These hanging options allow those without a yard to grow fresh produce, and those with a backyard garden to add a rack of hanging planters and boost their gardens’ yields. Condo dwellers can get in the act too with easy-to-make hanging window pots. For a step-by-step pictorial on making your own upside-down soda bottle container, see http://www.cheapvegetablegardener.com/2010/05/2-liter-bottle-upside-down-tomato-planter.html.
If your interest in gardening is ornamental versus gastronomical, then succulents are an ideal match for you and California’s climate. Not only are these plants suitable for indoor and outdoor settings, these heat-tolerant and drought-resistant plants require little maintenance if you become an erstwhile gardener.
According to Debra Lee Baldwin, author of Designing with Succulents and Succulent Container Gardens: Design Eye-Catching Displays with 350 Easy-Care Plants, “Succulents are carefree plants for small-space gardens.” She notes that succulents come in all shapes, sizes, colors, and varieties—from delicate sedums with rice-sized leaves to trees that are reminiscent of the vegetation in a Dr. Seuss book. Succulents can accent any setting—windowsills, sitting areas, walkways, and, of course, yards. The author’s Web site features how-to videos at http://www.debraleebaldwin.com/ and http://www.succulentchic.net/ and a beautiful array of examples of the design possibilities. In no time, you’ll be creating your own windowsill boxes of sansevierias (mother-in-law’s tongue).
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
What started as an experiment to grow vegetables in a Brooklyn apartment window has evolved into a collaborative online community’s effort to empower inner-city residents to grow food in windows. This Internet-based collective shares ideas and techniques for building and using low-cost hydroponics to grow vegetables. Visit http://www.windowfarms.org/ to learn how to create your own 365-day garden of edibles using low-impact materials or recyclable materials in your outbound trash. You also can purchase starter garden kits from the site. Either way, these gardens will brighten any window.
• Cactus and Succulent Society of America (www.cssainc.org/)
• HGTV (http://www.hgtv.com/topics/container-gardening/index.html)
• Container Gardening Guide (http://containergardeningtips.com/)
• National Gardening Association (www.garden.org/home)