10 Tips for Creating an Urban Garden

by balconyboss
Published: Updated:
urban garden
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Urban gardening presents a unique set of challenges, regardless of whether you’re working with a balcony, ground-level garden, or any space in between. However, with a bit of planning, you can create a space that’s both functional and beautiful.

So, let’s look at some urban garden ideas and tips to help you get the most from your outdoor space.

The Challenges of an Urban Garden

The main challenge in urban gardening is space – or the lack of. A typical urban garden isn’t very big, which can limit what you can do with it. If this is the case, you must be very selective with your choices and aim for multifunctional items or areas.

Other challenges include a lack of direct sunlight (for example, your garden is surrounded by tall buildings) and a lack of soil. However, these aren’t too difficult to work with if you understand the limitations.

Urban Garden Ideas and Tips

1. Planning

Start by making a detailed plan of your outdoor space. It’ll help to measure your space and draw it on a bit of paper. Doing so means you can plan your changes fairly accurately.

To create the most detailed plan possible, draw everything to the same scale. Also, make things like furniture and planters out of separate bits of paper, so you can move them around on your plan. This gives you as much flexibility as possible and allows you to move things around until you find the best place for them.

2. Watch the Sun

Obviously, don’t look directly at it! Rather, spend some time observing how the sun travels across your urban garden and use this to plan where you put plants and seating areas.

For example, if a corner gets full sun for a few hours in the afternoon, would this space be better for seating or a planter? If the rest of your garden is in the shade, it’s probably better to use it for a seating area.

Similarly, work out which compass direction your garden faces. South gets the most sun, and north the least. East and west can get direct sun in the morning and afternoon, respectively.

3. Try Hardscaping

Hardscaping means using materials to create structures rather than relying on lawns and flowerbeds. If you’re short on space, it’s a far better way to use what you’ve got.

Although a lawn can be a nice addition, it’s not the most sensible use of limited space. Instead, consider installing raised beds, paths, patios, etc.

Check out our full article on balcony landscaping for more ideas.

4. Pots = Flexibility

This is probably quite obvious, but pots and planters give you more flexibility than raised beds in an urban garden. They allow you to switch plants around and replace things seasonally if you want. In turn, this makes it much easier to completely change the look of your urban garden without too much effort.

5. Perennials or Annuals?

On the subject of plants, decide whether you want perennials or annuals, or a mix of both. Annuals die off completely, whereas perennials come back every year.

A mix of both can be nice in an urban garden. For example, you could have pots containing Japanese Maple or evergreen shrubs to form the backdrop of your garden. You could then combine these with pots of summery flowers to add color and vibrancy.

Going a step further, consider adding winter plants that look good when other things die off. While you might use your garden less in the colder months, it’s still nice to have something that adds a pop of color and texture.

6. Making it Private

If your urban garden has walls, it might already be fairly private. But if you’ve only got fences or neighbors can look into your garden, adding a bit of extra privacy can be a good idea.

Luckily, this is a topic we’ve covered quite extensively. Consider checking out our articles on freestanding privacy fences, balcony privacy, and patio privacy for some inspiration.

7. Climbing and Creeping Plants

Climbing and creeping plants are ideal for urban gardens where space is at a premium. Unsurprisingly, they don’t need much ground space because most of the action happens up a wall or trellis.

In a walled urban garden, climbing plants would be the best fit. Some options include:

Most of these are happy in shady, sheltered areas and have the advantage of providing a nice aroma.

Creeping (or trailing) plants can work as ground cover, as hanging plants, or grown up a wall with supports. Other than providing extra support, the logic is the same as climbing plants.

8. Urban Garden Furniture

If you’re short on space in your urban garden, you must get creative with your furniture choices. For example, furniture that doubles as storage is a great idea, as are pieces that you can leave out all year.

Alternatively, consider making your own DIY furniture. The most obvious benefit is that you can tailor it to your space.

9. Shady Plants

Having a shady garden doesn’t mean you must sacrifice plant variety. There are plenty of shade-loving plants that add interest to a space. You can also grow plenty of vegetables in shady areas, such as:

  • Lettuce
  • Spinach
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes
  • Leeks
  • Beets

10. Add Texture

Adding texture to your urban garden can make the space feel bigger and more interesting, as there’s more to draw the eye. You can obviously do this through furniture and decorative choices (such as fabrics, tiles, wood, etc.), but also with plants.

For example, ferns and palms have nice textures, as do ornamental grasses. Combining these with plants such as ivy, jasmine and roses gives you a wide variety of textures and shades of green.

Finally, hang some mirrors in your urban garden to make the space feel bigger and reflect these different textures.

Final Thoughts

There’s plenty you can do with an urban garden, provided you’re selective with your options. Hopefully, this list should give you some inspiration for how to use your urban garden to the best of its ability.