8 Sustainable Steps to the Ultimate Urban Garden

Don’t let the city life fool you: growing a garden can happen anywhere, anytime. You don’t need to be in a giant field or a big backyard. As a matter of fact, a patio or balcony is the perfect place to set up shop; you just need a few things to get started and the right state of mind.  

No space is too small, because even a windowsill – indoors or out – will allow you easy access to watch your efforts (literally) blossom into something special. And that’s a powerful thing: to see that nurturing and attention can turn into something healthy, affordable and delicious.

Whether your green thumb is highly refined or you’re a gardening rookie, we’ve got you covered with some tips that aren’t only foolproof, but are good for the earth, your mind, your body and your soul too!

1. Start with Your Space

In most cities, gardening space is limited, so you'll need to get creative. Your patio or balcony, for example, probably has a bare wall on either side. Consider setting up a sturdy shelf that is meant for the outdoors.  

If your balcony or patio space is big enough, you could fit in two or three of these vertical gardens. Even better - they’re naturally rot resistant and insect-resistant because they’re made of Western Red Cedar. Pesticides will have no place on your porch or patio with this planter!

If you have a bit of yard space, square off a section with this 4x8 foot frame. Just like the vertical shelf, the Western Red Cedar makes it rot and insect resistant, and it is grown with sustainable forestry practices under the Sustainable Forestry Initiative program.

2. Deliberate Your Dirt


As nice as it would be to simply dig a hole and plant until your heart’s content, the fact is that plants need the RIGHT kind of soil for optimum growth potential. You could always get your soil PH tested to see if it will support your ambitions. This will let you know if your soil has too much or too little minerals present.  

However, most people – especially for small spaces – opt to simply purchase a good quality soil to avoid any mishaps. Organic, pesticide-free soils are your best bet with top reviews coming in for the brand’s Roots Organics, Fox Farm, and Unco Industries.

3. Consider Composting

If there were ever a way to give right back to the earth that takes care of you, this is it. A compost pile does not have to be a designated dumping ground 20 yards from your home. You can compost in the comfort of your own home, on your porch or in your backyard – and earthworms will do all the "dirty work" for you.  

The benefits of composting include:

  • Less Waste – What you would otherwise throw away and send to a landfill will now go to a new, beneficial cause: your garden!

  • Better Soil – The nutrients from your compost will enrich the soil with valuable nutrients that will help your produce growth. Compost also helps to retain your soil’s moisture levels.

  • Natural Fertilizer – Because of its natural components, compost won't' release toxic chemicals into your soil.

  • It’s free – Composting doesn’t cost you a thing. The only change is your routine of tossing from the trash to your compost bin.

What are the easiest items for the city dweller to compost? You can start with the basics like fruits, vegetables, eggshells, tea bags, coffee grounds, coffee filters, and nutshells. But if you’re feeling more adventurous, the Environmental Protection Agency has an expanded list of items that may surprise you. (Hint: dog hair, anyone?)

4. Pair Your Produce with Your Region

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Depending on where you live, you’ll have more luck with some fruits and veggies than others. Find out what grows best in your region – and when the best time is to start planting.

For example, you may want to plant your tomatoes in early spring in one part of the country, but in other parts it may be best to get seedlings in the ground in June.  

Don’t find out the hard way… If you live in the US, this guide is a great place to get started.

5. Repurpose and Reuse

Garden stores sell everything you need, but there's a good chance you have some things on hand right now to get started. If you plan to grow your garden from seeds, all you need is some seeds, dirt, a little water, and containers. Use cardboard egg cartons to get your sprouts started and they'll be easily transferable to a larger pot as they get bigger.

There is no need to go out and buy expensive pots and planters for your urban garden. Take a stroll through a thrift market to find some great terracotta or ceramic planters. This classic look is timeless and will give your garden a great all-natural feel. Plus, you’ll save a ton reusing what someone no longer needs.

6. Save on Your Water Supply

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You’ve surely seen a neighbor pull out the hose and crank out the water to nourish their garden. If only they knew: the installation of a simple rain barrel kit would make such a difference on that water bill. After the initial cost, you’ll be watering your garden for free!   

If a rain barrel isn’t an option, look into greywater re-use. It requires a little more manual effort but is an excellent way to maintain your garden and conserve water simultaneously.

7. Keep the Critters at Bay – With Care

You may not even know that slugs and snails exist in your urban area, but one way to find out is to plant a garden. As sweet and harmless as they may seem, they will wreak havoc on your garden – and your efforts – if you don’t take precautions.

The most popular suggestion is to place a copper strip either just above or just below the soil line. It acts as a deterrent to slugs and snails because it sends an electrical energy that they avoid. If this isn’t an option, look into the other humane ways to keep slugs away from your garden.

8. Ask and Ye Shall Receive

And last, but certainly not least, remember: you don’t have to go on this gardening adventure alone. If there’s something you’re not sure about or something you simply don’t know, ask! Go to your local gardening center or get on the internet. You can always find answers to your gardening questions, even in the hustle and bustle of your city life.

About the author - Mark is a marketing specialist at Tree Barber and is on a mission to spread his love for nature. When he's not thinking of new market campaigns, he loves to watch (and sometimes even play) baseball and take walks with his two dogs, Fred and Wilma.