An urban garden can occupy a shared, community plot of land, a section of a yard or rooftop, or a container on a fire escape or windowsill. Most edible plants are hungry for sunlight, so look for a south-facing area for your plants.
Many gardeners opt for terra-cotta pots, compost (more about that later), gardening gloves, a watering can, organic fertilizers, and lumber for raised beds. While there is no shortage of beautiful gardening products, it’s wise to start with minimal investment—plants aren’t picky with appearances.
The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map breaks down growing seasons for every part of the United States. Zone numbers correspond to when different plants can grow in a region, and seed packets list their zone numbers to help gardeners determine what varietals will do best in specific climates.
If you grow edible plants, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is growing food you don’t normally like to eat. There’s no reason to grow 15 summer squash plants if you can’t stand ratatouille, or cucumbers if you never eat them. Focus on foods you naturally gravitate toward and start easy.
Raised beds are a great, no-till approach to gardening. They also circumvent the potential for harmful toxins to leach into your plants. If you plan to install raised beds, there are a lot of prefab beds that can be purchased online or from garden stores, or you can build your own.
Any soil you want to grow food in ought to first be tested first for pH and nutrient levels, as well as for contaminants. City dirt, in particular, is likely to have absorbed toxins that you don’t want ending up in your vegetables. Local extension offices, as well as national soil-test centers, can provide results on everything from pH and nutrient levels to potential toxins.
Making soil is as easy as composting food scraps from your kitchen table. Other items that can be broken down include shredded paper, cardboard, and newspaper—and, depending on what household cleaners you use at home, dustpan refuse and whatever you suck up with your vacuum cleaner.
Small spaces don’t have to mean limited garden space. Vertical gardening offers flexibility for growing plants along the interior or outside walls, or up arbors in the yard or on rooftops. Tire towers for potatoes, felt wall hangings for herbs or loose leaf greens, and trellises for peas, beans, and squash can all offer big yields in tiny spaces.
Aquaponics is a method of gardening in which fish provide the nitrogen plants need so you can grow things indoors without a lick of soil or fertilizer. All it takes is a fish tank of any size, a tiny pond pump to pull water out of it, and a grow bed with pea gravel and seeds (as well as an indoor grow light to keep on between eight and 12 hours a day).