Growing a Food Garden in the City Preparation

About the proper preparation needed to plant your own food garden including seeds and soil.

CITY GARDENS

Survival in the city would be pretty tough on a diet of yogurt and sprouts, though you'd probably stay healthy for a while. Anyone willing to take a little more time can grow lots of fruit and vegetables. The 1st thing to consider is where you can plant your seeds. Can you plant on the roof, do you have some yard area, or is there a vacant lot in the neighborhood that you and interested friends could turn into a garden? Or are you restricted to indoor space? If the latter is the case, you will have to custom-fit containers to the space available and to the space needed by each plant's root system. If you have never had a garden before, it may be necessary to do some research on the needs of various plants. For example, while spinach or lettuce can be grown in a medium-sized flowerpot, tomatoes or corn require a bushel basket. If you know what a mature plant looks like, you can safely assume that the root system will be proportionate, and can make a fairly good educated guess as to minimum acceptable container size. Indoor gardens sometimes require artificial lighting--plants need 14 to 16 hours of light a day. If your windows don't provide enough daylight, a "grow" light or combination of incandescent and fluorescent lighting will be close enough to natural sunlight to satisfy your plants. If you have outdoor space, light is no problem if you choose a sunny spot and plant rows north and south for even distribution of sunlight. However, if your space is on a slope, the rows should be planted along the slope to prevent erosion and to facilitate watering. Seeds can either be planted directly in the ground or kept in pots outdoors. The 2nd option allows you to bring your plants indoors to lengthen the growing season artificially.

The 1st step in laying out a garden is preparing the soil. Plants like a good fertile soil with a neutral pH. If you are planting outdoors, have your soil analyzed for acidity. If it's too acidic (pH 0-5) you can add ground limestone, crushed marble, or bone meal, all of which are alkaline, when you dig in your compost. If you are planting indoors you can use neutral potting soil from a local nursery. This should be mixed with equal parts of peat, construction (not sea) sand, and compost. The peat holds water, the sand keeps the soil from packing, and the compost provides necessary nutrients and beneficial bacteria which break the nutrients down into forms usable by plants. If you don't have compost ready by the time you begin to plant, buy some fertilizer at a garden shop, but begin your own compost pile anyway. You'll need more later in the growing season.

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