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Gardening in confined spaces

Even in the tiniest apartment in the biggest city, it's still possible to reconnect with the natural world through gardening. Your urban home or apartment does not have to be a lifeless box of concrete. Nor do you have to give up the advantages of a big-city metropolitan lifestyle to take pleasure in the joys of gardening. The simple act of planting a small flower garden, a potted tree, or vegetables in a raised bed planter helps the environment and instills pride in your community. If you don't have experience with raising plants, you can still get involved in local gardening clubs and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA).

Urban gardens can fill a variety of needs, from aesthetic to dietary. Depending on where you live, you could have a year round garden growing on your patio or you may have to grow the majority of your plants indoors. Growing food and beautiful plants is easy, even in a small space. There's a worldwide trend towards reconnecting with plants, and the physical and mental benefits can make a huge difference in your health. Urban gardening is also useful for reclaiming polluted areas that the EPA refers to as brownfields.

If you have no space at all for a garden, you can turn to community gardens and green rooftops. With a community garden, you can rent a plot of land while sharing tips and tools with your neighbors. Or, you can remodel your roof with a layer of living insulation, just as European homes have used for centuries. The tradition has been kept alive by homeowners who want to reduce utility bills and cut their carbon footprint. A roof covered in living plants shields the house from intense sunlight and a neighborhood of green roofs can make a noticeable difference in the summer temperatures throughout the entire community. Green roofs also reduce erosion and water pollution because they act as a buffer for rainfall. Some cities even offer a tax incentive to plant your roof with greenery! Before you lay sod on your roof though, make sure to talk with an architect to ensure code compliance and that the weight will be supported.

Also, if you don't have any space outdoors, why not grow indoors? In controlled environments, you can grow plants that would wither with the heat or freeze from the cold outside. Indoor plants can soften the harsh lines of your living space, add a touch of color, and even help reduce indoor air pollution. Herbs, tomatoes, citrus trees and many other plants are well suited to indoor conditions. There are a few key factors to consider, such as ambient temperature, moisture, air circulation, and the availability of natural and artificial light sources. You can use natural light with a windowsill growing tray, or you can use grow lights to create a self sufficient indoor garden.

If you have very limited outdoor space, container gardens are another option. With raised bed planters or flower trays, you can grow a variety of plants outdoors. If bad weather approaches, you can move them indoors for shelter. As seasons change, you can also move your plants around to sunnier or shadier spots so that they always get the proper amount of sunlight. Containers are a great way to take advantage of vertical space by stacking or hanging planters above each other and they allow you to segregate invasive herbs or vines. That make it easy to isolate plants that have been affected by pests or disease, or to grow vegetables without fear of cross pollination. Wading pools, broken fountains, and even abandoned tires make great container gardens.

Some apartments, condos, or inner city homes are blessed with a postage stamp sized yard. This space can be filled with plants if you manage the area well. Two of the most popular methods for intense cultivation are the Square-Foot Gardening technique and the Japanese Tomato Ring. Square Foot Gardening involves using raised beds and careful planning to get huge results from a limited area. The Japanese Tomato Ring is a way to get very high productivity from tomato plants by rapidly feeding them fertilizer through a funnel made out of chicken wire and compost. Here's a list of other plants that are perfect for an urban garden.

Whether growing indoors or outdoors, many urban gardeners use a form of hydroponic gardening. These systems make very efficient use of space and water. Here is a simple and elegant outdoor hydroponic planter that you can use in a tiny area without any soil at all. It works well on sunny balconies, rooftops, and patios. Soil is heavy, and it takes up lots of space. Why not cut out the middleman? For maximum food production, many hydroponic systems are paired up with fish ponds in a method known as aquaponics.

Any type of garden will require a staggering amount of water. Luckily, there's an easy way to augment natural rainfall without turning on the faucet. With a rainwater capture system, your garden wont add any strain to the local water supply and you can even reduce erosion around your home. Rain capture systems come in various sizes and degrees of complexity. It's straightforward to customize a rain barrel or rain barrels to any area and any size of budget.

Urban gardening is a great way to gain independence from foreign oil and reduce exposure to food borne illnesses or shortages. We burn a massive amount of fossil fuel bringing produce from the farm to the city, storing and refrigerating it at the market, and then driving to buy our groceries and returning home. With an urban garden, there's minimal transportation involved, and fresh foods require little or no storage. The next time you go shopping, think about the food miles consumed in producing the groceries you buy regularly. For example, a head of Iceberg lettuce grown in California for consumption in NYC consumes about 40 times as many calories of fuel as it provides in food content. With an urban garden, you can make a huge difference!