5 Essential Pre-Planting Tips for Urban Gardens

A well-planned urban garden results in immediate benefits for our families and communities

Photo: Unsplash/@gallarotti

Photo: Unsplash/@gallarotti

A well-planned urban garden results in immediate benefits for our families and communities. Planting fruits and vegetables in pots has a positive impact on our physical and emotional health as well as on our finances.

However, before you plant, consider the following steps:

Planning – This is the part where you begin to organize yourself. Way before you purchase plants or seeds: visualize the type of garden you want; make a list of all the herbs, fruits and plants that you would like to cultivate. Also, it is important that you keep in mind how many people you want to feed and on whom you will rely to maintain the garden. Your budget will depend on your availability and the number of plants that you will need.

Location – The plants will need at least eight hours of sunlight daily. Identify the most sunny part of your patio or balcony. Remember to remove them from the shade of the trees. Decide if you are going to plant in a garden box, pots or in direct soil.

Each one of these options has its advantages. If you have the space and the money, you can build a box you can fill with good soil. This makes planting much easier, especially if you have spaces with a weak drainage system or soils that need organic material to improve their structure and add nutrients so that plants can grow healthy.

If you have limited space, you can choose between a variety of pots available in markets: plastic, rocks, wood or terracotta. Everything will depend on what plants or trees you will work with and its maintenance requisites. If you are going to plant directly in soil, be sure to have the adequate tools to weed, plow, and remove rocks in the selected planting area. Remember that watering potted plants frequently is more necessary than direct soil planting. Try to identify an easy access to water for the plants.

Seeds and Plants – If you are building an orchard at home, try to start by selecting only a few types of plants. Three to five types should give you a good start. Consider having at least three plants for each one of them. This way you will become familiar with each one of them and, if one of them became infected or one became deficient in nutrients, you can quickly assist it.  Consider buying your seedings in nursery form, and create seedbeds for those plants that are less tolerant of the transplanting process, for example beans or legumes.

Cultivation Selection – Cultivate those plants that you mostly use and that have great everyday cooking potential. Such as aromatic herbs like cilantro, basil, thyme and fruit herbs such as tomatoes, squash, eggplant, and peppers. Leafy herbs like lettuce and cabbage. A variety of seeds like beans and legumes. Mealies such as sweet potatoes, bananas, among others. If you want to plant fruit trees, select a variety of grafts. These grow very well in pots that can hold 20 gallons and that can produce fruits faster. Remember to locate them in an area away from your herbs so that they are not in the shade when the trees grow. Fruit trees need a substantial amount of water, especially during their first year.

Identification – Prepare signs that identify each cultivation, especially during the first stages of development. This way you will offer them adequate maintenance according to its cultivation requirements.

Harvest – As the cultivations mature, be sure to have a harvest plan in place. Look for special recipes; determine how many you will exchange, sell or gift. Also, have a storage plan, especially for those big harvests like squash and melons. Learn about how to prepare preserves to enjoy for longer harvesting periods. Save seeds from each exceptional harvest for the next planting season.

Without doubt, gardening represents a physical activity and recreational for those whom involve themselves in it. Also, sharing this activity with other family members or community reinforces our communication abilities and the search of solutions to topics of importance such as food production.

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