Urban Gardening 101: How to Grow Your Own Food

Urban Gardening 101

Urban Gardening 101Starting a garden in your backyard can seem like a daunting task. You are not alone. Many beginner gardeners and urban farmers share the same 101 questions before they start their own urban garden.

Where do I start?

How do I do it?

What should I plant?

Where should I plant them?


When my wife and I planted our first garden, we thought that we knew what we were doing, but in reality, it would have been nice to have done our research first. We planted our plants directly in the ground. We barely tilled the soil, so half way into the summer there were grass clumps and weeds growing all around our vegetables. -Not the most ideal way to grow a garden.


Luckily for us as we continued to try new things we learned the best, and most effective ways to grow your own food and start your own urban garden.


In this article, we will share with you how you can start your own urban garden, so you don’t have to experience the same mistakes that we did. You will learn the steps to take and the tools necessary to get started, the space necessary and where exactly to begin planting, and even which types of food to grow in your own backyard!



How to Start an Urban Garden 101

 One of the first things you need to do in order to start your own food garden is to determine the space that you have available. Whether you have a balcony, an actual backyard, or just space indoors, there is still hope for you to start your very own urban garden.


To determine the space that you have available take a good look at your yard and think about where you would like your garden to be. You will want to keep in mind that you will need to physically be able to access each part of your garden, so that you are not trampling other plants when you are maintaining or harvesting.


Of the physical space that you have available, start by analyzing which places, either in your yard or near your windows, get the most light. Typically 6-8 hours of full sunlight each day is what most food will need to grow full and vibrant.


The next step is to determine which method of urban gardening will suite your particular space the best: square foot gardening, container gardening, vertical farming or vertical gardening, and raised bed gardening are the methods in which you can choose to grow your urban garden.


I recommend you use any and all of the methods possible to get the most out of your space; however, below we will dive into each method so that you can make the best informed decision for your own backyard garden.


Square Foot Gardening 101

 Square foot gardening is the practice of actually dividing your garden into a number of squares in order to pre-plan and map out your garden. Square foot gardening gives you the most bang for your space because you are effectively utilizing all of the space you have available and not leaving any empty areas.


Square foot gardening is also very beneficial as a deterrent for weeds and unwanted visitors to your garden. Because you plants are strategically and tightly planted close together, the weaker and pesky weeds have much less room to survive and actually do not survive very well with square-footing.


In order to start a square foot garden, you will need some string in order to divide your garden into squares. You will map out each square of your garden determining what you would like to plant there.


This is slightly more complicated because you need to be sure to know how much space the fruit, vegetable, or herb will need to thrive. As an example, you may decide to plant one tomato plant in one square, but you will be able to plant maybe two or three herb plants in another.


Square Foot Gardening InfographicCheck out this awesome infographic to get your very own Square Foot Gardening Planting Guide!




Raised Bed Gardening 101

 Adding raised beds to your garden is a great addition to a square foot garden. Actually, many people first start by building a raised bed to plant their garden in and then use the square foot method to determine where to plant the crops.


A raised bed garden is actually a garden that is planted above the ground. This method is great no matter where you live, but especially so if you have clay-like or nutrient depleted soil.


It also helps you make the most of your space by increasing your efficiency and also giving you very high yields from your crops. By planting in raised beds, you can easily access each area or square of your crops and be able to water and maintain them without trampling on the others.


As the urban farmer you can easily walk in-between and around your raised beds so it tends to make sense to try them for at least one of your gardens.


Another great benefit to planting your garden in a raised bed is the look and design. Take a look at a raised bed garden, and one planted directly into the ground. The raised bed garden tends to be more aesthetically pleasing and have a much higher curb appeal.


You can plant vegetables, herbs, and even fruits in a raised bed garden. They are especially good options for vine-y plants and plants that like to travel such as watermelon, sweet potatoes, cantaloupe, pumpkin,  chives, green onion, and strawberries.


When planning your own square foot garden you can use these 6 raised bed ideas to choose the type that fits your landscaping the best!


Container Gardening 101

 Container gardening is similar to raised bed gardening in that you are planting your crops out of the ground; however, it is different in that you are actually using a container, or a pot as your bed.


Container gardening is excellent for urban farmers who do not have a large bag yard, or who do not have a ton of space in general. By utilizing pots or containers, you can really have an urban garden wherever you are indoors or out.


For those urban farmers who live in an apartment or who use more indoor space, herbs and vegetables are fantastic choices for container gardening. You can pick some space near windows inside your home and set up your containers and pots around to grow your food indoors and to grow vegetables in the winter.


Container gardening is also a nice way to compliment your urban farm and conveniently locate vegetables or herbs that you use quite often.


Personally, I like to grow my herbs in pots and containers because I can keep them on my back porch for convenient harvesting while I am cooking. In addition, my back porch is covered to my herb container garden does not get my food super muddy during rainstorms.



Growing Your Own Food 101

 So which types of plants should you start in your urban garden to grow your own food?


The three basic foods that you can grow in your urban garden are vegetables, herbs, and fruits. Although the choices are bountiful, keeping in mind your climate and sunlight will also help you to become more self sufficient.


Some plants do take much care and are very picky of their habitat in order to thrive. There is hope, however, for those beginner gardeners who want to start by growing something a little bit easier.


Vegetable Light Location Planting Tips
Tomato Full Sun Indoor/Outdoor Seedling Vertical Garden
Bell Pepper Full Sun Indoor/Outdoor Seedling Raised Beds
Zucchini Full Sun Outdoor Seeds or Seedlings Square Foot
Yellow Squash Full Sun Outdoor Seeds or Seedlings Square Foot
Cabbage Partial Sun Outdoor Seeds or Seedlings Square Foot/ Raised



Fruit Light Location Planting Tips
Strawberries Full Sun Outdoor Seedling Raised Beds
Blueberries Full Sun Outdoor Seedling Raised Beds
Black/Raspberries Full Sun Outdoor Seedlings Raised Beds
Apples Full Sun Outdoor Seeds or Seedlings Tree
Figs Partial Sun Outdoor Seeds or Seedlings Tree




Herb Light Location Planting Tips
Basil Full Sun Indoor/Outdoor Seedling Container/Raised Bed
Oregano Full Sun Indoor/Outdoor Seedling Container/Raised Bed
Mint Partial Sun Outdoor Seeds or Seedlings Container/Raised Bed
Rosemary Full Sun Indoor/Outdoor Seeds or Seedlings Container/Raised Bed
Cilantro Partial Sun Indoor/Outdoor Seeds or Seedlings Container/Raised Bed



When to Start Planting Your Urban Crops

 Determining exactly when to plant your urban garden is an extremely important consideration if you want to grow any of your own food this season or not. Every plant has its best and worst times to be planted and to be harvested so it is important to keep this in mind when starting your own urban garden.


The rule of thumb to keep in mind is that most crops are not cold hardy. That is, they do not like the frost. If you are ever in doubt of when to start planting your crops or when to start planting your vegetables, you should be safe if you start 6-8 weeks after the last spring frost.


If you are just starting to grow your own food with your own urban garden, take a look at this handy tool, provided by the Farmers Almanac to help you get started. Just enter your zip code, and it will give you the highest probability of when your last frost has been historically.

Farmers Almanac Frost Dates



You can also enter your specific location here and get a customized planting calendar and even have reminders of when to plant to be sent directly to your email for free!

Personalized Planting Calendar



Start Urban Gardening

 In this article you have learned how to determine the space you have available, and how to make the most of it in your own urban garden. You also learned which types of crops will get you off to a good start.


Now that you have a good idea on Urban Gardening 101: How to Start Growing Food In Your Own Backyard, it’s your turn to go out there and start your own urban farm!


We’d love to hear what how you and your family have started your own urban garden! Please share your ideas and methods in the comments below or on our Facebook and Twitter pages!

If you know someone who is considering starting their own urban farm, then please share this post with them and invite them to join our Urban Farming Community!

image credit: Jon Roberts


Just an Urban Farmer, providing for my family...