Partner Post: The GrowHaus

Partner Post: The GrowHaus’ 7 Tips to Make a Vibrant and Sustainable Urban Garden

Let’s talk about urban gardening! Of course growing your own food is fun and rewarding, but what’s more is that it may lead you into eating more fruits and veggies; you can control what chemicals and pesticides you want, or don’t want, to touch your food; and it may save you a few dollars during your next trip to the grocery store. Not to mention, we think you’ll have a good time in the process! Here are seven tips to making your urban garden sustainable, unique, and vibrant! To learn more check out a workshop at The GrowHaus on the second Saturday of every month.

Compost

Compost is not as complex as it is often made out to be. An old trash can or two, with holes punched for drainage, and potentially painted with fanciful designs, can make for a worthy bin.  What’s more, diverting food scraps of almost any kind from the landfill is one of the best ways to reduce your waste footprint!

Utilize No-Dig Principles

There’s really no reason to spend energy and time digging up your garden.  Tilling the soil can degrade nutrient content and destroy the microbial ecology that is great for your garden, while leaving your soil exposed to the harmful effects of the sun.  Worms and bugs help to fertilize our soils naturally, and continue the cycle of life! Once your garden is in shape, leave it be, and don’t compress the soil by walking on it! In addition, add mulch or other browned plant materials around your plants to help retain moisture (especially in the dry climate of Colorado).

Use Creative Designs like Mandala and Keyhole

Straight-line rows are so last season. Consider designing your garden with non-traditional drainage ridges. Mandala, keyhole, and terraced designs are good ways to construct your garden that aren’t the traditional rectangular rows.  These designs maintain a creative flair while also allowing footpath access to the edges of every bed of plants.

Incorporate natural elements such as rocks, wood, and water.

Adding environmentally sound aesthetic to your garden can make it appear more natural and help you avoid using unnecessary plastic or metal boundaries in your garden – items that will inevitably degrade over time.  Stone, slate, field stone, and dry wood are all useful additions to decorate your garden with – not to mention repurposed items of a vintage flavor, for decoration.

Build More Advanced Garden Structures

Herb spirals are a fun way to create gardens in small spaces, for plants that need different levels of shade, like those of herbs and spices.  A mound covered with a spiral or other patterned design is a beautiful way to include excess rocks, pieces of concrete, or any material that supports small amounts of soil and plant material.  Succulents and creeping plants are other garden items that live and look well in rocky terrain.

Advanced systems could include water collection through rock rivers, retention basins, and the stepped up addition of an aquaponics or vertical garden.  Fish ponds, aquariums, and vertical constructions that use eaves, gravity irrigation systems, and other additions will make your neighbors jealous!

Intercrop using guilds, mixing plants that support one another

Permaculturalists sometimes classify vegetables and other plants according to their growing style.  Diggers like tubers loosen the soil, crawlers cover the undergrowth, protecting soil. Climbers wend their way up supporters like trees and corn stalks, feeders provide nitrogen plant food to the soil. Protectors can repel insects and other pests, and so on.  Growing plants that complement one another has a learning curve, yet that’s part of the fun! Tomatoes could be supported by bush beans and zucchini, with an intermixing of herbs, spices and flowers. Example guild guides can be found online.

Be creative and have fun!

Having a garden is an expression of natural artistry.  Make something truly yours, using your favorite plants, farm animals, and other innovative additions.  The sky is the limit when you’re growing!