Apartment dwellers can grow vegetables, too
You don't need a garden to grow vegetables. Apartment dwellers can grow their own food on rooftops.
Tomatoes and carrots can thrive on a rooftop or fire escape just as well as they would in a backyard. And in addition to the benefits of being aesthetically pleasing and offering easy pickings for a fresh salad, a green roof will act as insulation to keep a home warmer in the winter, and absorb sunlight to keep it cooler in the summer.Skip to next paragraph
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If you've never been much of a gardener before, fear not, says Justin Hancock, senior garden editor at Better Homes and Gardens magazine. You'll be surprised how simple it is to sprout corn or cabbage.
"Gardening has gotten a bum rap, mostly because people make it seem harder than they need to," Hancock said. "Either that or people think about having to help their grandparents weed the garden and deal with the bugs, the heat and the dirt. But if you're doing this on a rooftop or a balcony, it's not hard at all."
An urban garden can be as sophisticated as a botanical oasis or as simple as a large planter box with a few favorite herbs.
"I would say most vegetables can be grown with general ease," Hancock added. "As long as they get the amount of moisture and light that they need, most will do pretty well for you."
What you'll need
— The bigger the container, the better. Wide-rimmed plastic or terra-cotta pots with drainage holes are great if you have limited space, but raised beds and large planter boxes are best. They can be watered less frequently, are less awkward to move around, and won't be pushed over by strong winds.
Your raised bed should be at least 8 inches deep and no wider than 5 feet, so that you can tend your garden without having to step into the soil. Building your own is relatively easy using lumber boards that are 6 inches wide and 2 inches thick, stacked one on top of the other. Attach the boards to corner posts using galvanized deck screws.
— Soil. Any garden center will sell healthy loam or bagged topsoil for less than $30 a cubic yard. An added layer of organic material will protect your soil bed and help retain moisture. Commercial mulch can be expensive, but it's easy to make out of lawn clippings, leaves or tree bark.
— Water. If you have access to a spigot, consider a drip irrigation kit, which is affordable and easy to install.
— Tools. Because the dirt is going to be less than a foot deep, you won't need a long garden hoe or shovel. Still, there are basic tools to use to make gardening less strenuous: A hand-held garden fork, or digging fork, is perfect for breaking up soil. Use an ergonomic garden hand trowel to move small amounts of dirt, and snippers for cutting and light pruning. Any of those tools should be easy to find at a garden center for less than $15.
Remember to disinfect your tools with water and bleach to avoid spreading plant fungus or disease.