How to start an urban garden on a budget

For years, gardening has been seen as exclusive to the older generations.  Millennials and Generation Z didn’t belong in the Chelsea Flower Show, we didn’t have a place in Gardeners World.  That was until the houseplant phenomenon boomed into our lives, and now young people everywhere are starting urban gardens in their limited outdoor, and even indoor, spaces.  Gone are the days of needing a garden to enjoy gardening: it’s the urban garden’s time to shine.  

1 in 8 UK homes do not have a garden, and with more and more people flocking to city center apartments than ever, we wanted to make a guide for starting your urban garden, and how to keep it safe and thriving.  

There are four main subjects to be aware of before starting your urban garden:

  • Top budget-friendly urban garden trends 
  • How to make your small urban garden look bigger on a budget
  • How to create a safe urban garden
  • Best locations for an urban garden

Budget-friendly urban garden trends

A popular gardening trend at the moment is growing your own.  This might be herbs, vegetables, or fruits, or any edible plant that takes your fancy.  Leafy greens like lettuce thrive in shady areas, and we know that urban garden spaces like balconies are often shaded for most of the day.  Do a little research to find out which plants will thrive in your space, and go from there!  You’ll learn to grow your own ingredients with relatively low-maintenance plants while simultaneously reducing your grocery costs.

Giving back to wildlife is always trending.  Bird feeders are a budget-friendly option for starting your urban garden.  Because of the “urban” part of the garden, it is recommended that you only use hanging feeders, or feeders that are unable to be climbed by pests.  Costing anything from £5, bird feeders are a brilliant way to add some life back into your space.

How to make your small urban garden look bigger on a budget

The first thing you can do to maximise your space is to grow up.  Grab a vertical planter and stack your plants against a wall instead of taking up unnecessary floor space for lots of small plants.  You can then use your empty floor for more, much larger plants.  By having a couple of focal plants rather than littering with lots of small objects, you’re tricked into thinking the space is much bigger.  You should also introduce levels to the space by bringing a seating area.  This might be a single hammock chair, or a table and chair set, or even a little bench.  Extra points if the bench doubles up as storage!  If not, you can always purchase planters that include extra storage space to give your gardening tools a home.  

In a more modern twist, as long as it is out of direct sunlight, you could hang a mirror.  Over the lockdowns, many people took to their garden with a mirror to get the perfect sunny outfit selfie, and in the process discovered that a mirror can be a good addition to a garden.  Adding a mirror makes the space seem so much larger!  Instead of seeing the walls of your yard or balcony, you see your new green space reflected, and instead of a dark corner, there is light.  It sounds strange, but try it!  

How to keep your urban garden safe

Safety is important when you garden, especially if you will be consuming what you grow.  Often, city soil contains heavy metals like lead, zinc, and copper, which it has removed from the air.  Because of this, your plants could be growing in substances that are not fit for human consumption.  It is recommended that you get a soil test to begin with, so you understand exactly what your soil is extracting and what you should grow.  Fruits, for example, are found to accumulate very little lead, compared to leafy greens which had much higher levels.  To avoid contamination, start a container garden with a cluster of different potted plants, or plant in raised beds.  Contamination will still occur, but these methods should reduce the levels of pollutants.  Alternatively, consider making an indoor space your urban garden.  Fewer pollutants will be in the air, there will be less extreme weather for the plants to survive, and the environment is controlled by you.

Best locations for an urban garden

The best location for an urban balcony is wherever you can fit one.  Yards, balconies, outside walls, communal spaces, even indoors.  Whatever environment you have available for an urban garden, there are plants for that.  No matter where you pick, though, be sure to do some research so you understand thoroughly how to keep it safe, and which plants and features you should introduce.  

Ultimately, the urban garden is a collection of what works for you.  No matter the size of your space, which direction it faces, your budget, or how often you can tend to it, there is a combination of plants and accessories out there that are perfect for your urban space. 

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