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The Gardening 101: Urban Gardening

Think gardening is just for country folk with sprawling back yards? Think again! Urban and micro gardening can work anywhere from teeny backyards to roof tops and balconies. Peter Harper (Author of The Natural Garden Book, lifelong environmentalist and horticulturalist) is back again to give us his top tips. City dwellers, take note:

Top Tips for Urban Gardening

1. Where you have very little space, perhaps only containers, garden intensively to maximise the space.

2. With such a small space, you can use the very best soil, even pure compost.

3. Use a compact compost system, such as a wormery, to keep your soil topped up.

4. Use cloches, a cold frame – any glass you can – to speed things up and grow all year.

5. Don’t bother with big, slow crops like cabbages, cauliflower, swedes, parsnips, beetroot, potatoes, marrows or peas: they hog the space to little effect.

6. ‘Big herbs’ like sage, rosemary, bay, tarragon can also take up more space than they’re worth; go with the onion flavours instead: chives, garlic chives, tree onions.

7. Mint is invasive: if you like it, an old toilet makes a perfect container with its own reservoir.

8. Focus on salads: fast turnover, high flavours, cut ‘n’ come again.

9. Plant closer than it says in the books.

10. Grow salad-herbs like land cress, sorrel, parsley, rocket, borage. Keep ‘em coming.

11. If you have enough space for lettuces, get supermarket trays of 3” plants, separate and plant out.

12. Use climbers to take advantage of the walls: climbing beans, trained tomatoes and cucumber do well.

13. If space allows, grow trees on the walls: try damson, kiwi or grapes.


Illustrations by the supremely talented Hannah Bailey. Drool over more of her work here.

For practical gardening advice at the festival, visit Shambala’s verdant Permaculture area.