Urban vegetable garden ideas

Rooftop Vegetable Gardening Ideas

You don’t need to live on acres of land to have a vegetable garden anymore—small city apartments can have their own beauitful garden, too! Having a rooftop vegetable garden is the next best thing in modern gardening. Check out our rooftop vegetable gardening tips for some garden design inspiration.

Here are the best tips for rooftop gardening.

Benefits of a Rooftop Garden

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The benefits of a rooftop vegetable garden may surprise you. Having a rooftop vegetable garden makes use of an uncommon space, even beautifying the area from an eyesore to a space you can enjoy all summer long. You can then use this space for a more private getaway.

Having a DIY rooftop vegetable garden is also environmentally friendly while saving space in a small apartment. The plants will thank you, taking full advantage of the rooftop sun exposure. The biggest benefit to rooftop gardening is the lack of common pests on a rooftop, such as deer and rabbits.

Control pests with these organic solutions.

Rooftop Planters and Plants

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Use an array of large containers to create a rooftop vegetable garden. A raised garden bed, like the one pictured above, is a great way to tend to plants. Putting the bed on stilts will save your back, too! No matter how you plant them, these plants will thrive in a rooftop vegetable garden.

Build a rolling raised bed garden.

Tomato

‘Indigo Rose’ tomato is the darkest tomato available. Rich in anthocyanins, it is valued as an antioxidant. Plants like tomatoes and eggplants do well in sweltering conditions, especially when they have their own large containers.

Lemon

Citrus meyeri, the Meyer lemon, is slow to ripen but useful for cooking and making lemonade.

Green Bean

Green bean vines clambering over trellises create productive privacy. ‘Super Marconi’ Rampicante pole beans make a great container choice but must be harvested young, before they become tough, in an elevated climate such as a rooftop or balcony.

Cherry

Barbados cherry (Malpighia glabra) has a sweet-and-sour taste. The fruits are high in vitamin C.

Fig

Small fruit trees adapt well to constrained conditions. ‘Kadota’ fig (Ficus carica) is a sweet, honeylike white fig that remains very juicy when ripe. Like frangipanis, the figs go dormant in winter but still need to be sheltered indoors.

Pepper

No space for a pepper patch? Try a container of spicy peppers. Pick peppers like this ‘Padron’ (Capsicum annuum) when they are tiny, before they get too hot to eat.

See more plants perfect for rooftop gardening.

Rooftop Vegetable Garden Ideas

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Make your rooftop garden a place to relax with a comfortable chaise longue to bask amid jasmines, frangipani, Cestrum nocturnum (night-blooming jessamine with a high-pitch, sweet scent after dark), anise hyssop, and passionflowers. Place bricks in containers, under the soil, to help withstand high winds. When the weather is hot and sunny, water each plant once or even twice a day.

See more ideas for balcony and rooftop gardening.

  • By Tovah Martin

Container vegetable gardening allows you to cultivate edibles in limited space and in this article you’ll find out easy container vegetables that you can grow on your balcony or rooftop garden.

1. Beans

Most of the beans are climbers and really easy to grow. You can grow them on your balcony or rooftop garden near a wall and within weeks, you will get a green wall of a climber running up through soft tendrils over the trellis.

For growing beans you will need a spot that receives the sun in abundance, a pot that is minimum 12 inches deep and a trellis like structure for support. Since beans fix the nitrogen most of the vegetables that require more nitrogen are good to grow with them. If you’re growing beans in a very large pot you can grow summer savory, kale, spinach and celery in the base. Learn about more leafy greens you can grow in containers here.

Also Read: How to Grow Cluster Beans

2. Tomatoes

Without a doubt, tomatoes are easiest to grow. If you receive ample sun (at least 5-6 hours), you can grow tomatoes. For this, choose a large pot that is at least 12 inches deep. On a limited space, growing dwarf varieties of determinate type are best. You could also try cherry tomatoes for higher yield. Read our article on growing tomatoes on a balcony.

Also Read: How to Grow More Tomatoes in Less Space

3. Lettuce

Growing lettuce in pots is easy. It grows up quickly and you will have the opportunity to harvest repeatedly. Lettuce is a cool season crop and you have to decide what is the right time for its growth according to your climate, usually, seeds are started in spring. But if you live in a warm climate, grow lettuce in winter.

For growing lettuce, choose a wide planter rather than deep (6″ deep is enough). Leave space of 4-7 inches between each plant. Remember, leaf lettuces can be grown more closely than head lettuces. Use well draining soil and do shallow and frequent watering to keep the soil slightly moist always.

Also Read: How to Grow Lettuce

4. Cucumber

Cucumbers are one of the easy container vegetables though they require regular watering, full sun, warm temperature, and fertilizer. If you have some space, instead of growing dwarf and bushier varieties grow tall, climbing varieties for higher yield. You can grow these varieties on a trellis in a large container in barely 1-2 sqft. of space. To know more about growing cucumbers vertically read our post.

Also Read: Growing Cucumbers on Trellis

5. Peppers and Chilies

After tomatoes, peppers and chilies are easiest to grow in containers and they are most productive too. If you keep the pot in a sunny spot and provide right soil and fertilizer at the time, this vegetable will fruit prolifically. The Large and deep pot that is minimum 12 inches deep is optimum. Pepper plants are susceptible to pests. You will have to keep an eye on aphids.

Also Read: How to Grow Banana Peppers

6. Carrots

Sow the seeds of carrot varieties that are short instead of standard ones as they require more room to grow their roots. Choose containers that are deep enough to provide room to roots.

Also Read: The Easiest Way to Grow Carrots in Containers

Carrots are easy to grow in pots if you choose a right variety. Keep the plants in full sun to partial sun and water them regularly to keep the soil slightly moist, avoid overwatering. Also, carrots are susceptible to mildew so don’t wet the foliage.

7. Radishes

Radishes are one of the quickest growing vegetables and suitable for container vegetable gardening as you can also grow them in small pots. A planter that is 6 inches deep is enough but if you are growing larger varieties, use 10 inches deep pot. You can plant radishes closely, allow 2 inches of space between each plant in a wide container. Radishes are ready for the harvest in 24-60 days, depending on the variety. You can learn everything about radish care in containers here.

Also Read: Container Gardening Tips

8. Peas

Peas require moist soil and cool to moderate weather to thrive. All varieties are suitable for container gardening but dwarf bushier varieties are better. A pot that is 6-12 inches deep is enough (depending on the variety). You can grow 4-6 plants in a 12 inches wide container. Keep the potted plants in the partial sun if reach to full sunlight is not possible. Must check out our article to learn every detail about growing peas.

Also Read: How to Grow Oregano in Containers

9. Eggplants

Most of the vegetables grow fairly easy in standard 5-gallon size pot. For growing eggplant, choose a 12 inches deep and wide pot to provide sufficient space. Eggplant is a very productive vegetable and fruits heavily if you provide it at least 6-8 hours of direct sun daily.

Also, it is a heavy feeder like tomatoes, thus requires regular fertilizing. You have to provide support to plant by means of staking or caging. Simply poke a stick in the pot to help the plant when it starts to look lean. Must read our eggplant growing guide here.

10. Beets

Growing beetroots in containers on a balcony or terrace is easy. It is a fast growing crop and you don’t need a large container for planting it. A medium sized container that is 8-10 inches deep is sufficient. The soil you use must be permeable and rich in compost. Learn to grow beets here.

Also Read: How to Start a Rooftop Vegetable Garden

A Tip

Do mulching, it also helps in container vegetable gardening, especially in the warm weather. Mulch the surface of your potted vegetables with organic matter. It will reduce the process of evaporation and after the decomposition, the organic mulch will provide nutrition to plants.

Being An Urban Gardener: Creating A City Vegetable Garden

Even if you’re an urban gardener with little space, you can still benefit from growing a city vegetable garden. A window, balcony, patio, deck or roof receiving six or more hours of sun is all you need, in addition to a few containers.

City Vegetable Gardening Designs

The urban gardener can enjoy a city vegetable garden in various ways. You can grow vegetables in containers, which can be transformed into thriving city gardens. These can be easily incorporated into existing patios or balconies, or grown in rooftop gardens.

Growing vegetables is more versatile than one might think. Container-grown vegetables will produce an adequate supply of produce for the urban gardener while eliminating the hassle of large garden plots.

City Vegetable Gardening in Containers

Growing vegetables in containers is one of the easiest ways to create a city vegetable garden. With containers, you can grow anything from lettuce and tomatoes to beans and peppers. You can even grow potatoes and vine crops, such as cucumbers. As long as there is adequate drainage, nearly anything can be used to grow vegetables.

Typically, smaller containers are used for more shallow-rooted crops like carrots, lettuce and radishes. Vegetables like tomatoes, potatoes and beans will benefit from using containers that are big enough to accommodate their larger root systems. In fact, the use of five-gallon buckets is not uncommon. To make use of all available space, consider growing vegetable plants in hanging baskets too.

In order to help improve drainage and airflow, it may be a good idea to raise your containers about an inch or two off the ground with blocks. Place vegetables in a sunny area that is well protected from wind, which can dry out plants. However, container plants usually require more watering to prevent them from drying out.

Rooftop City Gardens

Balcony or rooftop gardening is an excellent way for city dwellers to enjoy growing vegetables. These city gardens can fit any lifestyle. Rooftop gardens make use of space that might otherwise remain unused. This type of urban vegetable garden is energy efficient and easy to care for once established, requiring only occasional weeding and watering.

In addition, city vegetable gardening on rooftops can absorb rainfall, which reduces runoff. If weight issues for roofs or balconies are a factor, choose lightweight containers. Container-grown balcony or rooftop gardens are extremely versatile, being easily moved around as needed, especially during winter or bad weather.

Growing an Urban Vegetable Garden Vertically

City vegetable gardening is not that different from gardening anywhere else. Urban gardeners must take advantage of all available space. One great way to accomplish this is by growing a vertical city vegetable garden. This type of garden yields the same amount of produce without taking up space, and it’s also easy to do. You can create one of these gardens using shelves, hanging baskets or trellises.

Since most vegetables can be easily grown in containers, shelves allow you the benefit of growing different types of vegetables on each shelf. You can even position containers so that all plants receive enough sunlight. In addition, slatted shelving will allow for better drainage and air circulation.

Alternatively, vegetables can be grown in hanging baskets or on trellises. Hanging baskets can be placed wherever space allows and accommodate many types of vegetables, especially vining or trailing varieties. A trellis can be used for the support of these types of plants too, such as beans and tomatoes.

Why You Should Plant a Front Yard Veggie Garden

If you’ve wanted to start growing food but don’t have much space, the answer may be right in front of you — your front yard, that is. Front yard vegetable gardens are a growing trend. Nevertheless, some people don’t even consider growing food in the front yard because they think it might look messy or lead to neighbor complaints.

Those folks should think again, according to Natalie Carver, horticultural director for Love and Carrots, a company that designs, installs, and maintains urban vegetable gardens for homeowners throughout the Washington D.C. metro area. “A well maintained vegetable garden is going to look beautiful,” she says. “I think a lot of folks don’t know that vegetables are essentially really good looking.”

These front-yard garden beds, separated with rows of stepping stones, look neat and tidy. All photos are of front yard gardens designed by Love & Carrots.

Why Grow Food in the Front Yard?
For some people, growing food in the front yard is the only option due to space or sunlight issues. Some homes don’t even have a back yard, or it’s taken up by a parking pad or an alleyway. Maintaining a grassy lawn requires resources, like water and lawn mower fuel, to maintain. Why not put that energy into growing plants you can actually eat?

Front yard gardens can also be great community builders. “I love working in them because you actually meet people walking by,” says Carver. “For homeowners, you’ll actually get to know your neighbors. You’ll be outside and talking to people, which is more of the social side of gardening that brings people together.”

Before digging in, it’s best to check your city ordinances, which might have rules about things like how far a garden needs to be from the sidewalk.

Front-Yard-Friendly Vegetables
When designing a front yard garden, Carver likes to incorporate vegetables from the brassica family, which includes kale, collard greens, and broccoli. They grow upright to a few feet tall with big, thick green leaves. Planting a few varieties of different colors can be quite beautiful. Tuscano kale, for instance, can have dark green leaves, which contrast nicely with a curly red variety. “There’s one called red boar that’s deeply curly so you get a cool texture,” says Carver. Some of these leaves will turn a darker shade of red in winter. For even more color, plant rainbow chard. The bright lights variety has cheerful red, yellow and white stems.

Around the brassicas, Carver suggests incorporating a border of plants from the allium family, which include garlic, leeks, onions, scallions, and green onions. She likes their upright, long green blades and their fuss-free maintenance. “You plant them and basically don’t touch them for a couple months,” she says. They’re also a great companion plant for kale because they repel some of the bad insects.

Carver suggests adding a few containers of plants throughout the garden to get things off the ground and add structure, but don’t go overboard or the garden may start to look cluttered.

Accent with Flowers
Carver says Love and Carrots often incorporates annual edible flowers into the corners their vegetable gardens. Not only do they provide a colorful frame to the garden, they serve other purposes. “They feed beneficial insects, they feed butterflies, they feed birds, and they also attract good bugs that will eat the pests in the garden,” she says. Then, when you harvest your salad greens, you’ll have a few edible flowers for a beautiful garnish. Carver’s favorites are violas, calendula, and bachelor’s buttons.

Herbs for Everyone
Even the smallest yards usually have room for herbs. They’re evergreen so they’ll look good throughout the year in some climates. Carver suggests sage and lavender for their silvery leaves, and also thyme, rosemary, oregano. “Those you can plant right into the ground and mulch the base of the plant,” she says.

Maintaining Your Garden
To keep both your plants and your neighbors happy, good garden maintenance is important for a front yard garden. Tomatoes, for instance, can start to look huge and scraggly if they aren’t pruned correctly or aren’t trellised in tall tomato cages. Mulch liberally in your pathways and between perennial areas with an undyed mulch to keep weeds at bay and the garden looking neat. Prune off yellow or brown leaves as they appear.

If critters are eating your garden, Carver suggests using soft, black bird netting, which is see-through, over the garden beds. If that doesn’t work, you may need a waist-high rabbit-proof fence or deer fencing.

Be a Good Neighbor
As Carver points out, front yard gardening can be a great community builder. Neighbors will be curious about what you’re doing or might have good tips to share. When it’s time to harvest, be sure to share or swap some of your bounty with your neighbors. They will thank you for it.

If don’t have a yard or want to offer your front yard to a neighbor to garden, check out Shared Earth, our website that connects people who have land with people who want to garden or farm. Search listings and message with nearby gardeners or landowners to get started on your next garden!

*Follow @loveandcarrots on Instagram to see more garden ideas. *

Growing your own produce at home has seen a surge in popularity in the last decade as it encompasses three huge trends: eating clean, saving money, and knowing exactly where your food comes from.

Whether you’re in love with the premise of homegrown organic vegetables or are simply looking to reduce your shopping bill, this list of 25 vegetable garden ideas will have you reaching for your trowel.

1. Raised Beds

Raised beds are a sleek looking way to have your vegetable garden presented in your backyard. It looks clean and landscaped, while also being functional; you could grow different types of vegetables in each planter. For example, you could plant root vegetables in one planter, lettuces in another, and so on. This method of separating your vegetables in different planters will help you focus different types of plant food on specific types of vegetables to help them get the nutrients they need and improve their growth. The raised beds shown here are bordered with wooden planks, keeping your vegetables to their own area and ensuring your yard remains neat and tidy.

2. Fancy Plant

Vegetable gardens, though beneficial in many ways, are often considered to be quite unattractive and messy, and therefore are generally not present in yards that are immaculately kept. This doesn’t need to be the case, however, as is displayed here in this yard where defined vegetable garden beds sit on a manicured lawn. Providing the vegetable patches are well-maintained, you can still achieve a polished look. Using an edging tool around the vegetable beds will create a defined look, adding to the pristine effect. Grouping similar vegetable types together will also prevent the beds from looking disorderly.

3. Yard Sale Pots

You don’t need a lot of space or money to grow your own vegetables. Pots and planters are ideal vehicles for growing vegetables, and you can use the containers that you probably already have lurking around your garage or garden shed. You could also pick up a selection of various pots at yard sales, as a collection of old mismatched pots filled with growing vegetables will fit with the popular rustic trend. Growing your own food doesn’t need to be expensive; you can have fun sourcing containers from markets or friends and family, and then, find more enjoyment in planting your vegetables and watching them flourish in your inexpensive mismatched pot collection.

4. Divide and Conquer

A large bed with a divider would work well for people who have a small to medium-sized lawn, or for people who want to keep their vegetable garden fairly compact while still growing a variety of vegetables. This is a more easily achievable alternative to having several vegetable beds, which would require more space and more effort to create. The divider is a simple and inexpensive solution for keeping different varieties of vegetables separate. These dividers can be purchased from hardware stores, but could also be easily replicated at home with a few lengths of timber. The planks need to be set out in a grid shape, and could be secured together either with glue, screws, tack nails, or garden string.

5. Hanging Planters

Growing vegetables in hanging planters is an excellent space-saving solution and could be done with just a few planters, or in bulk as seen here. Utilizing hanging planters means you can keep different types of vegetables separate, which can benefit the plants themselves. But it will also make life easier for you if different vegetables require different treatment in terms of the frequency and amount of watering they need.

Planters are best hung from metal frames for strength and stability as they can become quite heavy when filled. The planters themselves could be built from wood, metal, or plastic, depending on the look you are going for and the amount of money you wish to spend.

6. Urban Gardening Box

A vegetable garden in a box is a perfect way for urban city dwellers to grow their own produce. Your container box can be kept on a windowsill, a balcony, a terrace, or small garden, and the size of the box can be specifically chosen to suit your space limitations. Though you may not be able to grow an abundance of vegetables in a container box, a small selection of your favorite vegetables should be easily achievable. With the addition of a couple of grow lights, you can keep your garden growing all year round. You can also rotate your crops to grow different crops one after the other.

7. Planter Party

If you are fortunate to have the space required, you could create your own vegetable garden by grouping together a selection of large planters. These deep planters are perfect for growing root vegetables that require extra space, and the height of them also means you won’t have to spend hours on your knees tending to the needs of your plants. Tall planters such as this would be ideal for anyone with joint issues, as you could happily pull up a chair and enjoy gardening without running into stiff joints or aching muscle issues.

8. Heart-Shaped Box

If you like your gardening endeavors to be more on the unique side, there’s no reason why you can’t get creative with your vegetable garden. This heart-shaped vegetable plot is just one example of how you can customize your garden to reflect your personality. You could buy a shaped container to house your vegetables, or, alternatively, build your own vegetable bed on the soil in your yard to your chosen shape using regular garden tools. Edge the vegetable bed in a miniature fence to enclose the vegetables and maintain the shape.

9. Children’s Veg Garden

Having a vegetable plot in your backyard for your children to tend to has many benefits. Gardening can increase a child’s concentration, help develop an interest in healthy eating, encourage children to spend time outdoors away from their digital devices, build self-confidence, and nurture a love of nature. Gardening is also a perfect way to bond with your children and allow them to reap the rewards of their handiwork. To create a children’s vegetable garden, focus on functionality rather than appearance. Build the garden in a safe place easily accessible for your child, and space out vegetables so that they can maneuver safely between them.

10. Tiered Vegetable Plants

If your backyard is on a slope, then instead of trying to contend with it, make a feature out of it. Create a multi-level vegetable garden by building planters in a step-like method, and make the most of your sloping yard. These tiered planters have been painted to draw extra attention to them. If you plan on painting your planters, be sure to do it before planting your vegetables and choose a hardwearing paint intended for use outside to prevent fading and peeling.

11. Planting Table

Planting tables, though generally quite costly, are an excellent space in which you can grow vegetables without using up valuable floor space. You can purchase planting tables in a variety of sizes to suit the space you have, the only limitation being that they tend to be quite shallow and so are not suitable for growing vegetables which require a lot of growing space beneath the soil. Obviously, they are portable and therefore can be moved into a greenhouse during adverse weather, or can be moved around your yard to a more suitable spot if you find your vegetables are not thriving.

12. Green Roof

Accessible rooftops make excellent spaces for growing plants, herbs, and vegetables. Due to their comparative height with other buildings and trees, they tend not to be in the shadows during any time of the day, and therefore vegetables benefit from maximum levels of sunlight. They also make efficient use of rainwater. Having a vegetable garden on your roof gives you a peaceful and quiet place to relax in the middle of a city, as well as a great view while you’re gardening. Green roofs have many other benefits, including prolonging the lifespan of roofs by protecting their materials from the elements, as well as reducing energy bills as green roofs tend to keep buildings warmer.

13. Growing Community

Communal vegetable gardens are growing in popularity as a means to enjoy fresh organic produce while also building relationships within the community. The general idea behind community gardens is that a single plot of land, typically owned by local authorities or a non-profit organization, is turned into a communal vegetable garden that can be nurtured by individuals within the community, who then share the produce once it is harvested. These community vegetable gardens are a great way to get to know your neighbors and build positive connections in your neighborhood. They also improve the attractiveness of your local area and encourage community spirit.

14. Industrial Garden

Galvanized containers can be utilized as portable vegetable containers in backyards, on balconies, or on rooftop gardens. They are especially useful for growing vegetables which have deep root systems, due to their depth, along with plants which bear fruits, such as tomato plants, as stakes can easily be placed in them and won’t fall over. Galvanized pots are very sturdy and hardwearing, and therefore are a good investment which can be used year upon year. They have a trendy industrial look about them, which has become increasingly popular in recent years and can be picked up relatively cheaply at hardware stores.

15. Busy Balcony

In lieu of a backyard, you can make use of your balcony as a home for your vegetable garden. You can be selective with your choice of vegetables, choosing to grow only those that take up limited space, or if you’re keen on growing a wide variety of produce, then you can maximize growing platforms by being clever with your space. Balcony planters are available that can be fixed to the railings of a balcony, creating a growing space which didn’t previously exist. You can also create more growing space by placing planters on shelves on your balcony, fixing planters to the walls, or using hanging planters.

16. Green Wall

Wall planters solve the problem of trying to create a vegetable garden in limited space. Wooden or metal planters can simply be hung or screwed onto the wall, providing a place to grow your produce. If positioning several planters on to a wall, be sure to allow enough space above each planter for the vegetables to grow upwards.

17. Vegetable Deck

If your outside space is decked, consider using solid planters to house growing vegetables. Concrete or metal planters can look sleek and elegant on decks, and they do a great job of keeping soil and compost from spilling out onto your deck. Large planters filled with vegetation will also provide some welcome greenery on a decked area.

18. Vertical Gardening

Vertical gardening has really taken off over the last few years, as growing plants and vegetables has become more trendy among younger generations who often live in apartment blocks or have very limited outside space. A vertical garden can be looked upon similarly as the idea behind high rise buildings; when you don’t have the floor space to build outwards, instead build upwards, creating masses of space on a small footprint. A vertical vegetable garden can be achieved by creating vessels on your walls or fences in which you can plant your growing produce.

19. Hanging Baskets

Hanging baskets are synonymous with flowing flowers, but they are actually a great receptacle for growing produce, particularly herbs that don’t require as much growing room as vegetables. You could hang baskets in your backyard or on your balcony, growing herbs to complement the vegetables you have growing elsewhere.

20. Through the Window

This window box is proof that you don’t require any outside space at all to grow your own vegetables. Produce can be grown entirely indoors as long as it is placed in an area with lots of sunlight, such as a windowsill. Green onions are the perfect vegetable to grow in a window box as they need very little space, and a large quantity can be grown in a relatively small container.

21. One-Pot Wonder

If you’re only just embarking on your vegetable growing journey, then you may want to start small rather than going whole hog right from the start. You can grow your own food with just one container pot, and once you become accustomed to the level of care your growing vegetables need, you can choose to branch out with more pots, or just continue with your one pot project. A tomato plant is always a good starter plant, as it grows upwards fairly rapidly, requiring little space to achieve an abundance of the fruit.

22. Grow Bags

If you’re not particularly interested in how your vegetable garden looks, then grow bags are the perfect low-cost medium for growing vegetables at home. They can be washed out and reused after each season, providing a long-term solution for your vegetable growing needs. They are popular among experienced gardeners because they don’t dry out at the bottom like some pots do, retaining more moisture and nutrients for better plant growth.

23. Hydroponic Vegetables

Hydroponic gardening is the art of growing plants without the use of soil or compost. It is taking off in a big way in the vegetable supply industry due to its efficiency, but a DIY hydroponic vegetable garden can be achieved at home with a little bit of research and some basic items that you probably already own.

24. Veg Edge

Create your own vegetable plot in your garden by simply introducing nutrient-dense soil into a specific area and enclosing it with a low-height edging strip. The benefits of this option are that you can completely customize the size and shape of your vegetable garden, and it involves very little time, effort, and money spent before you can jump in and get your hands dirty with planting your veggies.

25. Greenhouses

The humidity in a greenhouse makes for an ideal vegetable growing environment, and you will find that your vegetables thrive more so than if you grow them in an open space. Though greenhouses have taken a dive in popularity, most likely due to their often unattractive appearance, there is no contest when it comes to the best conditions in which to grow plants. If you’re willing to spend a small fortune, there are modern greenhouses on the market to house your vegetable garden and make a trendy statement in your yard at the same time.

Growing your own vegetables is a very rewarding hobby, whichever way you choose to do it.

See 24 fantastic backyard vegetable garden ideas and learn the basics of getting a garden started with examples of ingenious ways to grow your own food.

Welcome to our guide to the world of home vegetable gardens!

Are you looking to become more self sufficient, or maybe searching for a project that will yield a little something extra for the dinner table? A vegetable garden is a great way to do both of these things.

A vegetable garden not only has a stunning visual appeal, but also a great deal of usefulness. For the casual gardener or the avid green thumb alike, a vegetable garden has a lot to offer. You can grow simple snacks for you and your family, or try to supplement entire meals with your produce.

Vegetable gardens are a real investment, and there is a bit of start up cost and elbow grease that goes into growing vegetables before you get any return.

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There are many things to consider when deciding on whether or not you should invest in a vegetable garden.

What are the pros and cons of growing a vegetable garden?

Pros

  1. The environment – By growing your own produce, produce does not need to be grown far away, shipped to your local market, and picked up by you. This lessens the energy required to get the food to you, and is therefore better for the environment.
  2. For your health – This advantage is twofold. Not only are the veggies that you grow better for you than processed foods you may buy at the supermarket, but the physical labor you are putting in while tending to the garden is exercise.
  3. Saving money – In the long run, if your garden is successful you can save money. Seeds are cheaper than a trip to the supermarket, and if you harvest the seeds from your crops, you can keep a self sufficient cycle going which will only save more money over time.
  4. Reduce waste – If you make a compost heap, you will not only be helping your garden flourish, but also reducing the waste that you are producing.

Cons

  1. Pests and wildlife – If you are not prepared for the onslaught of nature, it can take you by surprise. There are a plethora of insects and pests that are ready to make your garden their all-you-can-eat buffet. There are ways to get rid of such pests, but this can be quite frustrating for the unprepared gardener.
  2. Time investment – A vegetable garden is not a set-it and forget it project. You need to actively tend to your vegetables on a regular basis to make sure things are going smoothly. This upkeep can be quite the time investment. This effort may be off-putting to many.
  3. It is a skill – Gardening isn’t always simple, and it is a skill that will need to be honed. Like any skill requiring practice, you will make missteps along the way. These stumbling blocks can be frustrating. Also, some crops are significantly more troublesome than others, so you may need to gain basic knowledge and skills before tackling the more difficult crops.
  4. You can’t grow everything – Depending on your location and the space you have, you may be limited in the things you can grow. You should look into what grows best in your area and which tools are required. There are sure to be vegetables that are just not suited for your climate.
  5. Loss and inconsistency – You should never count your chickens before they hatch, just as you should never count your rhubarb before they ripen. Home gardening can be inconsistent, and it is almost inevitable that you will lose crops at some point in your gardening career. This can be frustrating, but always remember that the best laid plans may go awry.

There are a number of costs that may be associated with building your own vegetable garden. You can build any number of accessory or structure to help with your vegetable garden. If you choose to build raised garden beds or greenhouses, your costs may increase a great deal.

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Without any additional features, a basic vegetable garden needs soil, fertilizer, and seeds.

If you do not have usable soil in your yard, you can find rich soil at around 40 lbs at garden stores for between $3 to $10. If you are unsure about your soil, you may want to get it tested. A soil test will run about $12.

Depending on your area, you may be able to find fertilizer easily. If you are close enough to a farm or someone who has more than they need you may be able to get fertilizer for free, or at minimum the cost to go pick it up yourself. If you are not fortunate enough to find fertilizer for free you may be looking at spending around $20 per truckload. (Source: Spark People)

It is also smart to start your own compost heap. With a bit of wire or fence, and a little of your time, you can reduce your garbage output and help your garden grow. This can supplement your need for manure.

As far as seeds are concerned, you can usually find a packet of seeds for only a few dollars. If you are able to harvest your seeds from the crops you grow to then replant, you can end up saving a great deal of money.

Find more gardens and backyard ideas in our definitive guide to backyards!

Here is a vegetable garden that uses a number of small raised garden beds to organize vegetables. Some vegetables need different care, so keeping them organized is always a good idea.

Here is a simple raised garden bed with an irrigation system in place. These kinds of accessories can be helpful with the labor involved in drawing vegetables, but can add to the cost of building your garden.

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This carden consists of two square raised garden beds. These are great for yards with a bit of space. Source: Zillow Digs™

Here are some raised garden beds, with a rustic appeal and some irrigation systems. Raised garden beds are useful for keeping crops organized and can reduce bending over, which can make the work a bit easier.

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Here is a lovely vegetable garden with a seat for resting after a long day tending to the crops. You can sit here and enjoy the fruits and vegetables of your labor.

Here is an elevated planter that is great for a small vegetable garden. If you have a number of small vegetable plants, and are growing for personal use, this is ideal, as it is mobile, simple and the height makes it easier to manage. Source: Zillow Digs™

Here is a nice vegetable garden with thin and manageable strips of planting area separated by wood chips. Wood chips make great footpaths between planting areas. They keep a rustic and national appeal to your garden.

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Here is a pretty and well designed garden area. The white raised garden boxes match well with the rest of the yard’s design. A vegetable garden does not need to stand out from the rest of your yard. There are plenty of ways to make them blend with your designs.

This is an expansive vegetable garden, in a large yard. If you have the space, there is no need to get fancy with raised garden beds, greenhouses, or paths. If you can manage with a simple plot of dirt and the seeds, then that is all you really need for a successful and beneficial vegetable garden.

Here is a small plot off of the path that was converted into a fantastic small vegetable garden. There is no need to have a massive space to grow a few veggies. You can make do with even a small patch. With a bit of soil and proper planning it can be a stunning vegetable garden in no time.

This garden area is fenced in, and it even has its own little table and chairs. The seating and secluded nature of the area, this vegetable garden is transformed into a sanctuary for the lucky green thumb to escape to. Source: Zillow Digs™

Here is a single box with a variable mix of vegetables, organized by dividers. When you are growing vegetables for a small group, do may not need to have many plants to get the vegetables you need. One or two of each plant may be able to yield what you want.

This vegetable garden has raised garden beds at different levels. The multiple levels of this garden allows for a great deal of organization, as well as a fantastic visual appeal. Source: Zillow Digs™

Hanging planters from railings is a way to have a small personal garden in an urban area. In the picture above, there is a lovely small vegetable and flower garden hanging above the city. It is not impossible to grow your own produce, even if it seems like you have no space. There are always creative ways.

This vegetable garden is arranged into a number of long and rustic raised garden beds. By being longer and thinner, rather than wider, this garden bed allows access to more sides of the crops.

Here is a simple and clever solution for growing small vegetable plants. A hanging garden like this is perfect for those with less space in the yard for raised garden beds, and greenhouses. Source: Zillow Digs™

A greenhouse is a great tool in a vegetable garden if you have the room for one. These can extend your growing season, and keep your crops safe from pests and insects.

This is an ample garden filled with lush and healthy vegetables. A stone walkway can give a garden a finished and professional look. Building a gate and fence around your garden may be a good way to keep out some of the pests that may want to get at your crops. Know what kind of pests you have in your area, and build your fence accordingly. Here is a vegetable garden with four L shaped raised garden beds, as well as a star in the center. This is great orientation, and also allows the garden to have a visual appeal. Even someone that does not garden can appreciate the design of this area. Here is a massive vegetable garden, over a large yard. The sections are spread wide apart, and the ample space is used to make maintaining the garden easy and manageable. This lush garden uses guides for its plants to grow against. This is a good way to keep your taller plants in order, and prevent them from growing all haphazard all over the place. This yard has some interesting and well designed raised garden beds. These beds are so high, that it reduced the effort of maintaining the crops significantly. This vegetable garden is arranged in a number of small strips of soil in the yard. The yard is well manicured, and the garden beds are well organized. This level of organization gives this garden visual appeal.

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Starting a Small-Space Vegetable Garden

The cycle of selecting seeds or small plants, digging a garden for them, nurturing the plants, harvesting the bounty, and eating the delicious, nutritious final product is a priceless education in itself. Gardening and the subsequent cooking activities transcend generations and cultures, and can include every member of the extended family. If you’re tempted to dig in this spring, keep it simple, small, and have fun! The School of the Chicago Botanic Garden is a great place to start. They offer beginning or advanced classes in all aspects of gardening, including vegetables and herbs. The Garden’s Lenhardt Library and Plant Information Service can assist with all questions.

Select the Space
Before picking up a shovel or rushing out to buy seeds and plants, choose your garden space. Locate a small section of your yard that receives six to eight hours of sun a day. An area with a north-south orientation is ideal, in that it takes advantage of the east-west movement of the sun and gives veggies more exposure to full sun — a condition they require to produce bumper crops. The garden should be close to a water source and easy to access, since food crops require hands-on tending, watering, and monitoring for problems — as well as daily checking on how big and colorful those veggies are getting! Start small; you can always add later.

Choose the Crops
Discuss the vegetable and herb possibilities with the family so each person, including all kids, can choose a favorite. Early cool-season spring crops that can tolerate a chilly (but not soaking wet) April planting include all lettuces and greens, spinach, chard, peas, beets, radishes, potatoes, carrots, cabbages, and onions. Growing beautiful, colorful, and texturally intriguing vegetables is a wonderful way to encourage children to eat something new. To maximize space in the garden, select smaller varieties of vegetables, e.g., cherry or patio tomatoes, minicarrots, and bush varieties rather than vining types of cucumbers, melons, and beans, which take up more room.

Draw it Out
A simple drawing of the garden is visually helpful and shows exactly how much space you have for each plant. This will prevent over-purchasing at the garden center. To prevent the tallest plants from shading out the low-growing ones, site them at the back, on the sides, or down the middle of the garden, depending on the orientation of your space. Allow room for either pavers or paths lined with hay, straw, or several inches of grass clippings to encourage daily visits, without risking compacting the soil from heavy foot traffic. Most veggies can be planted in rows or bands, clearly marked at the end of the row with a seed packet to remind gardeners what’s coming up.

For inspiring garden designs, visit the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Regenstein Fruit & Vegetable Garden — a showcase for how to garden intensively with ornamental, edible crops in borders, raised beds, hanging baskets, on trellises, against walls, and more. The garden is planted with recommended beautiful and edible plants all gardeners can grow at home.

Dig It
When the weather is dry, and so is the soil, it’s time to dig the garden. Chicago-area soils often remain cold, wet, and heavy late into spring. Digging in those conditions further compacts the soil and creates a solid mass where tiny roots simply cannot grow. Over time, garden soils can be organically lightened and fortified with a good mix of homemade compost, ground-up leaves (leaf mold), and/or composted manure. Blending in several inches of these natural amendments, in spring and again in late fall, enriches and lightens your soil without resorting to chemical fertilizers, making the gardening process a truly sustainable one.

Raised Beds
Gardeners with heavy, clay, or even tainted soil might consider constructing a raised bed outlined with durable, untreated lumber. The boxed bed is then filled with a perfect, lightweight mix of topsoil, compost, and leaf mold. Other small-space gardeners who choose containers to grow their veggies and herbs can use this same mix for their pots. Any gardener who suspects the soil is contaminated should have a soil test taken prior to growing edible plants. This is best done when the soil temperature is above 50 degrees.

Seeds or Transplants
For early spring gardens, seeds are economical and great fun for children. Radish, lettuce, spinach, peas, and carrot seeds can be scattered lightly in prepared soil, or, once you really get going with vegetable gardening, can be started indoors in March. Radish seeds are a perfect choice for kids since they will sprout from a seed into your salad in about three weeks. Cool-season crops can handle chilly spring or fall weather, and are often planted again later in the season and harvested as fall crops. Hot summer weather does not suit the cool crops, so be sure to balance your spring selections with some heat-loving vegetables. Since they take longer to mature, it makes sense to purchase them as small plants ready for the garden once all danger of frost has passed, usually by the end of May. Favorite warm-season crops good for small gardens include cherry and patio tomatoes, peppers, bush cucumbers and beans, and smaller eggplants.

Gardeners interested in starting plants from seeds will notice the incredible variety of choices not found in transplants. Whether purchased online from specialty nurseries, catalogs, or at local garden centers, seed packets offer heirloom plants, rare and unusual cultivars, and tempting varieties of veggies even the diehard nonvegetarian will enjoy. Save the packets and follow the planting, thinning, and growing instructions specific to each type of plant. Heirloom plants are often tastier, hardier, and more resistant to weather, insects, and diseases than the cultivated hybrids.

Grow On
As the seeds germinate into seedlings, and small transplants become larger, the real work begins. Weeds must be kept out of the garden since they compete, often favorably, with your crops. Learn to recognize a weed from a prized veggie seedling and hand pull early in the season. A few inches of mulch distributed throughout the garden helps keep the weeds out, even moisture in the soil, and the garden tidy.

Vegetables and herbs appreciate constant, even moisture, applied in their root zones, where it’s needed, not on their foliage, where it’s wasted. Children can be excellent irrigation managers when shown how to hold a gentle stream of water close to the ground so the roots can be satisfied. “Even moisture” can be a tricky concept in all forms of gardening. The goal is to maintain moisture in the soil rather than drying it out to the cracking point and then flooding it with too much water. Tomatoes are especially sensitive to extreme variations in soil moisture. To keep the garden organic and sustainable, supplemental fertilizer should not be necessary, as long as the soil is fertile and full of good rich compost.

By rotating in summer crops once the spring crops are done (often by June 1), the garden will continue to provide food, interest, and great enjoyment to all. For any questions on gardening techniques, identifying cultural or insect problems, locating seeds, etc., call or visit the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Plant Information Service.

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