The Benefits of Urban Gardening

Urban gardening: a green revolution?

During the pandemic, many people discovered the joys of tending and nurturing a plant – or three! With so many Insta-gardeners proving you don’t need a massive garden to enjoy nature, more and more urbanites are taking up gardening and discovering a wonderful new hobby!

What is urban gardening?

Put simply, urban gardening the practice of growing fruit, vegetables, plants and flowers in a town or city. Usually this is from a small townhouse or flat with minimal space.

Do you live in a city and own a window box? Have an apartment in town where you grow tomatoes on your Juliet balcony? Congratulations,  you’re an urban gardener!

How are urban gardens good for the environment and humans?

Grow your own

Growing food for your own table helps slash air miles and food transport costs. There’s no need for raised beds or a massive garden. Many fruit and veg varieties can be grown in containers. Pick-and-grow-again salad leaves will keep you munching throughout the spring and summer and take up very little space – and nothing tastes as good as a home-grown tomato or strawberry.

Natural air conditioning

Buildings, pavement and tarmac absorb heat, making towns and cities far warmer than the surrounding countryside. Heard weather forecasters talking about ‘frosts in rural areas’ while cars near you have clear windscreens? The ‘heat island’ effect is the reason why.

Trees and plants can help cool down urban areas through transpiration. This is when they take water up from their roots and then vaporise it out through their leaves. The shade of a tree can be up to 5 degrees C cooler than that of a building according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. As the climate changes, every little helps.

Mental health boost

You may yearn for a dose of the Japanese experience of shinrin-yoku or forest bathing. But tending your sunflowers or herbs can help de-stress you too. The Mental Health Review Journal, reports that gardening can reduce stress and improve mood. Also scientists are researching how exposure to micro-organisms in soil might protect us from anxiety and depression.

How do you do urban gardening?

Do you have a fire escape, rooftop, balcony or steps? Can you safely install a window box? Then you can be an urban gardener! Here’s how:

1. Work out how much space you have

2. Buy containers or make raised beds

3. Select the right plant for sun or shade depending on the direction your outside space – our Green Gardeners’ Guild section has more advice

4. Make compost or buy a urban-friendly growing medium like our coir mixes [link to shop]

5. Raise plants from seeds or plant up pre-potted plants

Want even more space? Apply for an allotment with your local council or ask around. You may have a friend who would love an extra pair of hands to help tend their patch.

Overcoming the challenges of city gardening

Urban gardening has some unique challenges, but the rewards are definitely worth it.

Watch out for weight

Large containers full of compost and plants can get heavy. Always check your structure’s weight restrictions. Plastic or metal containers might be a better idea than stone or terracotta. Also our coir composts are far lighter than ‘normal’ compost.

High and dry?

The higher up you are, the more exposed your plants will be. Without the protection of trees or walls, they’ll be blasted by the wind’s drying effect. Choose wide and deep containers which can’t be easily blown over and contain enough damp growing medium for your plants.

Compared to ground level, you’ll have to water your plants more often. The good news? Our composts are excellent at retaining water without waterlogging roots.

No shed? No problem

If you’ve limited growing space, chances are your storage options are pretty compact too. However there’s no need to heave bags of compost up the stairs. We compress our composts, making them easier to store and lighter to handle than the bags in the supermarket or garden centre. Just add water and fluff up when you need them.

What is vertical gardening?

If you can’t extend your garden sideways, how about heading up? Just as with interior design, using wall space to the max can transform your surroundings.

Have a balcony? Why not fix a trellis on the side, front or back and grow climbers from a pot at the bottom? You’ll get the bonus of extra privacy too.

Instead of staring at a blank wall, try installing a living wall of vertical planters. Opt for a ready-made system or make your own from guttering or hanging pots. Check out this guide to vertical growing by the Royal Horticultural Society.

Tips from the ‘Green Gardeners Guild’ online advice library

On the lookout for more tips and hints? Our blogs are packed with advice:

Best plants for an apartment balcony

Using coco peat to grow plants in pots

How often should I give my plants nutrients?

Are you an urban gardening fan?

We would love to see your growing spaces in the city.
Please post your pictures and tag @cocoandcoir on Instagram. We’ll credit you for any images we use and you’ll also be in with a chance to win some Coco & Coir goodies for your sustainable garden.