There are so many ways you can garden, you don’t have to live on a farm. Check out these urban vegetable garden design ideas and get inspired!
Urban vegetable garden design ideas
If you plant a little urban vegetable garden, it may not look like a traditional garden with rows of tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. You can grow more food than you thought was possible on just a few feet of soil.
There is immense satisfaction that comes from growing your own food. Tasting what you’ve toiled over and loved on. There’s nothing like it. But you don’t have to have a lot of space to grow something. There are many ways to design your urban vegetable garden.
Urban vegetable gardening
Vegetable gardening is fairly easy and very enjoyable, but creating the initial garden design does take a little work. Think about what you want your garden to be and do some planning before you start digging.
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What is urban vegetable gardening, city gardening or urban farming?
City gardens are not limited to a few plants on the windowsill. That can be gardening, but even if you live in an apartment, you can still garden on a balcony, on your door, or even more places. The only thing that limits you is your imagination. Urban gardening or urban farming can be anything from those few pots in your window to growing thousands of pounds of food in a postage stamp small back yard.
Benefits of urban gardening
Urban gardening increases food security or being able to have access to nutritious food that is safe for consumption and is affordable. Urban gardening and farming create a sense of belonging to your community. It also provides a learning opportunity and a teaching opportunity. As garden skills are learned, they can be passed on to other people as well.
Urban gardening also makes efficient use of land taking up spaces that might otherwise go unused. It also produces healthy food and connects people with how food is grown and where it comes from.
Vegetable garden layout plans and spacing
How large should the urban vegetable garden be? If you want to grow something that hogs up a lot of space, like corn, you’re going to need more room. But if you want to grow a lot in a little space, think about growing things like basil, swiss chard, eggplant, lettuce, pole beans, tomatoes and hot peppers.
These plants can be grown in small spaces.
Where are you going to be growing? In your backyard, in raised beds, on a balcony, a rooftop, your porch? This will dictate a lot of what you can choose.
Measure and mark out the urban vegetable garden space on the lawn or surface you’re using. Are you going to remove sod or build on top of it? Are you going to have to bring in containers or build something?
If you’re going to grow in the ground in a grassy area, it’s best to till in the fall and again in spring or to smother the vegetation before you begin. You can also remove all of the material by removing the whole grass layer. Also remember in the city, your soil may be contaminated, so it’s best to start with a soil test before you decide.
If you’re going to dig out sod, use a sharp flat-egged spade and slice it out in squares. Remove each square and decide what you will add to the soil to replace it. If you don’t have well drained healthy soil, you will need to amend it anyway, so choose to add compost and other materials that build soil structure. Not sure what to do? Get the dirty secrets to great soil here.
If you decide to smother it, start in the fall and cover the area with thick layers of wet newspaper and wet cardboard. Then cover that with good soil and let nature take its course. In the spring, you can hand weed what weeds have grown up in your new soil and it will be ready to plant.
Low maintenance vegetable gardening
Another way to grow vegetables in an urban garden is by building raised beds. Making a frame and filling it with growing materials right over the top of your existing lawn, porch, patio, or balcony is a great way to use the space you have.
You’ll need materials to build the frame with. Wood and cinder blocks are good options, but there are plenty of others. And then you’ll need planting medium to put in them. You can’t grow an urban vegetable garden in topsoil like they sell in bags at the store. You have to have nutrients and soil structure for success.
Next, you need to decide what garden design you prefer. Make sure you have plans for creating wide paths in order to get your supplies in and out of the garden. Think about the size of a wheelbarrow or garden cart and at least double it, triple the width is better.
In summertime, you’ll be amazed at how much those plants are all grown and crowding out your space to work. We have our pathways mulched with large river rock gravel in order to keep us up out of the mud in any weather. Consider using mulch or something to make your gardens accessible in the wet rainy season.
Urban vegetable garden rows
Rows allow for good air circulation, easy weeding and harvesting, but they can take up a lot more space. In addition, many plants will outgrow the rows and fall all over the spaces in between unless you trellis them.
You can also choose to do wide rows which are large blocks of each vegetable. Some plants to really well like that and some don’t. Also consider if you live in a high humidity place like we do in Oklahoma, fugus will be a problem in wide rows.
Eclectic vegetable gardening
This type of gardening involves a lot of companion planting and can also use permaculture principles. Square foot gardening fits this style of vegetable gardening as well. Hügelkultur beds are also eclectic planting. Eclectic vegetable gardening can be very beautiful and you can fit more plants in a smaller space.
You will attract more pollinators having your flowers interplanted with your fruits and vegetables. Beneficial insects will be more prevalent as well. These types of designs CAN be more difficult to maintain because it will be harder to see the weeds and get to them for removal. It can likewise be a little more difficult to harvest your produce in these types of gardens.
Portable urban vegetable gardens
Then there are portable gardens such as five-gallon buckets, large planting containers, Earth box gardening or micro gardening that may work for the space you have available.
The most important decision you can make about your urban vegetable garden is WHERE to put it. Water and sun are vital. Where do you have access to running water easily? Does that location receive full sun all day long? These things are crucial. Does the area drain well?
How to build your urban vegetable garden
Now you’ve decided what kind of garden to build and where, next you need to measure it so you’ll know what you need to get to build it. Remember when shopping for tools and supplies that you get what you pay for. If you go for the cheapest stuff, you’ll be getting the cheapest too. Hoses especially should be quality so they will last.
When we started our preschool garden, I splurged on the best hoses at the store. We always bought the cheapest hoses because that’s all we could afford for our regular lawn care. But we had to replace them yearly. We’ve been using our expensive hoses for 8 years now with not a single problem. It was a great savings in the end to spend $75 a hose instead of $25 and get 8 times the use from each one.
Grab some graph paper and map out the garden plot you measured. That’s the best way to see what you want to plant where. Read seed catalogs and garden supply websites to see how much room each plant needs to grow. I like to make each grid equal a foot of garden space on our maps so I can keep track of how much space we have.
Raised bed garden plans
We build simple raised beds for our preschool garden with discarded privacy fencing. We don’t have a lot of building skills, but we were able to build some beds with these free materials that lasted 8 years and longer. The only thing we had to buy for these was soil ingredients.
Pallet garden plans
If you want a garden with less maintenance, you might want to consider a pallet garden. Lay down some plastic, lay the pallet on it, and fill the spaces with good garden soil. You’re ready to plant. There are very few weeds and you can grow a variety of plants in them. This is also a fairly inexpensive way to garden.
The downside would be that you couldn’t grow root vegetables very well except for maybe radishes, or plants that need a huge root space. They are an excellent option for small yards.
Backyard garden multi-bed plan
Here are a ton of backyard vegetable garden designs that are sure to inspire you!
You can grow a ton of food in many varieties because you have separate beds for each type of vegetable.
Square foot garden plans
Square foot gardening is a way to grow intensively in a small space. Here are some great square food garden plans to help you get started.
Companion planting garden plans
Companion planting is about knowing what vegetables and fruits grow well together and what ones don’t. Check out this companion planting guide to help you get started.
Container garden plans
So many plants can be grown in containers. They are movable, changeable, and can be done a little at a time. I love growing food in a bucket like we did in this one.
Edible landscaping plans
You can grow a ton of food right in your flowerbeds in the front yard. Fruit and vegetable plants can be beautiful. We have cabbage, blueberries and strawberries growing right in the front walkway of our house and it’s gorgeous. Get some plans for how you can add edibles to your landscaping here.
I’m excited to see what you plan for your new urban vegetable gardens this year!
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