Many of us would love to try our hand at gardening, but live in an urban area and only have access to a courtyard or balcony. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t garden at all, as you can use containers and hanging baskets to add life and vibrancy to your urban space and create an urban garden. Here are our top 10 tips for maintaining an urban garden.
1. With an urban garden – start small
If you’re new to gardening, don’t go overboard — start with a few pots and hanging baskets and grow from there. If flowers are your thing, avoid tender plants that need loads of special maintenance and shrubs that will take at least a year before you start to see the fruits of your labour. Instead, fill your containers with a mixture of seasonal bedding. These have been bred to provide an abundance of colour and scent all summer long. If you wish to grow your own food, start with herbs or try ‘cut-and-come-again’ salad leaves, tomatoes or dwarf beans.
2. Give your plants a good start in your urban garden
Make sure to give your plants the best possible start to life by properly preparing your containers. The BBC website has an excellent guide on planting up containers, and following those tips will give your plants the best possible start.
3. Use potting soil
Use a good-quality potting or multi-purpose compost when growing in containers. These composts are specially formulated for growing in containers — they’re enriched with nutrients and drain well. Wyevale Garden Centres offer composts that are heat-sterilized to kill weed seeds and diseases that could harm your plants.
4. Keep the sun in mind
Some plants need sun to flourish, while others prefer shade. In a small, urban garden, spots that are frequently in full sun are often few and far between, so it’s important to use your space wisely. Make the most of them with colourful, long flowering plants like sunflowers. Fill the rest of your space with shade-loving plants that offer colourful and attractive foliage plus flowers. For ideas on what plants to place in the shady areas of your garden, check out this great guide from Gardeners World.
5. Keep your plants well-watered
Every plant needs water to survive, so make sure to always keep yours hydrated so that the soil is moist but not waterlogged. Also, remember to increase the amount you water your plants during sunny spells, when the soil dries out faster. A windy site dries out the soil more quickly so you will have to water more regularly than you think if you have a windy garden. Reduce water loss from your pots by covering the soil surface around the base of your plants with a decorative mulch such as pebbles or gravel — this reduces water loss by keeping the soil and roots cool.
6. Keep your plants well-fed
Keep your plants well-fed with a general-purpose fertiliser. This is especially important for plants that you’re growing in a container, as the nutrients in their potting compost will gradually be washed out during successive waterings.
7. Pick the right plants for your hanging baskets
Hanging baskets are a great addition to an urban garden, as they don’t take up limited floor space. To keep them looking gorgeous all through summer, choose long-flowering plant varieties that have been specially bred to thrive in containers, such as begonias, fuchsias, and petunias.
8. Give your plants room to grow
Don’t be tempted to cram plants into small containers to fit as many as possible in your space. Plants need room to grow, and if you don’t give them enough space to do so, they won’t thrive. As a very rough guide, a plant’s roots will spread out below ground to the same distance as its stems or branches do above ground. Check plant pot labels to see how big your plant is going to grow, and use that as a guide when buying your pots.
9. Upcycle containers
Upcycling old wellies, watering cans, and biscuit tins into quirky plant pots is a great way of adding an extra splash of style to your urban garden.
10. Be adventurous
Lastly, if you particularly want to try your hand at growing something a bit more adventurous, don’t let lack of experience put you off. If you fail this year, there’s always the next, and you’re sure to learn something from the experience no matter what happens.
Keep these tips in mind when starting your urban garden and you’ll be sure to have a successful and flourishing space to relax in whenever the weather permits.