My wife and I live in a city. It’s my first experience city-living, but she’s an old pro. We left behind a lovely pastoral situation in the mountains down South, because we were getting bored. City life is great! I love the change, but we bought a house to fix on a tiny street with no trees, no yards, no green life to be found. This had to change, and flowerpots wasn’t going to cut it. I’m going to share with you some of the things that worked for us in our attempt to landscape our concrete jungle.
First things first, we found a community garden. Luckily for us, there was one just a block away. There’s another two blocks away, and an even better one 2 more beyond that. We’re very fortunate that we have one so close, so we’ve been working with the one nearby. At first, the soil was poor. It used to be soil beneath houses that existed (and collapsed) on it for 100 years. Simply building raised beds on it made the soil no more enthusiastic to support our beans and greens.
That’s when I learned on special principle of city gardening: everyone wants a garden as much as you, they’re just unable or unwilling to do it. So we asked for money. The city gave us a grant to cultivate the garden, and special permission to adopt it. With this cash, we built more beds, planted fruit trees, bought starts, built a border of local flowering perennials, and (most importantly) brought in truckloads of organic compost. All for free. Now, my new fall garden is exploding with cauliflower, broccoli, kales, romanesco, and spinach. It didn’t honestly take that much work. But by doing some work, you are doing more than almost everyone else who is doing no work. And your city may very well be willing to reward you for that.
Everyone on our street has a concrete backyard. Everyone, that is, except for those who have smashed it all away with a freakin sledge hammer! My wife and I have not done so, out of fear. But our more courageous neighbors have, and they’re turned their backyard (a tiny, tiny place) into a little bitty Eden. Huge creeping blackberry vines weave through their newly-installed fence, herbs and greens grow to unbelievable heights, 4 varieties of tomato thrive on homemade frames, and a fig tree hovers above them all. It is truly a sight to behold, and all possible in the middle of a city.
My favorite gardening thing to do in the city is start seeds. I believe that anyone can do this. My way is simple. I buy veggie seeds that will grow into produce that would be expensive in the store. My current experiment is cauliflower romanesco, the vegetable that looks like it was designed by alien engineers. Because I don’t have a garden space of my own, but I can easily start dozens or hundreds of these plants from seeds, I put my seedlings in little paper cups and give them to my friends with gardens. I have some I can tend in the local garden plots, but these things are going to be popping up all over the neighborhood. I’m really glad to have done it, because it’s a way to meet people, and it’s fun.
In conclusion, city gardening is a challenge, but it’s a very rewarding thing to accomplish. Plants can grow in many environments, but it takes creative thinking to make it work in a land of concrete and smog. I encourage you to do it yourself and come up with your own ideas to make it work. It’ll help you and all the people who live around you. In cities, gardens change things.