Tips for Urban Gardening
Urban gardening has been going on behind closed doors for years. It's time to bring urban gardening out in the open.
Just because you live in a city doesn't mean you don't love and long for plants. Not everyone can have a full blown garden, but with some creativity, you can bring the garden to the city. Whatever size space you are working with, the following urban gardening ideas can put your green thumb to work.
Are You Ready for an Urban Garden?
There's nothing unusual about urban gardening - gardeners will find a spot to plant some seeds just about anywhere and city dwellers are some of the most creative. However there are some considerations that urban gardeners have to take into account, like hauling water and radient heat from so much concrete. Here's a look at questions, concerns and challenges facing the urban gardener.
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Front Yard Gardening
If you are lucky enough to have a front yard or any patch of soil in front of your home, don't let it go to waste. Some of the most personal urban gardens are right out in front. A front yard garden can make a huge impact and it's a great way to induce the rest of your neighborhood to spruce things up.
What constitutes effective front-yard landscaping? As you may well imagine, the answer depends, in part, on whom you ask. For example, while it's unlikely that a woodland garden would occupy the space in an urban or suburban setting, such front-yard landscaping is hardly unusual in rural areas. But if we limit the scope of the discussion to urban and suburban areas, we find consensus on ten steps homeowners can take to improve this most visible section of their properties.
Privacy and Curb Appeal
That term, "visible," however, immediately evokes a question: To what degree do you want your front-yard landscaping to invite public glances in, as opposed to screening them out to afford some privacy? Many strive for a balanced approach. You may wish to create a welcoming feeling here overall, while erecting a small privacy screen to shelter a select pocket of the expanse from prying eyes. Don't worry: Properly thought out, a privacy screen will enhance, rather than detract from curb appeal. While fencing such as lattice can be used to construct a small privacy screen for a portion of your lawn, people more typically opt for a "living wall": a barrier composed of shrubs.
Privacy fences are often an essential feature of the urban or suburban yard, and they may even play a role on some rural landscapes. Privacy fences work in both directions. Firstly, they screen out unpleasant external sights and sounds that would otherwise impinge upon the senses. Secondly, privacy fences screen your movements from the prying eyes of neighbors.
It isn't a question of needing to "hide" anything behind privacy fences. It's just that few of us want to live under a microscope. Even good neighbors don't enjoy feeling obligated to wave "Hello" every time they step outside, as if needing permission before continuing on their business. "Good fences make good neighbors" is an old adage made famous by Robert Frost's poem, Mending Wall. And whether referring to boundary lines or privacy fences, it is just as valid today as ever.
Just don't take privacy "fence" literally. For a privacy fence does not have to be a hardscape fence, although hardscape privacy fences do hold an advantage over their softscape counterparts on two points:
1. Speedy results: building wooden or vinyl privacy fences and masonry walls furnishes instant privacy. You will have to wait for plants to grow high enough to provide privacy.
2. Maintenance: well-built privacy fences or walls will rarely need to be tended to. Plants, by contrast, need to be watered, weeded, etc.
Nonetheless, planting "living-wall" privacy fences is often preferable to erecting masonry walls or wooden or vinyl fencing. Bamboo hedges, for example, commonly serve as such living-wall privacy fences (see my FAQ on bamboo plants for more information). Privacy fences composed of plants -- whether maintained as hedges or deployed less formally -- enjoy a number of advantages over their hardscape counterparts, including:
* Their beauty in terms of color, form and texture.
* Seasonal variation in some cases, ranging from spring flowers to autumn foliage.
* Fruit production in some cases, which can attract birds or even be edible for humans.
* The shape of some shrubs can be controlled by pruning, effectively rendering them works of art (hedges).
* Zoning restrictions don't apply to "living walls" as frequently as to hardscape walls.