Planting in the Concrete Jungle: Urban Garden Basics

Gardening in the city is a challenge, but these tips from local professionals can set you on the right track.

photos by abby cormack

Living in a city comes with advantages and disadvantages, and one of the drawbacks that may come to mind as the warm weather approaches is the lack of space to create a garden in the tightly-packed living arrangements.

However, a trend has emerged to solve this problem — urban gardening. Pittsburgh Magazine talked to Patty Logan, owner of CityGrows, an urban gardening shop in Lawrenceville, about how to begin your urban garden.

Logan recommends starting off by investing in a good soil, plus a soil test kit. She also suggests purchasing raised beds or containers.

According to her, planting in containers gives the added bonus of beautifying balconies, fire escapes and stairs. One of the easiest ways to fill a small space with plants is to go vertical by hanging baskets, using shelves or training plants to grow along trellises.

“Flowers are easy to fit into your plan because you can fill them in anywhere you have space,” Logan says. “As far as veggies and herbs go, we always tell people to plant what they eat and only plant as much as they are able to eat.”

Logan also suggests starting small and adding a new type of plant each year.

“That way, you avoid problems and don’t get overwhelmed with work,” she says. “Gardening is supposed to be fun.”

She recommends tracking sun and weather patterns and measuring your space to plan the locations of different plants according to size and sun requirements. Need more advice? CityGrows offers free workshops throughout the year on seed starting and gardening.

For those who don’t have room for plants in their homes, but who still would like to garden, the Pittsburgh Urban Gardening Project creates opportunities for community gardens. The organization grows everything from tomatoes and kale to flowers on donated plots of land around Pittsburgh with the hopes of increasing food security and quality in the city.

Brett Wilps, the project’s founder, says urban gardening is a good way to control the freshness and quality of your food.  

“It’s no secret that small family farms are dying out," he says. "By growing your own vegetables and herbs, you are controlling what gets put into your food, rather than relying on the big farming corporations. The best way to get started is to volunteer with us. We have more land than we know what to do with.”

To get involved with the Pittsburgh Urban Gardening Project, visit here. 


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