The worldwide lockdown has turned a lot of people into hobbyists. Gardening, in particular, has taken off. Our pandemic has given rise to 18.3 million new foliage tenders, according to a recent survey.
Being inside all the time makes communing with nature more rewarding, even if that connection is talking to a potted plant.
Urban gardens can range from tending to a handful of flowering plants on the patio to farming acres of previously unused land. But starting an urban garden begins with a lot of questions. In particular, which tools do you need? Below are a couple of videos and a list to get you started.
A Telephone or Computer
You may not expect a telephone and computer to be first on the list of tools you need for an urban garden, but they’re essential. Urban gardeners need to figure out what the local regulations are for growing food, flowers or other foliage in your backyard, patio or nearby patch of land. If you’re located in an apartment complex or co-op, chances are there are guidelines you need to follow.
If you’re in an apartment, you may also want to check with the super or landlord on how much weight can be supported by a balcony or patio.
Some cities have ordinances about specific pesticides that can be used for gardening. Orlando, Florida’s land development code has made it illegal to cultivate a micro-garden in your front yard. Several other cities have similar ordinances. Your dream of having chickens roaming around your urban garden will likely be short-lived.
So, be prepared to do research — in addition to any research you would normally do about which greenery will grow best in your climate, you also want to figure out what you can grow given the time you have to dedicate to farming. Some fruits and vegetables like tomatoes and zucchini are low maintenance, which makes them popular choices for hobby gardens.
Before you start planting flowers, herbs or crops, you need to be realistic about how much space you have to use and what tools and planting containers you’ll need to hold them. Is your garden going to be a series of potted plants or rows of cabbage? Will you need buckets or even a small greenhouse?
Even compact structures require space and you have to be mindful not to block exits or an area you’re hoping to use for your barbecue grill. To help you figure out how to plan out and optimize your space, you can check out a site such as harpersnurseries.com to learn about strawberry planters, mini greenhouses and more. Then you’ll need a measuring tape and probably a pencil and paper to plan out what’s possible.
Scissors or Pruners
While gardening scissors are available, many urban farmers prefer using household scissors for snipping dead flowers and leaves, opening potting soil or seed packs, and cutting string. Scissors designed for snipping paper or cloth should be avoided since they may not be strong enough. Hand pruners can also work well. These may be used to prune shrubs, deadhead flowers, cut back perennials, and clip plant debris that is less than 1 inch thick (2.5 cm).
Watering Can or Hose
No matter what you cultivate, you'll need to water your plants. If you don't mind the walk between your sink and your garden plot, watering cans are a good option. If you have a very small space, your watering can may become a piece of home decor. As a result, you’ll probably want to choose a cute metal one rather than a chintzy plastic option.
Make sure it has a nozzle that allows water to come out of several holes like raindrops. If you have limited space a compact garden hose or one that rolls up easily can be a good addition.
A trowel is a tiny shovel used to dig out weeds and prepare planting holes for plants and bulbs. Because a trowel is frequently used, invest in a high quality tool that won't bend in hard soil or come apart in its first season. Choose one with a durable stainless steel blade and a comfortable grip. You may get a trowel with a plastic, wooden, or metal handle, but it’s best to get a metal-handled trowel since it is more durable and efficient.
Some gardeners may think a trowel or shovel is sufficient for digging. However, a garden spade can be quite useful in the garden bed! Because of its square-shaped blade, the tool is great for making holes for plants and shrubs in limited locations. Like a shovel, it’s also useful for carrying soil.
In the video above, Curtis Stone demonstrates several tools you may need for a large urban garden. An entry level seeder can be helpful if you want to evenly plant rows on a good sized plot of land.
Rototiller / Walk Behind Tractor
While you probably won’t need a rototiller or walk behind tractor unless you have a good size garden or farm, they can be great for turning over beds, integrating fertilizer and aerating the soil. A new rototiller costs several thousands of dollars, so be sure that you have a large enough garden or farm to require one.