by Tamsin McCahill
What would feature in your dream garden? An orchard full of fruit trees? An expanse of manicured lawn? An oasis of tropical plants? Sadly, with their smaller-than-postage-stamp dimensions, the average urban garden may not be big enough for even a fraction of your grand designs. But that shouldn’t stop us city slickers from creating our very own patches of paradise, right in the middle of the city.
Keeping a gorgeous garden isn’t just a nifty way to impress the neighbours, either. Think of it as another little aspect of life insurance: a bit of blooming peace of mind to guard against boredom, stress-overload and city-blues. There are the physical benefits of all the stretching, bending and lifting, for starters. You’ll also be getting a good dose of fresh air while the whole family will be able to enjoy the top quality nutrition of your organically grown fruits and vegetables. Gardening also has some well-documented psychological benefits and is even offered on the NHS as a way to ward off depression.
Now that you’re convinced, where should you start? Here are our top tips on gardening for city dwellers.
Make a plan
Take a look at the space that you have, no matter how small, and think about how you intend to use it. Do you love entertaining, or will it just be a place for the kids to play? Do you want to grow your own vegetables, or do you prefer the aesthetic benefits of beautiful flowers? Next, you’ll need to look at which areas of your garden get the most rain and sun exposure. Finally, find out what type of soil you have (should you have any). Armed with this information, your next stop will be your local garden centre where staff can help you choose the plants that will suit you best.
No garden? No problem
Having no (or very limited) outdoor space shouldn’t stop you from developing green fingers. Even a tiny balcony or windowsill could make a perfect spot for miniature salad gardens or beautiful flowering plants. Choose an area that gets at least five hours of sun, and don’t forget to water frequently if your plants will be under cover. You don’t even need to shell out on expensive window boxes or containers, either. Now’s your chance to get creative and recycle some of your old junk, such as decorative metal tins or old wellington boots, for example.
Worried that your garden doesn’t get much light? Maximise the rays by placing a small amount of aluminium foil on the wall next to your plants.
If you really don’t have much space you’ll need to get creative. Vertical gardening allows you to use every inch of your garden, so look out for stackable containers, climbing plants and vegetables that can be trained to grow upwards on canes, like French beans or tomatoes.
Sow what you like to eat
If you’ve kept plenty of things in pots before, only to see them wither and die when you forget to water them, it’s easy to get put off. But don’t be deterred by past mistakes. A great way to keep your enthusiasm levels up is to grow the things you and your family really love to eat. Making a salad of your home-grown lettuce, radishes and tomatoes will give you such a great sense of achievement, you’ll soon be wondering what else you can grow.