ecostore New Zealand Blog
It’s easy to associate sprawling country spaces, years of tradition and complicated techniques with organic gardening. But if you’re a city dweller with neighbours and buildings close by, and you’re new to the practice, you too can set up a garden and grow your own healthy produce without chemical pesticides and synthetic fertilisers.
Here are a few tips to get one started!
Make your garden suit your space
Here’s a chance to get creative about where you could put your garden – if you have a balcony, how about setting up a small container garden? If your place has a small yard, you could put in a raised bed. A hanging garden can work well on a patio, and if there is a wall to make use of, consider going vertical with trellises, a green wall or container plants hung on hooks. Window sill boxes are another great option.
Gather your equipment
If you’re already a gardener, you’ll have things to use in a small organic garden, like soil and fertiliser, a trowel, and plant pots. But we’re big fans of upcycling at ecostore, and we recommend re-using wooden pallets and crates, markers and containers that could substitute for plant pots. Depending on the size and amount of what you’ll plant, why not try old drink bottles, food packaging, bath tubs, chipped ceramics or paddling pools your kids are no longer using. You can then drill holes in the bottom of containers to allow water to drain away and not rot the plant’s roots.
Soil and compost
Composting is a really good way of creating fertile soil for your plants to grow in an urban garden. You can set up a small compost container inside or outdoors, and feed it with food leftovers like product scraps, coffee grounds, bread crusts and leaves shed by house plants.
Bokashi is another form of composting that works well in small spaces. It works by combining food scraps with ‘compost zing’ – sawdust that contains effective micro-organisms – in a tightly sealed container to prevent air getting in to ensure effective fermentation. Fermented food waste can be dug into garden soil, or mixed with green waste in the compost. The juice that drains during fermentation can be used with water as garden fertiliser.
Testing soil health is an important step before you start your garden, to determine the existing pH level, and levels of fertilisers like nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. You can then use the test results to help decide what will be suitable to plant in it, and what you might need to add to the soil. DIY stores usually have home soil tests available.
What to plant
You can grow a wide variety of plants in a compact organic garden, such as evergreen shrubs, edibles, flower bulbs, herbs, fruits and vegetables (especially dwarf vegetable varieties), and succulents. If you’ve chosen a container or raised bed, it’s a good idea to combine upright and cover plants with some splashes of colour and some hardy perennials. Make sure what you choose will thrive in your local climate and in the amount of available light in the space you’ve selected. Also think about how long you want the crops to last – whether a few weeks, a season or years of low maintenance.
Companion planting is also a way to maximize space and help deter pests naturally – you could combine tomatoes in a pot with lettuce, chives or garlic, for example. Other good combinations are celery and sage, and carrots and leeks.
These are just some pointers to get started, but if you have other helpful advice, do leave us a comment!