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Urban Gardening

Gardening within the confines of a city can be daunting and heartbreaking and annoying and messy and did I mention annoying? We have to work with less ground than our counterparts in the suburbs and rural areas. Where they can measure in acres we have to resort to measuring in feet. And sometimes we don't even have square footage to garden in. If you're container gardening then we're talking about inches and everyone should shed a tear for urban gardeners who only have a windowsill to grow something on.

Gardeners outside of a large city probably think that gardening is the same everywhere you go and hey- they're the same plants, right? I'm telling you they're not. Our plants have to be tougher to survive in the city. They have to contend with heat islands, pollution, being trampled on by kids, dogs, passed-out drunks, constant background noise. Sometimes I have to laugh at the gardeners who I read on gardening forums post about their flower garden being nibbled on by deer. So Bambi and his friend's had a late night snack, could your flower or vegetable garden survive being trampled on (and worse) by thousands of drunken sports fans leaving Wrigley Field?

Similarly I have to laugh when I read about gardeners having problems with gophers and voles in a suburban garden. I'll trade any gardener two gophers for just one of my city rats that jump out at me from a row of Heucheras.

And don't even let me read someone complain about their neighbor's leaves falling on their side of the property line or how much work it is to rake up all those leaves or about how the "help" doesn't blow them into a neat little pile. They're getting free soil amendments. Stuff urban gardeners have to go out and spend money on some gardeners get for free. There's literally money growing on trees and gardeners complain.

Probably the funniest threads I come across on gardening forums have to be the ones about inconsiderate dog walkers and what they do to the garden. Sure it can be messy and they should be cleaning it up. But if a dog pile is the biggest mess in your Cul-de-Sac consider yourself lucky. I spent hours last season picking up bags of potato chips, candy wrappers, junk mail, newsprint and the occasional prophylactic.

Oh yes, you read right.

And did I mention we have to do everything on a much smaller scale? Consider the image below
a gardening friend of mine on GW (Pitimpiani). She has a great example of an urban garden. I'm amazed at the number of plants she has managed to put on her lot. She's made a great use of her space and has even extended it a little into the space between her house and the curb. You can see more of her garden photos that she's uploaded to Photobucket.

Urban gardeners have it harder. I'll vote for the next presidential candidate that proposes giving urban gardeners a tax credit for beautifying our cities and to pay for the counseling I'll have to undergo to get the mental picture of one of my ghetto neighbors getting nasty on top of my nasturtiums.

And since I'm on the subject of urban gardeners...

I've met a new one recently through this blog. Her name is Carol and she's also a garden blogger but her main job is as a garden designer. I thought it would be cool to ask her to write a couple of posts about designing an urban garden and she's agreed. I'll probably post her entry this weekend or on Monday.

If you are from Chicago and are also blogging about your garden or houseplants please speak up-I'm starting a section in my left side bar to link to Chicago area garden bloggers.


  1. I am not from Chicago, I'm from the suburbs of Indianapolis. But, I admire your fortitude to keep gardening in spite of the challenges before you. I look forward to reading another Carol's post about garden design, something I'm not too good at.

    By the way, I got a comment from Craig at asking if I was the "blog hacker". I think he might be looking for you, so maybe you should check out his blog and leave him a comment?

  2. We all have our own troubles and toils. If you had your own yard, you'd be sitting right in your chair on the front porch complaining about the leaves like the rest of them. hehehe.

    I'll admit, I wouldn't garden in a community garden in a city. I'd be too worried about someone plucking my vegetables. Pish.

  3. I thought I'd pass this onto you for your gardenhack blog.

  4. Carol, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I actually added his link to a post I made earlier today and I left him a comment on his blog too.

    DragonStone, I do have a yard it's not very big but I fill it with what I can and when I see leaves falling from trees down the block I always hope for a strong gust that will bring them to my yard. The thing I mostly complain about though is building next doesn't shut their trashcans so the garbage that falls out swirls around the parking lot until it hits our communal fence and then goes under or around the fence into my yard.

    I've decided that this year I'm going to put burlap across the area where their garbage escapes into my yard to try to trap it on their property. :0)

    I've seen those pots at the original site they're hosted on and they're pretty cool. I came across another one of those recently that was pretty neat too. The other day I saw one in an origami book that I may do. Thanks for the link

  5. This urban gardener is looking forward to those articles! (And for the record, I have never, ever had to pick up a condom. Ick!)

  6. LOL.

    Well I posted her first one today. And I hope she'll have time to contribute a few more in the future. You can find the link to her blog at the bottom of the article.

  7. Hello MrBrownThumb,

    My grandmother had an urban garden in Chicago, many years ago, and it's amazing what a determined gardener can do in a small space.

    Thank you for linking to the interesting article by Carolyn Gail.

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  8. Anonymous1:51 PM

    Hello Fellow Urban Gardeners:
    Yep, much empathy on my part. I have daily struggles with squirrels who constantly dig newly planted seedlings and bite off new blooms. Also, have had to pick up numerous cigarette butts from apt units above. Had to resort to picking them up and taping them to a Lost and Found notice that I put in the laundry room. Didn't find anymore cig butts that summer. - Joy in NYC

  9. Hi Joy,

    Sorry for the late responce. Thanks for stopping by the blog and commenting. I know what you mean about cigarette butts...I have family visiting and it's a constant struggle trying to keep them from tossing them into the beds. I've pleaded, I've yelled and I've thrown a tantrum but I still find more and more of them.




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