The Beginner’s Guide to Starting a Backyard Urban Garden

The Beginner's Guide to Starting a Backyard Urban Garden

Backyard urban gardening is a great way to create your own green space and enjoy the benefits of growing your own fresh local produce, saving money on groceries, and reducing your carbon footprint.

By starting a garden in your own backyard, you can access fresh, nutrient-rich fruits and vegetables that you can enjoy throughout the growing season.

Not only is urban gardening a rewarding hobby, but it also has numerous environmental and economic benefits.

It can help you save money on groceries, reduce your carbon footprint by reducing the distance your food travels, and even create a sense of community with your neighbors.

You don’t need a green thumb or acres of land to become an urban farmer. This article can help guide you in urban backyard farming.

Just get started and use common sense and your own experience will guide you. 

So why wait? Get started on your backyard urban garden today and start reaping the benefits!

Small Space Gardens

garden grown in a tray

Even if you have a small backyard or limited outdoor space, you can still start your own urban garden.

Growing edible plants on a small scale in urban areas is the best way to make fewer trips to the grocery store.

You don’t need an acre of land to start urban farming. Unused backyard plots can become thriving gardens growing a wide variety of vegetables.

Starting out with urban gardening ideas and a garden design plan you start growing your own healthy food in any size garden space.

With a little creativity and planning, you can create a thriving garden in even the smallest of spaces.

Consider using containers, raised beds, vertical gardens, or even window boxes to grow a variety of fruits, vegetables, and herbs.

By choosing the right plants and using space-saving techniques, you can turn any small space into a productive urban garden.

So don’t let a lack of space hold you back from starting your own backyard urban garden.

With a little effort and planning, urban gardeners can turn even a small garden into a green oasis.

Comparing Different Types Of Urban Gardens:
Raised Beds, Containers, Vertical Gardens, and More

container garden using 5 gallon buckets

There are several different types of urban gardens, each with its own set of pros and cons.

Here are some of the most common types of urban gardens and their advantages and disadvantages:

Raised beds:

Raised beds are garden beds that are built up off the ground, usually using wood, stone, or other materials as sides to hold the soil in.

They are a good option for gardens with poor soil quality or drainage, as you can fill the bed with a mixture of soil and compost to create the perfect growing environment.

Pros: Allows for better drainage and soil quality, is easier on the back, and can be used to create a focal point in the garden.

Cons: Can be more expensive to build, and requires more watering as the soil dries out faster.

Containers:

Containers are portable pots or planters that can be used to grow a variety of plants.

Container gardening is an easy way to turn any urban environment into a small backyard farm.

They are a good option for small spaces or for people who want to move their plants around.

Pros: Flexible and portable, can be used to grow a wide variety of plants and can add color and interest to the garden.

Cons: Limited space for plants to grow, requires more frequent watering and fertilizing, may need to be replaced after a few seasons.

Vertical gardens:

vertical garden

Vertical gardens are gardens that are grown vertically, using trellises, wall-mounted planters, or other structures.

Vertical gardening is a good option for small spaces or for people who want to add interest and dimension to their gardens.

Pros: Allows for more growing space in a small area, can add visual interest to the garden, and can be used to grow a wide variety of plants.

Cons: May require more watering and maintenance, may be more difficult to access plants for harvesting and may require additional support structures.

In-ground gardens:

In-ground gardens are planted directly in the ground and can be as simple as a small patch of soil or as complex as a formal garden bed.

They are a good option for people who have a dedicated space for their garden and want to grow a wide variety of plants.

Pros: Allows for a wide variety of plants, can be more aesthetically pleasing, and may have a longer lifespan than other types of gardens.

Cons: May require more maintenance, may be more difficult to access plants for harvesting, and may require more watering.

Community gardens:

Joshjrowe, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Community gardens are gardens that are shared by a group of people, often in an urban setting.

School gardens can be a perfect place to start a community garden and grow organic food and teach big city kids about urban agriculture.

They are a good option for people who want to garden but don’t have the space or resources to do so on their own.

Pros: Allows for community involvement and connection, can be a source of fresh produce for participants, and can be a source of pride and accomplishment for the community.

Cons: May require more planning and organization, may have limited space for individual plots and may require more maintenance.

By considering the pros and cons of each type of urban garden, you can choose the one that is best suited to your needs and resources.

Why Sunlight Is Key To A Successful Backyard Urban Garden

sunlight in rows of corn

The first step is to find the best location for your garden, consider sun exposure in different parts of your backyard.

Full sun means that the area gets at least six hours of direct sunlight per day, while partial sun means that it gets some direct sunlight but also some shade.

Different plants have different sun exposure requirements, so it’s important to choose plants that will thrive in the sun exposure available in your garden location.

In addition to sunlight, it’s also important to consider drainage and soil quality when choosing a location for your garden.

Poor drainage can lead to waterlogged soil, which can be harmful to your plants, while poor soil quality can make it difficult for plants to grow and thrive.

By taking these factors into account, you can choose the perfect location for your backyard urban garden.

The Importance Of Proper Drainage And Soil Quality

In addition to finding a sunny spot for your backyard urban garden, it’s also important to consider drainage and soil quality.

Proper drainage is essential to the health of your plants, as standing water can lead to waterlogged soil and can harm or even kill your plants.

To ensure proper drainage, it’s a good idea to choose a location that has well-draining soil and to make sure that your garden bed is sloped or raised to allow excess water to drain away.

You can improve poor drainage by using raised beds or growing a container garden instead of planting directly in the soil.

Soil quality is also important for the health of your plants.

Plants need nutrients from the soil to grow and thrive, so it’s important to choose soil that is rich in nutrients and well-draining.

If your soil is poor quality, you can improve it by adding compost or other organic matter to enrich it.

You can also test your soil to determine its pH level and add lime or sulfur as needed to adjust the pH to the optimal range for your plants.

growing peppers in containers with coco coir

Use Container Gardens

You can also grow in containers filled with potting soil or coco coir. This is much easier than trying to improve poor soil or poorly draining soil.

Containers are versatile and can even be used if you have no soil at all like using them on a concrete slab.

By paying attention to drainage and soil quality, you can create the perfect environment for your backyard urban garden to thrive.

How To Improve Poor Drainage Or Soil Quality

If your backyard garden has poor drainage or soil quality, there are several steps you can take to improve it:

Choose the right location: Look for a spot that has well-draining soil and is sloped or raised to allow excess water to drain away.

If your soil is poor quality, look for a location with soil that is naturally rich in nutrients.

Add compost or other organic matter: Adding compost or other organic matter to your soil can help improve its structure and fertility.

Compost is made up of decomposed plant and animal matter, and it is an excellent source of nutrients for your plants.

Consider using raised beds or containers:

If your soil is too wet or too dry, or if it is heavily compacted or contaminated, you may want to consider using raised beds or containers for your garden.

This will allow you to create the perfect soil mixture and drainage conditions for your plants.

By following these steps, you can improve the drainage and soil quality in your backyard urban garden and create the perfect environment for your plants to thrive.

Choose The Right Plants:

When choosing the right plants for your backyard urban garden, there are several factors to consider:

Sun exposure:

Make sure to choose plants that are well-suited to the sun exposure in your garden. Most vegetables will need 4-6 hours of sun. Some need more.

Also, consider that tall plants like sweet corn can shade smaller plants.

Climate:

Consider the climate in your area when choosing plants for your garden. Some plants are more cold-tolerant or heat-tolerant than others, so choose plants that are well-suited to your climate and the length of your growing season.

Personal preferences:

Think about what you like to eat and what you’d like to grow in your garden.

Choose plants that are suitable for your growing conditions and that you’ll enjoy eating and using in your cooking.

Ease of care:

If you’re a beginner, you may want to choose plants that are easy to care for and that have a high success rate.

Some good options for beginners include tomatoes, peppers, beans, and lettuce.

Select plants that are well-suited to your location and growing conditions.

Consider the sun exposure, soil type, and climate in your area, as well as the amount of space you have available.

By taking these factors into account, you can choose the right plants for your backyard urban garden and set yourself up for success.

determinate tomatoes growing and flowering

Consider The Length Of Your Growing Season

When choosing the right plants for your backyard urban garden, it’s important to consider the length of your growing season.

The growing season is the period of time when the weather is suitable for growing a particular plant.

Different plants have different growing seasons, and some are better suited to shorter growing seasons than others.

Some plants can tolerate frost and some can not. Hardier plants are usually grown in early spring or in the fall.

Tender plants are grown once the weather has warmed and the danger of frost is past.

If you live in an area with a long growing season, you have a wide variety of plants to choose from.

You can grow warm-season vegetables such as tomatoes, peppers, and squash, as well as cool-season vegetables such as lettuce, peas, and broccoli.

If you live in an area with a shorter growing season, you’ll want to choose plants that can be grown in a shorter period of time.

Some good options for short growing seasons include fast-maturing vegetables such as radishes, beets, and turnips, as well as cool-season vegetables such as lettuce, peas, and broccoli.

By considering the length of your growing season, you can choose the right plants for your backyard urban garden and ensure that you get the most out of your garden.

Use Perennial Plants

Consider growing perennial vegetables like rhubarb and asparagus. If you live in a climate with mild winters you will have even more options

If you have space plant a dwarf fruit tree or crops like strawberries or raspberries.

The great thing about perennial crops is you only need to plant them once and they come back every year.

Preparing Your Garden Bed:

healthy soil

Once you’ve chosen the right location and prepared the soil, it’s time to start preparing your garden bed.

By taking the time to prepare your soil properly, you can provide your plants with the nutrients and moisture they need to grow and thrive

Preparing your soil before planting is an important step in creating a successful backyard urban garden.

Here are some steps you can follow to get your garden soil ready for planting:

Remove weeds and debris: Clear the area of any weeds or debris that may be present.

Weeds can compete with your plants for nutrients and water, and debris can harbor pests and diseases.

Till or loosen the soil: Depending on the type of soil you have, you may need to till or loosen it to help it drain properly and allow the roots of your plants to grow.

If you have heavy clay soil, you may need to add sand to improve drainage. If you have sandy soil, you may need to add organic matter to help it retain moisture.

Add compost or other organic matter: Adding compost or other organic matter to your soil can help improve its structure and fertility, making it easier for your plants to grow.

Compost is made up of decomposed plant and animal matter, and it is an excellent source of nutrients for your plants.

Test Your Soil pH:

The pH of your soil can affect the availability of nutrients to your plants. If your soil has a pH that is too high or too low, you can add lime or sulfur to adjust it to the optimal range for your plants.

You can purchase a soil pH test kit at a gardening store or online, or you can send a soil sample to a lab for testing.

By preparing your garden soil properly, you can create the perfect environment for your plants to thrive.

Determine Your Planting Layout:

When determining your planting layout for your backyard urban garden, there are several factors to consider:

Sun exposure: Make sure to choose plants that are well-suited to the sun exposure in your garden.

Full-sun plants like tomatoes or peppers need at least six hours of direct sunlight per day, while partial-sun plants like lettuce can tolerate some shade.

Soil type: Choose plants that are compatible with the soil type in your garden. For example, if you have clay soil, you may want to choose plants that are tolerant of heavy soil, such as tomatoes or beans.

If you have sandy soil, you may want to choose plants that prefer well-draining soil, such as herbs or lettuce.

Climate: Consider the climate in your area when choosing plants for your garden. Some plants are more cold-tolerant or heat-tolerant than others, so choose plants that are well-suited to your climate.

Size and shape: Consider the size and shape of your plants when determining your planting layout.

Make sure to leave enough space between plants to allow them room to grow, and consider the height and spread of your plants to avoid overcrowding.

Some plants like cucumbers, melons, and squash grow as vines and can use a lot of space. If your garden is small consider growing bush varieties of them.

You can use a garden planner or sketch out your plan on paper to help you visualize the layout.

Planning Ahead And Choosing The Right Plants

salad garden vegetables

Planning ahead and choosing the right plants for your location and space are important factors to consider when starting a backyard urban garden.

By taking the time to carefully plan your garden, you can ensure that you get the most out of your space and that your plants have the best chance of success.

One of the first things to consider when planning your garden is the amount of space you have available.

If you have a small backyard, you may want to choose smaller plants or use containers to maximize your growing space.

If you have a larger backyard, you can consider using raised beds or in-ground gardens to grow a wider variety of plants.

It’s also important to consider sun exposure in your garden. Most plants need at least six hours of direct sunlight per day to thrive, and many need even more.

By choosing plants that are well-suited to the sun exposure in your garden, you can help ensure that they have the energy they need to grow and produce fruit or vegetables.

Soil quality is another important factor to consider when planning your garden. Poor soil quality can make it difficult for plants to grow and thrive. 

If your soil is poor quality, you can improve it by adding compost or other organic matter to enrich it.

By planning ahead and choosing the right plants for your location and space, you can create a successful and productive backyard vegetable garden.

Water Needs:

Different plants have different water needs, so consider how much water each plant needs when determining your planting layout.

Group plants with similar water need together to make watering easier.

By taking these factors into account, you can create a well-planned and organized planting layout for your backyard urban garden.

Start Planting:

Once you’ve prepared your garden bed and chosen the right plants, it’s time to start planting! Here are some tips to help you get started:

Follow the instructions on the seed packets or plant labels: Each plant has specific requirements for planting depth and spacing.

Make sure to follow the instructions on the seed packets or plant labels to ensure that your plants have the best chance of success.

Water your plants thoroughly after planting: Water is essential for seed germination and plant growth.

After planting, water your plants thoroughly to help them get established.

Keep an eye on the weather: Be mindful of the weather when planting.

If it’s hot and dry, you may need to water your plants more frequently. If it’s cool and wet, you may need to water less.

Mulch your plants: Mulch helps to retain moisture in the soil and can help to suppress weeds.

Add a layer of mulch around your plants after planting to help keep the soil moist and to suppress weeds.

By following these steps, you can start planting your backyard urban garden and get on your way to a successful and productive garden.

Use Transplants To Speed Up Harvest

Using transplants, or seedlings that have already been started in a greenhouse or other controlled environment can help to speed up the harvest in your backyard urban garden.

Transplants are young plants that have already been started from seed and are ready to be transplanted into your garden.

They can be a good option if you want to get a head start on the growing season or if you have a short growing season in your area.

The Benefits of using transplants in your backyard garden:

Faster harvest: Because transplants are already well-established, you can expect to harvest your crops faster than if you started from seed.

Greater success rate: Transplants have a higher success rate than seeds because they have already germinated and are well on their way to becoming mature plants.

Wider variety of plants: Using transplants can allow you to grow a wider variety of plants, even if your growing season is short.

This is because transplants are already well-established, so you can plant them earlier in the season and still have time to harvest before the growing season ends.

By using transplants, you can speed up the harvest in your backyard urban garden and enjoy fresh, homegrown produce even sooner.

Techniques For Successfully Planting Seeds And Seedlings

Planting seeds and seedlings is an important step in starting a backyard urban garden.

Proper planting techniques can help ensure that your plants have the best chance of success. Here are some tips for planting seeds and seedlings:

Follow the instructions on the seed packets or plant labels: Each plant has specific requirements for planting depth and spacing.

Plant seeds at the correct depth: The depth at which you plant your seeds can vary depending on the size of the seeds and the type of soil you are planting in.

As a general rule, smaller seeds should be planted more shallowly than larger seeds.

Space your plants appropriately: Proper spacing is important for allowing your plant’s room to grow and for maximizing your yield.

Make sure to leave enough space between plants to allow them room to grow, and consider the height and spread of your plants to avoid overcrowding.

Water your plants thoroughly after planting: Water is essential for seed germination and plant growth.

After planting, water your plants thoroughly to help them get established.

Mulch your plants: Mulch helps to retain moisture in the soil and can help to suppress weeds.

Add a layer of mulch around your plants after they germinate to help keep the soil moist and to suppress weeds.

By following these tips, you can properly plant seeds and seedlings in your backyard urban garden and give your plants the best chance of success.

Start Small And Gradually Expand As You Gain More Experience

Starting small and gradually expanding your backyard urban garden as you gain more experience is a good approach for beginners.

By starting small, you can get a feel for what works and what doesn’t in your garden and make adjustments as needed.

As you gain more experience, you can gradually expand your garden and try out new plants and techniques.

There are several benefits to starting small and gradually expanding your garden:

Less overwhelming:

Starting small can help to reduce the feeling of overwhelm that can come with starting a new garden.

By focusing on a small area, you can focus on learning the ropes and getting the hang of gardening without feeling overwhelmed.

Easier to manage: A smaller garden is easier to manage and maintain, especially for beginners.

You’ll have less ground to cover and fewer plants to care for, which can make it easier to get started.

Allows for experimentation:

Starting small allows you to experiment with different plants and techniques without committing too much time or resources.

You can try out different plant varieties and see which ones work best in your garden before expanding your plantings.

By starting small and gradually expanding your backyard urban garden, you can gain valuable experience and build your gardening skills over time.

Many beginning gardeners seriously underestimate the amount of time weeding and watering and tending their garden can take.

So start small and you won’t bite off more than you can chew.

Maintaining Your Garden:

Maintaining your backyard urban garden is an important part of keeping it productive and successful. Here are some tips for maintaining your garden:

Water regularly: Water is essential for plant growth, and it’s important to keep your garden watered regularly.

Make sure to water your plants deeply to encourage deep root growth.

Fertilize as needed: Fertilizing your plants can help to provide them with the nutrients they need to grow and thrive.

Choose a fertilizer that is appropriate for your plants and follow the instructions on the label for application.

Weeds: Weeds can compete with your plants for water, nutrients, and sunlight, so it’s important to keep them under control.

You can hand-pull weeds or use a weed killer(not recommended) to keep them at bay.

Pest control: Pests can damage or kill your plants, so it’s important to keep an eye out for any pests that may be affecting your garden.

You can use pesticides or other methods to control pests, or you can try natural pest control methods such as introducing beneficial insects to your garden.

By following these tips, you can effectively maintain your backyard urban garden and keep it productive and successful.

Harvesting And Enjoying Your Garden:

Harvesting and enjoying the fruits (or vegetables) of your labor is one of the most rewarding aspects of of having backyard urban garden farms.

Here are some tips for harvesting and enjoying your garden:

Monitor your plants: Keep an eye on your plants as they grow to determine when they are ready to be harvested.

Different plants have different harvest times, so make sure to check the specific requirements for each plant.

Use scissors or pruners to cut your produce: Using scissors or pruners to cut your produce will help to prevent damage to the plant and will allow it to continue producing.

Store your produce properly: Proper storage of your fresh produce can help it to last longer and stay fresher.

Many vegetables can be stored in the refrigerator, while others can be stored at room temperature.

Enjoy your produce: There’s nothing quite like the taste of freshly harvested produce, so be sure to enjoy it!

You can use your fresh produce in a variety of recipes or simply eat it fresh.

By following these tips, you can effectively harvest and enjoy the fruits (or vegetables) of your labor in your backyard urban garden.

The Joy Of Harvesting Your Own Produce

Harvesting your own produce is a rewarding and satisfying experience that can bring joy and a sense of accomplishment.

There’s nothing quite like the taste of freshly harvested produce, and the sense of pride that comes from growing your own food is hard to beat.

The Benefits Of Eating Fresh Nutrient-Rich Foods

In addition to the enjoyment of harvesting your own produce, there are many benefits to eating fresh, nutrient-rich foods.

Fresh produce is often higher in nutrients than processed or packaged foods, and it can be an important source of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that are essential for good health.

Eating fresh produce can also have a number of other health benefits, such as:

Weight management: Fresh produce is typically low in calories and high in fiber, which can help with weight management.

Heart health: Many fresh fruits and vegetables are rich in antioxidants and other nutrients that can help to support heart health.

Digestive health: The fiber in fresh produce can help to promote regular bowel movements and support digestive health.

Immune system support: Many fresh fruits and vegetables are rich in vitamins and minerals that can help to support the immune system.

By harvesting your own produce and eating fresh, nutrient-rich foods, you can enjoy the many benefits that a backyard urban garden has to offer.

• May help you live longer
• Keeps skin, teeth, and eyes healthy
• Supports muscles
• Boosts immunity
• Strengthens bones
• Lowers risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers
• Supports healthy pregnancies and breastfeeding
• Helps the digestive system function
• Helps achieve and maintain a healthy weight
https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/resources-publications/benefits-of-healthy-eating.html

Different Ways To Use Your Homegrown Produce

There are many different ways to use your homegrown produce, and the options are only limited by your imagination!

Here are a few ideas for using your homegrown produce:

Cooking: One of the most obvious ways to use your homegrown produce is to incorporate it into your cooking.

You can use your produce in a variety of recipes, such as salads, soups, stews, casseroles, and more.

Preserving: If you have more produce than you can use at one time, you can preserve it by freezing, canning, or drying it.

This will allow you to enjoy your homegrown produce throughout the year.

Sharing: If you have more produce than you can use, consider sharing it with friends, family, or neighbors.

You can also donate your excess produce to a local food bank or community garden.

Selling: If you have a large garden or a surplus of produce, you may be able to sell your homegrown produce at a farmers market or through a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program.

By using your homegrown produce in a variety of ways, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor and share the benefits of your backyard urban garden with others.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, backyard urban gardening is a rewarding and fulfilling hobby that can provide a number of benefits, including access to fresh produce, savings on groceries, and a reduced carbon footprint.

Even if you have a small backyard or limited space, you can still start your own urban garden by choosing the right type of garden for your needs and space, preparing your soil and choosing the right plants, and following proper planting and maintenance techniques.

By starting small and gradually expanding your garden as you gain more experience, you can enjoy the many benefits that a backyard urban garden has to offer, including the joy of harvesting your own produce and the benefits of eating fresh, nutrient-rich foods.

Whether you’re a beginner or an experienced gardener, a backyard urban garden can be a rewarding and fulfilling hobby that brings joy and a sense of accomplishment.