Urban Gardening

July 2007

We launched this new, monthly Moss in the City e-newsletter to help urban gardeners grow the most productive gardens ever. Click here to subscribe.

William Moss E-mail your question and I'll choose one to answer in each newsletter.


Welcome to NGA's new monthly newsletter for urban gardeners and anyone who gardens in small spaces — whether on a deck, balcony, rooftop, or diminutive lot. As a city dweller in Chicago, I would argue that gardening is even more important in urban areas than in other places. Rural and suburban homes are more likely to be surrounded by nature, and urban homes are usually surrounded by artificial habitats. Plants can help restore the balance. Gardening provides a way for people to maintain a connection with the natural world.

Moss in the City newsletter will address the challenges of urban and small-space gardening, offer ideas for greening our cities, and provide tips for growing food for your table and food for your soul amidst the constraints of limited time and space.

About William Moss
Teaching is my vocation; nature and gardening are my passions. I've been fortunate enough to combine these interests in many projects. >>more

High-Performance Plants

City gardeners need plants that perform — that look aesthetically pleasing (or at least not conspicuously ugly) over multiple seasons, that dazzle and pop when in bloom, and that aren't too fussy.  We don't have the acreage for flowery mixed borders or large swaths of perennials that take turns shining like a procession of shooting stars.

Fantastic plants like Joe-Pye weed, 'Raydon's Favorite' aster, Jerusalem artichoke, tiger lily, and angelica are too big and aggressive for city living. Daffodils, trilliums, and colchicums have enchanting blooms but are too ephemeral to be allotted much space here. The mainstays of an urban garden must be workhorses that endure cold and heat, rain and sleet, and the occasional feet. >>more

Aster Milka   Basket of Gold
Aster Milka (left) is a mid-sized perennial for borders and berms. Basket-of-gold (right) is an evergreen perennial or subshrub that is fantastic in containers if given a well-drained potting mix.

Child-Friendly Plants for Small Spaces

Children love to dig in the dirt. They may not understand "perennial" or "alkaline," but they're curious about worms and beetles and colorful flowers, fruits, and vegetables. Gardening is a great way to get kids outside, active, and interested in the natural world, no matter whether your garden is a few deck planters or a backyard or community plot. Start with some of these easy-to-grow, colorful, and fun plants.... >>more

Send Your Ideas!

Do you have any tips to share with fellow urban gardeners? Are there topics you'd like me to address?
E-mail me at urbangardener@garden.org

Urban Gardening Tips

  1. Amend the soil. Urban soil is often compacted and low in certain nutrients. Till or turn compost, manure, shredded leaves, and other organic materials into the soil to improve drainage and add nutrients. See my article on Amending Urban Soil.
  2. Use plastic containers on balconies and roof decks. They are available in many different styles, with the look of glazed ceramics, terra cotta, poured concrete, wood, etc. They benefit the urban gardener because they are lighter, which makes them easier to carry and less of a burden on the balcony supports. Plastic also holds water longer than more porous materials like terra cotta and wood. That can be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on the plant and amount of rainfall. (It is definitely an advantage when you go on summer vacation.)
  3. Get out and visit your local parks, public gardens, and forest preserves. Walk or bike to these places often to learn plants and techniques that work in your area. This is a great way to get ideas and exercise at the same time.

Find a public garden near you. >>Public Garden Directory

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