Step-By-Step: A Guide to Starting an Urban Garden

Mike Lieberman in his urban organic garden in Los Angeles.This is a guest post by Mike Lieberman of the Urban Organic Gardener for

Are you looking to start an urban garden this spring and not sure where to start? I hear you on that. That's exactly where I was back in the spring of 2009 when I first started urban gardening. I'm now a successful urban gardener in Los Angeles, and I'll help you to grow your own food.

At the time, I was living in one of the least garden-friendly environments in the world -- New York City. I had barely enough room for my bed, let alone a garden. After spending weeks researching and not coming up with anything at the library that spoke to me and my needs, I decided to just get started and figure it out.

I want to share what I've learned with you. This isn't a magical formula that is going to allow you to grow 25 lbs of tomatoes or 300 cucumbers. It's practical advice that will help you to utilize and maximize your limited space (not everyone is privileged to have flat roofing or a yard. Don't worry! You'll still be able to grow food in the city.)

Step One: Deciding On a Location for Your Urban Garden

There are plenty of options in and around your apartment for you have your garden. You just need to be creative with the space.

Some options include:

●        Fire escape (don't block egress!)    

●        Balcony

●        Deck

●        Windowsill

●        Closet

●        Bookshelf

●        Patio

●        Railing

Step Two: Determine the Amount of Sunlight that Hits Your Urban Garden Spot

This is a critical and often overlooked step that will help to ensure your success. It's important to understand what is sun and what is shade when it comes to gardening.

For whatever reason when people talk about urban agriculture, they immediately think about tomatoes. However, in order to grow most varieties of tomatoes, you'll need at least 8 hours of direct sunlight. Most urban gardens are shaded not only by trees and nature, but by other things as well such as awnings, fences and other buildings.

If you only get 3 hours of sunlight, you'll have to grow what does well in 3 hours of sunlight.

Step Three: Questions to Ask Yourself Before Planting an Urban Garden

Now that you have the space decided and figured out how much sunlight it gets, you'll want to figure out what to grow. There are a few  questions you'll want to ask yourself such as:

  • What do you eat most?
  • What makes the most financial sense?
  • What are the best plants to grow in pots, if you don't have access to a patch of soil? 

Step Four: Buying Seeds for Your Urban Garden

There are a lot of seed companies out there. When you buy seeds, you want to support a company that shares the same values as you do.

The next steps are choosing containers for your urban garden, starting seeds and planting the seeds. In my next post for, I walk you through building a self-watering container system.

Updated June 7, 2018.

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