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MAR 26 2018

5 ways to make urban gardens grow

NBC 11 Alive (Atlanta, GA)





5 ways to make urban gardens grow

Urban gardening can be tough, but there are ways to do more with less in tight spaces.


Author: Jennifer Leslie

Published: 10:30 AM EDT March 26, 2018

Updated: 4:11 PM EDT March 26, 2018

Urban gardening can be tough, but there are ways to do more with less in tight spaces.

Joe Raboine, National Design and Training Specialist for Belgard, has five steps to grow more in tight spaces:



  1. Maintain healthy soil type and composition: Several contaminants can be found in urban soils, and lead is the most prevalent. Direct ingestion of soil containing lead is a bigger threat than plant uptake. Soils can be directly ingested when children play in and eat soil, soil adheres to crops after they’re harvested, or soil particles blow in the air. Practices such as washing food well before eating and covering soils with mulch can help decrease these risks. Urban composting operations are attempting to address this issue by converting organic waste into more readily available biomass and fertility. The Urban Agricultural Council, State University Systems, and County Extensions do soil testing, so its a good idea to reach out to an expert to find out if there’s a concern.
  2. Address water and drainage issues: Finding reliable and safe water sources can be difficult for urban farmers. Technologies such as drip irrigation that precisely deliver water where and when it’s needed can help conserve water. Reusing rainwater and wastewater can provide additional water, but those sources must be monitored for contaminants. Permeable pavers can help with drainage. Because of the design, they allow for larger gaps between the stones which in turn allows water to drain through the surface into a base material underneath.
  3. Consider going vertical: The advantages of vertical gardens really come into their own in micro garden spaces where options are very limited but as most people live in urban areas, clever design ideas are a key to make the most of the space you have. Some vertical structures like arbors, arches, pergolas and gazebos help create the ambience of an outdoor garden ‘room’ and can focus the eye on the mystery beyond. They can also give a sense of height and depth to an otherwise small space.
  4. Adjust for climate conditions: Changes in atmospheric and climate conditions in cities compared to rural areas can also be obstacles for urban growers. Extreme temperatures during the day and higher nighttime temperatures can inhibit photosynthesis in plants and decrease yields. Likewise, when vapor pressure deficits are higher, plants have to use more water. This can create moisture stress and reduce photosynthesis. There may be ways to help minimize this by selecting locations that have a natural breeze or uplift or are not exposed to full day sun. Site location will depend on the plant variety. Also, certain plants prefer warmer, more humid environments.
  5. Consider alternatives to pesticides: There are many ways to reduce the possibility of pest infestations. Oftentimes, there are “companion” plants that can be planted nearby that will repel problem insects, such as marigolds and tomatoes. There are also ways to encourage the use of natural predators, such as Ladybugs, to help keep problem pests at bay.
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