How to plant a garden in the city

Credit: City Planter.
Credit: City Planter

Small on space but big on gardening? You can still have that welcoming oasis of fresh air with an urban garden. Peter Smith, owner of City Planter in Philadelphia, and New York-based floral designer Rebecca Cole share tips on how to get started, whether you have a big backyard or a tiny balcony.

Think vertically

If you have a small space, “use plants that are long and narrow — ones that grow upright and only take up a foot or so,” suggests Smith. Or, start from the top, not the bottom, says Cole: “Use hanging pots or windowsills instead of just floor space.”

Ignore the rules

When space is scarce, it can be nearly impossible to follow all of the usual guidelines set for gardeners. Don’t worry about it, Cole promises. “Where it says on the package to plant so many inches apart, that’s the rule to break,” she says.

Dig up the dirt

The livability of your garden depends largely on what goes on underground, so it’s so important to pay attention to what type of base you’re giving your plants. “If you’re gardening in ground, dig up the soil and see what is there,” Smith says. “There might be brick and construction debris that you need to take out. After that, add organic compost.” Also make sure to note the root space your plants of choice require, adds Cole.

Face the sun 

“The problem with gardening on a patio or rooftop is extreme weather. Choose plants and grasses that can handle it,” Smith says. He recommends using grasses like pennisetums or plants like bright junipers. Cole advises to look for a spot without too much shade so your plants can get plenty of sunlight.


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