Setting up an organic vegetable garden can give us so much. You will get a great variety of delicious fruit and vegetables to eat. Some people have found it to be a type of therapy (and exercise), others as a way to communicate with the earth and meet other like-minded people. At the very least, you will be able to use it as a way of eating more healthily and naturally.
Are you thinking that this might be a countryside pursuit and if you live in the middle of a city this is of no interest to you? Think again! Here are some tips for setting up an organic vegetable garden in the middle of the city.
Your urban organic garden – how to begin
You need a small area of space. This could be a small paved area at the back or front of your house, a terrace or a balcony. You will be growing plants in pots or other containers so you can use a paved area with no problems. Before you select your spot, have a read of the following guidance.
- The space must receive at least 6 hours of direct sunlight – plants will need this to grow well and produce fruit and vegetables. Plants need to photosynthesise to produce energy and without sunlight they can’t do that. Try to avoid areas that are shaded throughout most of the day.
- Any plant pots should face South, so they receive the most light.
- Think about the safety of your plants. Could they be vandalised? Could pets or birds get at them? You may want to protect them with a barrier or netting.
- Make sure you put the garden near a water supply so it is easy to water. You don’t want to be trudging miles with buckets of water. Remember, plants that produce fruit and vegetables require a lot of water!
- The number of plant pots or containers that you use will depend on the number of people that you want to grow vegetables and fruit for. The size of the containers will very much depend on what you are growing! There will be guidance available on the packets of seeds or seedlings that you buy and lots of advice is freely available on the web.
- Grow the vegetables and fruits that your family likes to eat the most – then there will be no wastage. However, the plants must be able to tolerate the climate where you live.
Choose the right containers for your own needs
The plant pots or containers should:
- be light so you can easily move them and so they are not too heavy for a balcony or terrace.
- have good drainage so excess water from the rainfall can drain out and the containers will not get waterlogged.
- be as big as possible, so the plant roots can grow well, as if they were in a garden full of soil. A minimum depth of 20 cm is recommended for most plants.
- Choose the pot materials carefully – wooden or ceramic pots protect roots better.
More about your urban organic vegetable garden
Once you have chosen the location and containers for your garden you can begin. It’s important to know where you’ll put your vegetable garden. Make sure that you arrange them so that it is comfortable for you to work without hurting your back. You can fill the bottom part of your containers with top soil – you can often pick this up for free from small ads and local community websites. Then top up with organic fertiliser/compost from your garden centre. Avoid herbicides and pesticides if you want your garden to remain organic.
Vegetables can be planted in two different ways: as seeds or as seedlings and the most appropriate depends on the plant and the time of the year. Some plants grow very well together – for example, tomatoes and basil grow well together. However, other plants like broccoli use up a lot of nutrients and moisture and are best grown alone.