Urban Gardening for Dummies provides growing tips for apartment, condo and townhouse dwellers. The new book in the popular For Dummies series provides information on how to start growing in a small space, ranging from different types of urban gardens to tips about pest management, irrigation, composting.
Here are some tips from co-author Charlie Nardozzi:
* Know the soil conditions. Many urban gardeners are correct in thinking they have poor soil—it’s likely to be compacted and poor in structure and quality. Once they have selected a garden area, test the soil to determine the soil type, pH, organic matter content, and available phosphate and potash. Soil-testing kits are available at most garden centres.
“The key to improving the soil is to do it before you begin any planting,” Nardozzi explains. “If you incorporate the proper amounts of organic matter and soil amendments, your soil will provide nutrients and make air and water more available to plants.”
* Compost is key. Aside from the conservation aspect of reducing our waste, compost improves soil structure, promotes plant growth, and helps soil store nutrients to keep them available for plants. Research shows that plants mulched with compost are more disease-resistant and sturdier than plants grown without it.
“Compost improves all aspects and types of soil,” Nardozzi shares. “What organic matter you use depends on local availability and personal preference. If you have enough homemade compost, use that. Otherwise, check garden centers or the Yellow Pages for companies that produce compost in bulk. Visually check the compost for weeds, insects, and foreign material.”
Conserve water and harvest your rain. Clean water is a very precious commodity—especially in our urban communities. That’s why, according to Nardozzi, a sustainable urban gardener needs to employ numerous methods and strategies to conserve water.
“From installing rain barrels and rain gardens to simply adjusting your mowing height, there are several easy steps to reduce your water use at home and employ sustainable conservation strategies,” he says.
Use organic fertilizers. While plants respond rapidly to chemical fertilizers, they are carried into the soil via salts—and this part of their chemistry threatens the living creatures that work every day to build your soil. (Specifically, they dehydrate essential bacteria and fungi in the soil.) Plus, the impact of chemical fertilizers is short-lived and must be repeated often to get the same effect.
Select “the right” plants for your area. “The right” plants are well adapted to your urban environment and require little to no maintenance whatsoever. Native plants are good candidates since they have evolved and adapted to local conditions. They also tend to be vigorous and hardy and able to withstand local weather patterns including winter’s cold and summer’s heat.
“Once established, native plantings require no irrigation or fertilization,” Nardozzi comments. “They’re resistant to most pests and diseases, making them ideal for the sustainable gardener.”